In To the Lighthouse Woolf manages to transcend the barriers of the novel.Her prose is filled with complex and disjointed wonderings of the characters she portrays.It is out of such characters that...

In To the Lighthouse Woolf manages to transcend the barriers of the novel.Her prose is filled with complex and disjointed wonderings of the characters she portrays.It is out of such characters that themes and ideas develop.Discuss with reference to To the Lighthouse.

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The traditional narrative structure of a novel does not detract from Virginia’s Woolf’s personal characterizations and seemingly subjective perceptions of the world from the eyes of her characters in To The Lighthouse. The fact that portrayal of characters and development of themes is not dependent on the plot but rather the plot is dependent on the opinions and thoughts of the characters adds an interesting dimension to her novel. Being able to follow their thoughts adds to the understanding of their actions and prevents the reader from becoming entangled in the development.

Even after Mrs Ramsey has gone, her presence is felt due to the strong descriptions of her and her enduring goodness even when she is “not there.” Mr Ramsey is then undeniably cold and his philosophies contrary to any concept of the mind’s interpretation of what reality really is.  

The familiar stereotypes - nurturing and authoritative - of Mrs Ramsey and Mr Ramsey respectively bring a familiarity to the storyline and the “stream of consciousness” which Woolf adopts creates situations that differ in meaning according to who is relating the incident and who is being discussed or reflected upon. The combining characteristics creates whole personalities.

Mrs Ramsey, for whom the lighthouse represents "something immune which shines out" contrasts to the philosophical view of Mr Ramsey who is himself a “stark tower on a bare rock,” and James, for whom the lighthouse has long been a fascination, sees elements of his mother and his father; “For nothing was simply one thing."

The reader is encouraged to consider through introspection the images and expectations with which he or she is confronted so as to draw his or her own conclusions. Hopefully, the reader can also find a peace or at least an acceptance that surpasses their expectations.     

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