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To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

A veritable milestone of modernism, To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf is skillfully written through the stream-of-consciousness technique from several narrators and includes a lot of psychological elements. The novel is considered one of the most influential books.

Plot Summary

To the Lighthouse has three sections – “The Window”, “Time Passes”, and ‘The Lighthouse” – and focuses on the Ramsay family and their stay on the Isle of Skye, at their summer home.
The novel starts with Mrs. Ramsay planning a visit to the lighthouse for his family and their guests. Mr. Ramsay says the weather will be unclear, so there will be no trip. This lead to a tension between them and the incident is many times referred to later when it`s about their relationship.

Lily Briscoe is a young painter who wants to make the portrait of Mrs. Ramsay and James, her son. She does not finish the portrait and in addition she is affected by another guest`s remarks that women cannot paint of write. “The Window” section finishes with a large dinner party perturbed by some incidents. “Time Passes” presents what happened the next ten years: Mrs. Ramsay and other characters die.

The last section of To the Lighthouse finds the remaining Ramsay and their friends in the same summer home, but ten years after the reunion from the beginning of the novel. Mr. Ramsay is decided to take the trip to the lighthouse with his two children. On their way there, Mr. Ramsay manages to establish a moment of empathy with James and even Cam, his daughter, changes her feeling for Mr. Ramsay from resentment to a certain admiration.

Meanwhile, Lily tries to finish the painting she has started at the beginning. Based on her memories of Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay, she completes it, but realizes that executing her own vision is more important to her that leaving her work as a legacy.

Themes and style

The novel mainly presents the different approached to life of the characters. The main themes are the transience of life and work, art as a way of preservation and reality as a subjective perception. There are also many symbols in the novel such as the lighthouse, the painting, the sea and the summer house.

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