Study Guide

To the Lighthouse Genre

By Virginia Woolf



When you’re reading a novel and every so often you sit up and go, "whaaaaaat?" it probably fits into the genre of modernism. Modernist literature likes to break from established structures (like, plots) in favor of deeper aesthetic exploration – in this case, a deeper exploration into the human mind. We’re sure you couldn’t help but notice that not much really happens in this book as far as actual events go. The kind of action we get is Lily picking up a paintbrush, or Mrs. Ramsay knitting. But the real action is going on in the characters’ heads, exploring their thoughts about themselves, their lives, and each other. The plot isn’t the most important aspect of this book, it’s the thoughts of the individuals that make this book interesting and unique.