To the Lighthouse

by Virginia Woolf

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What are the autobiographical elements in To the Lighthouse?

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While Woolf did admit that parts of this piece intentionally reflected parts of her life, she also got tired of critics trying too hard to interpret characters as direct representations of her family. Despite that, Woolf wrote in May of 1925 in her journal that Mr. Ramsay and Mrs. Ramsay are for sure based on her real life parents.

I’m now all on the strain of desire to stop journalism & get on to To The Lighthouse. This is going to be fairly short: to have father’s character done complete in it; and mother’s; & St. Ives; & childhood; & all the usual things I try to put in – life, death & c. But the centre is father’s character . . .

Mr. Ramsay is a domineering person that exerts a stifling presence on his own children, and this is similar to what we know about Woolf's own father. To the Lighthouse also has Mrs. Ramsey and several other characters die quite suddenly, and those reflect similar tragedies in her own life. The setting itself is also somewhat autobiographical in that the setting is quite similar to the Talland House that her family rented as a summer retreat for ten years.

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