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To the Lighthouse

To the Lighthouse

by Virginia Woolf

To the Lighthouse Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Time

Time is not experienced conventionally in To the Lighthouse (but seriously, what is?). Instead, time is anchored in certain select moments, which completely distorts it from the way a clock experie...

Memory and the Past

Because time is such a distorted thing in To the Lighthouse, memory and the past are a vital part of the characters’ present. When a single moment is given the tenth degree, every significant...

Love

Love takes several different forms in the text: lasting love that’s still flawed, love that casts a glow on everyone else, love that doesn’t last, friendly love, familial love, admiring...

Gender

Well, it’s a Woolf novel. Gender figures in all the chauvinistic remarks that the men make, and the protective tone towards men that Mrs. Ramsay takes. Also, Mrs. Ramsay is held up as an idea...

Marriage

Mrs. Ramsay really wants everyone to get married – particularly women. She herself is in a marriage that at least one character holds up as an ideal. Interestingly enough, her marriage to Mr....

Manipulation

Mrs. Ramsay can get people to marry because she has excellent powers of manipulation. She can make any man feel like the strongest, most manly man ever. Aside from manipulation, Mrs. Ramsay is very...

Admiration

Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay are both well-admired in their respective fields. Mr. Ramsay tends to be followed around by young philosophy students who admire his work, and although Mrs. Ramsay shuns admirat...

Identity

Mrs. Ramsay, in particular, is very conscious of her identity, constantly interrogating herself and her character. She adopts a very subordinate position when in her interactions with other people,...

Victory

Victory in To the Lighthouse most frequently occurs over life, but occasionally victory is scored over other people as well. The main point, however, is that victory occurs beneath the surface in T...

Friendship

Friendship plays a secondary role to love in the novel, but for Lily Briscoe, friendship is the most she has ever truly wanted from a man. The other friendship we see (retrospectively) is between M...

Laws and Order

Mrs. Ramsay is extremely attuned to harmony and discord, and she also takes on the task of creating as much harmony as possible. This is a double-edged sword because she frequently sacrifices truth...

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