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Essay on Self-realization in Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse

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Self-realization in Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse


A Lighthouse is a structure or tower, which emits light in order to guide people, mainly mariners.  Virginia Woolf uses the meaning as a hidden symbol to guide readers to the deep unresolved feelings carried within the novel’s distraught characters.  As the novel progresses, the significance of the Lighthouse’s meaning slowly unravels.  The reader receives an insightful view into Mrs. and Mr. Ramsay’s complex everyday relationship while they raise their eight children and time passes.  Consequently, the reader realizes how important one individual is to the lives of others, or more figuratively how one bright and strong beam of light can guide a fleet to harbor.

       At the beginning of the novel, the path lies on Mrs. Ramsay and her children wanting to go to the Lighthouse.  They find it very exciting and are looking forward to the event.  However, Mr. Ramsay believes the weather will not allow them to go tomorrow nor the next day.  This carries a negative effect on Mr. Ramsay’s character though the rest of the story and these words reflect their consequences, “…it won’t be fine” (p.4).  In reference to their son, James, Mrs. Ramsay believes,  “…he will remember that all his life”(p.62).   This foreshadows what is to come later in the novel, as the children never do forget, and hold a grudge against their father for his past actions.   Likewise, Mr. Ramsay does not forget stopping them from going to the Lighthouse, as this is what is keeping his conscience from being free.

        With each turning of the page, the author invites the reader to open the window into the Ramsay’s intricate lives and relate it to the meaning of the novel as a whole. Virginia...


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...realize what was long overdue in their lives,  “we” means more than “one” and “one” does not always need to be alone, “…everybody seemed to come very close together to feel each other’s presence, which they had almost forgotten” (p.183).  Once this is found, they reach the Lighthouse and find the light Mrs. Ramsay was leading them to all of this time, “…the light seemed to reach them in that airy sunny garden where they sat” (p.186)

Works Cited and Consulted

DeSalvo, Louise. Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Her Life and Work. New York: Ballantine, 1989.

Temple, Ruth. “Never Say `I’: To the Lighthouse as Vision and Confession.” Virginia Woolf: A Collection of Critical Essays. Claire Sprague, ed. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1971. 90-100.

Woolf, Virginia. To the Lighthouse. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1989.


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