Virginia Woolf's 1927 novel, To the Lighthouse makes great use of introspective thought and philosophical questions infused within the prose. It is a novel in the modernist sense, wherein the plot is secondary to the emotional responses sparked by the heavy dialogue spoken throughout the story. Members of the Ramsay family are the central characters of Woolf's story. Set in the years between 1910 and 1920, To the Lighthouse centers upon the Ramsay family's trips to the Isle of Skye in Scotland. Throughout these trips, the members of the family encounter various aspects of psychological self-exploration. The characters largely observe actions of the others, and it is with this observation that the story is described. The prose that Woolf employs is often rambling and difficult to follow without much coherency in regard to progressing the plot. This is a tactic consciously used by the author to place greater emphasis on the themes, rather than simply telling the reader of events to move the story to a natural conclusion. With this method, Woolf is able to impress upon the reader the importance of the character development. The three-part structure allows the author to develop the characters across ten years, and many important life moments.
[...] Ramsay who still struggles to break free of the memory of his wife and her role in his professional endeavors. The children, James and Camilla, are able to see their father in a new light, as his personality softens during their trip to the lighthouse. That which seemed to have lost importance in the years since they had been to the lighthouse, regains relevancy as each character finds some form of solace during this journey. Where the story began, so does it close. [...]
[...] Here it is not the responsibility of the author to account for these personality developments. It is up to the reader to allow his or her imagination to freely roam, justifying how the characters spent their time during the period which has lapsed however we please. The second part can be read as a kind of bridge between the beginning portion of the story, and the novel's eventual end. It was important for Woolf to include a middle section, so that we may have some point of reference for the lives and events of the Ramsay's. [...]
[...] In addition, the author is not responsible for filling in gaps of the plot structure, allowing the themes to remain constant. The Isle of Skye is home to the Ramsays' summer home in Hebrides. On this island stands a lighthouse. The lighthouse is a central symbolic structure throughout the novel. It remains a constant cornerstone. It is an important symbolic structure because the three parts could be read as vignette stories, but instead are connected by their setting. The lighthouse links together the characters and the passing years. [...]
[...] Therefore, while the novel does not rely heavily on large moments of importance to progress the plot, it is the individual characterization that allows the plot to develop, along a very interesting and unconventional path. Each setting should be understood as meaningful and full of significance. It is doubtful that Woolf would choose to highlight a moment or a place unless it contained some relevancy. This is another very valuable tactic employed by the author. Rather than going to great length to over-explain the countless complex relationships, she allows the scenarios to play out, thus providing the reader with a first hand glimpse at how these personalities interact with one another. [...]
[...] Ramsay displayed a lingering sense of inferiority, the reader learns just how important this partnership was to Mr. Ramsay. Woolf, is thus, delving deep into the complexities of human relationships, attempting to showcase how they are immensely complex and very often indescribable to those who remain outside of the relationship. Again, what is most strongly in play is the psychological behavior of the characters. Mrs. Ramsay's death gains more importance in the effects that it has on her family, namely her husband, less than it does as a plot point. [...]
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