Study Guide

To the Lighthouse Tone

By Virginia Woolf


Deliberate. Deliberately confusing.

Every single moment in To the Lighthouse is milked for all its worth. Let’s take a look at the passage, which occurs as Mr. Bankes admires a view of sandhills: "He was anxious for the sake of this friendship and perhaps too in order to clear himself in his own mind from the imputation of having dried and shrunk – for Ramsay lived in a welter of children, whereas Bankes was childless and a widower – he was anxious that Lily Briscoe should not disparage Ramsay (a great man in his own way) yet should understand how things stood between them. Begun long years ago, their friendship had petered out on a Westmorland road, where the hen spread her wings before her chicks; after which Ramsay had married, and their paths lying different ways, there had been, certainly for no one’s fault, some tendency, when they met, to repeat."Think about how the above passage encompasses the past (how Mr. Bankes’s friendship with Mr. Ramsay died out), the present (Mr. Bankes is a childless widower and Mr. Ramsay is married with kids), and the future (anxiety that Lily not say anything bad about Mr. Ramsay), all in one "moment" of the novel, as Mr. Bankes admires the view. This is both deliberate (one moment is stretched out) and deliberately confusing (shoving that much information into one moment…tsk tsk).