Woolf could choose many ways to describe the Ramsay's to her audience. She could start with a description of their summer home, the price of their rent, or their family lineage in an attempt to engage the reader and establish some common ground on which to build from. But, as Woolf points out in her essay Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown, these tools of the previous generation have no use for her. So, as Woolf would have it, she begins her description of the Ramsays not by convention, but rather by a simple line of dialogue. Both Mrs. and Mr. Ramsay are introduced to the reader by direct quotation, although it seems essential to notice the differences in their introductions. The compassionate Mrs. Ramsay's first words of Yes, of course, contrast sharply with that of her more rigid and rational husband's first uttering of But.
[...] Without hearing the narrator speak these words as if from James's own mind, one might never sense this tension. This combination of subjective narration and the conflicting id and ego provides this novel with much of its flavor and vividness. Also directly influencing the tools of the modernist writers was the influence of Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution. The idea of secular humanism that is that science can solve all life's mysteries and not faith in the supernatural, seemed to suggest that humans are driven by the same impulses of lower animals and thus controlled by their instincts. [...]
[...] Ramsay!' But nothing happened.” (180) As Lily struggles to portray this one woman, the distance that separates them becomes the lens through which Lily can finally see: much depends, she thought, upon distance: whether people are near us or far from (191) Lily concludes that it would require more than fifty pairs of eyes to truly develop a complete picture of Mrs. Ramsay. Once again, we see Woolf pointing to a subjective lens as the only one capable of capturing reality, and it is through this kaleidoscope that Lily ultimately finds what she sought. Reality takes many forms, and in Woolf's To the Lighthouse these forms produce a cosmic narrative universe full of contradictions, discrepancies, and distorted perceptions. What is the lighthouse? In my mind [...]
[...] In this section, Mr. Ramsay is said to be “lean as a knife, narrow as the blade of one.” This physical description also implies the sharpness of his persona. Later, as Mr. Ramsay paces the terrace, he wonders whether his life could ever pass the letter Q in his metaphorical alphabet of the human mind, as his rational style of thinking shows first-hand. Mr. Ramsay's type of linear, intellectual assessment differs substantially with that of his wife's emotional style of thinking. [...]
[...] As characters slip in and out of reverie, time drifts like a buoy in their sea of thought. The novel consists of three sections, each with a different notion of time. In the first section, characters seem to look forward to the future as time shifts between characters' current sentiments and future expectations. The lighthouse trip that would take place the following day serves as a symbol of hope to many of the characters, while Mr. Ramsay's attitude toward the future appears bleak; ending with Q. [...]
[...] She, along with a talented generation of writers, became known as modern, and together their changes in aesthetic theory led to the term modernist literature. The type of subjective reality that describes Woolf's work, and the work of many modernists, has its roots in the changing social and scientific communities surrounding this era. Much of modernism became influenced by the emergence of Sigmund Freud and his theory of the unconscious mind. This idea suggested that all individuals are influenced by their subjective states, whether unconscious, such as suppressed thoughts, emotions, or instincts, or conscious states of being. [...]
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