“To the Lighthouse” was an interesting and worthwhile experience but I can’t say that I enjoyed the book that much. There were moments in the book that I enjoyed immensely but I could not enjoy the plot or the characters which I think may be the reason behind my not particularly enjoying “To the Lighthouse”. I think the greatest thing about “To the Lighthouse” is the appreciation of the singular beauty of moments in time. In a couple of scenes Virginia Woolf does a great job of building up the setting through a few different perspectives before one of the characters reaches a kind of pinnacle of fascination with the moment at present. There were a few times where I thought Woolf was particularly effective at achieving this feeling but the one I can recall most clearly is towards the beginning of the book where Charles Tansley is walking with Mrs Ramsey. Other than this aspect of the novel, there was nothing else that I found particularly satisfying or entertaining. Nonetheless, the emphasis on thoughts of characters was a unique approach (this is what lead me to say the book was a worthwhile experience) and it raises questions about the significance of thoughts compared to actions. We think many things but only act on some. I would not want my thoughts to represent the person I am, but rather my actions. However, I noticed in the book that, for the most part, there is an agreement between the characters’ thoughts and their actions (besides James’ recurring thoughts of stabbing his father through the heart). I do not know that this is typically the case in real life but the characters are otherwise very believable. Then again it would be impossible for Woolf to include absolutely every thought that goes through someone’s mind, partly because it would be too boring and partly because we may not even be aware of every thought we have.
“To the Lighthouse” I found, was very interesting. It’s the first time I have read a book in this style, where the whole story is basically made up of “thoughts” and less of description and narration. I was mostly impressed with how realistic the whole story seemed. There was nothing (that big), that made me think that the book was unrealistic in any way. The thoughts the characters had, in many cases, overlapped with things that I have thought of before too. Thus, I could relate well to some of the character’s emotions. There are many different characters in this book, which may also mean that every reader will have their own special character. The characters, although not directly described in narration, are very well portrayed. Although not perfect, I thought I could see the contrast between each individual, and saw their strengths/weaknesses and personality. I think this is something very hard to do, especially with so many characters.
I really liked how different characters would talk about another character, yet everyone seemed to still have different images about that person. For example, the reader would be tricked into believing the personality of one character just because Mrs Ramsay says it, and we only find out the “truth” or another perspective after a different character mentions their thought on that person. I think it is important to remember, after all, that all thoughts (which is most of the book), is what a character is thinking. I easily believed these things as facts, but it is important to know that they are just thoughts, and as we know, thoughts are no where near the truth.
This book is really different from the other books that we have read so far because its more about the thoughts rather than the actions. At first its kind of hard to distinguish whether its the thoughts of the author or the characters. But as we find out, more so than the plot, this book revolves around human relationships and how much can change in a small time period. Most books are difficult to bring into real life because of how actions seem to happen just constantly and there seems to be no time for us to see inside the thoughts of the character. Its more difficult to relate to because the characters lives are much more action packed unlike our mundane lives.
At first, I thought Mrs. Ramsay was the optimistic one due to her loving nature and how she has so many children and seems to love guests. However, I realized that she just tries to make life perfect but in fact if she just accepted life the way it was with all its imperfections she may be happier. So, while Mr. Macknight said that I would learn to love Mrs. Ramsay, I didn’t really fall in love with her in the end. The way she overprotects her children to the point of complete closure of reality makes me feel like she doesn’t try to educate her children the right way and only wants to create this perfect world she tries to envision. Mr. Ramsay on the other hand is more realistic even though on first impression he seems emotionless and difficult to get along with.
I think that this book seems fairly easy to understand the first time you read it but when you read it again you see that its not as simple as you thought. This book shouldn’t be read like a normal story book because it isn’t meant to be one but if we read it from the perspective that the author wants us to understand the thoughts more than the plot, we will get more out of it.
To The Lighthouse was enjoyable, albeit confusing, and even somewhat disappointing.
The book at its outset would appear to be about the internal private lives of ordinary people. It does this well, with the worries (including nagging thoughts, such as when Mrs. Ramsay thinks about the bill for the greenhouse being fifty pounds), and lengthy ludicrous thought.
In as far as it being a normal book, it has conflict (James’s hatred of his father, Lily’s confusion as a female artist, Mrs Ramsay’s fears for the futures of her children) all of which develop (Lily gets told she cannot be a woman and an artist. James loses his mother and his father reacts in a way which as a husband you expect him to, but as a “tyrant” you do not). I believe that in some way we all relate to the characters. Whether or not Woolf is giving any accurate portrayal of what it is like to be in the mind, I believe most people obsess in their heads about the big things (like Lily’s 10 year + concern of her skill and gender) and the little things (The bill for the lighthouse (though £50 was definitely a big deal in the 19th/20th century)). It makes the book feel quite real.
To the lighthouse was narrated in ‘watery’ and transient way, and this really seemed to define the concept of time and intricate web of human relationship. In the beginning, To the lighthouse reminded me of the way of narration in Tess, especially the part where Tess goes to the dairy after the death of ‘Sorrow’. But the differences between them is that in Tess this fleeting narration is used to describe only the surroundings (landscape), which resembles the situation that Tess is in, and helps us to feel the power of Nature- this makes us feel as if the Nature is the foreground even if Tess is the heroine. For To the lighthouse, this technique focuses on each individual character’s thoughts which then shift smoothly onto other person’s thoughts. It causes every character’s ‘thoughts’ to take turn and be the protagonist of the novel, and reveals that the novel is directly focusing on ‘consciousness’ or ‘thought’. Through the narration, I felt the relative concept of time. It seems to be passing by us in regular intervals of seconds and minutes, but just within a few hours of time different characters are giving numerous unique thought towards the same situation, revealing their relationship with all the people and inanimate objects surrounding them.
I found the idea that lighthouse itself is Mr. Ramsay, and that the light is Mrs. Ramsay most interesting. If that idea is taken into account, Lily and Mr. Ramsay are taking completely different paths to reach the conclusion. Firstly, Lily’s question was whether artists will be appreciated in society, whether her creating a piece of art will be any good. But by seeing Mr. Ramsay and two children travelling to the lighthouse, she realizes that sometimes seeing things from far distance lets one know it better- and reaches the answer to her question “what does matter?” and finishes her art. Oppositely, Mr. Ramsay is travelling closer to the lighthouse, which signifies him, now without Mrs. Ramsay. For Mr. Ramsay, by getting closer to himself, he experiences changes and escapes from the past, shown by saying “Well done!” to James. Again the interconnection between human is shown by this act: “Well done!” completes James, and relieves Cam as an observer.
Overall this novel required lot of thinking for me to understand its meaning. But the novel itself is so open to interpretation and written in unusual way that I still feel unsure about whether I understood the novel yet. I think I might need another read, which will give me dissimilar impression.
I actually thought that this was a pretty interesting read. I really like the concept if lateral writing and the stream of consciousness. This is an issue that I’ve thought about before- how everyone’s sitting there basically seeing the same things and people, but everyone’s thoughts are different. How these thoughts may diverge or coincide is entirely possible yet impossible to actually figure out. We know what we’re thinking but what about what other people are thinking? We can never be sure what another person’s thinking.
To the Lighthouse is one of the most realistic works of literature that I’ve read that goes deep into the depths of the human mind, helping us understand the relationship between people that is real and plausible in every way. It isn’t a novel that keeps us interested a particular plot, but it keeps us wondering how the characters really feel about things that are going on and how they really feel about other people around them. How can we really know what we are feeling and why we feel that way? How can we understand what other people do and why they do the things they do? ‘To the lighthouse really addresses these issues as we delve into the consciousness of the various characters, allowing us to understand how they feel about whatever’s going on at that very moment.
‘To the lighthouse’ allows us to learn about human nature and raises many questions. The characters seem to love and hate each other at the same time, admire and respect yet reject and abhore the people around them. This shows us the complexity of human emotions. How can we be sure of what we ourselves are thinking about? How then can we be sure about the thoughts and feeling of particular characters in novels?
Reading the essay, I realised the symbolism of the lighthouse. I never really saw that Woolfe was trying to draw a line of unity, nor did I see the lighthouse as a symbolism of Mr Ramsay nor the light from the lighthouse as symbolism of Mrs Ramsay. This makes a lot of sense though, and I’ll remember to note these symbols when reading the novel for a second time.