Significance of the Novel’s Title “To the Lighthouse” in Relation to Its Main Characters

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

This essay, will be an analyses of the significance of the novel’s title, “To the Lighthouse”, in relation to its main characters, Mr and Mrs Ramsay, by commenting on Woolf’s representation of parental roles as reflected through the ‘stream of consciousness’ technique and also, commenting on the stylistically marked differences conventionally ‘male’ and ‘female’ responses to family roles and life’s challenges which includes anxieties about impermanence.

To the Lighthouse, is an autobiographical novel by Virginia Woolf. To the Lighthouse is a story about a little boy, James Ramsay, who wants to visit the lighthouse. This request leads to a conflict between his parents, Mr and Mrs Ramsay. Mrs Ramsay is of an idea that the weather will better the following day, hopefully, for the trip to the lighthouse. Therefore, keeping hope alive in young James. Mr Ramsay on the other hand believes the weather will remain unsuitable for the trip to the lighthouse, thus extinguishing any hope young James has of eventually venturing to the lighthouse. In the novel, the attitudes of both Mr and Mrs Ramsay differ quite significantly. Mrs Ramsay is a home maker and hostess, she is a loving wife and mother, she is optimistic about life. Mrs Ramsay embraces gender-roles such as marriage and childbirth and sees them as appropriate roles for a woman to take. Mr Ramsay is a professor, he is tyrannical, he is dependant to his wife’s love, he takes no notice of people’s needs and wants.

Mrs Ramsay as a parent loves and care about her children. She is not ready for them to grow up which leads to her protecting her children from the realities of nature or of the world. Mrs Ramsay through her protectiveness inspire hope and positivity of life in her children. In other words, Mrs Ramsay encourages her children to enjoy life and fight against bad situation. Mr Ramsay as a parent administers tough love, he does not notice his children needs and wants, especially parental re-assurance. He is about facing the life head on, embracing the bad and evil of the world by facing reality of the situation, thus the world. Mr Ramsay wants his children to understand that life is full of hardship, unpredictable in nature and that life is not always full of joyous moment. Therefore, he wants his children to accept the bad and embrace defeat to be able to learn from woes or bad situations. As parents both Mr and Mrs Ramsay want their children to learn something, what differs is the pessimism of Mr Ramsay’s approach to life and the optimism of Mrs Ramsay’s approach to life. The thing is both Mr and Mrs Ramsay are two sides of the same coin, because there is no good without the bad and evil. Stella McNichols quote from The Narrow Bridge Art, “Feelings which used to come single and separate do so no longer. Beauty is part ugliness; amusement part disgust; pleasure part pain.” In other words, a person cannot know happiness and victory without having have experiences sadness and loss, cannot have enjoy sunny days without having have experienced the rainy weather.

The autobiographical novel, novel is based on the universal theme about love and marriage, life and death (McNichol, 1990:96). Both Mr and Mrs Ramsay worry about the impermanence of life in this instance the focus will be on Mrs Ramsay. As it has been established that Mrs Ramsay is a loving wife and mother, a perfect hostess, emotionally independent and embraces her gender. Through embracing her role as a wife, mother and primary care giver, she seeks for another woman to experience what she has experienced. This leads to her wanting to spread the concept of marriage and childbirth. She tries to set up of Lily Briscoe with William Bankes by encouraging, Lily Briscoe, to be nice to William Bankes for the hope of the two making a match. She is not aware that Lily has no interest in the institution of marriage and child birth but interested in her painting and study of people and birds. By making a match of Lily and William Mrs Ramsay maybe has a hope of being remembered as a person who made the match possible. Mrs Ramsay in her ‘trivial’ pursuits, she invites a group of friends for super thus gathering people with different personalities to dinner where she wishes to be remembered as a gracious hostess. This also indicate her awareness of impermanence. She fears that things are crumbling, things will not remain the same much longer, “things got shabbier and shabbier summer after summer”. Things are getting older in this instance as the time passes and nothing can stop the passing of time except embracing it.

Mrs Ramsay has a fear of time moving too fast which results in her fearing the growth of her children. Her children mark her legacy or are a sign of her existence in the world, but there are moments she wants stored in to memory. She would like some memories to be timeless. Lily Briscoe keeps that timelessness through painting a picture of both mother and son who will remain the same even after many years have passed.


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