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The three-part structure of To the Lighthouse

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  1. Introduction
  2. Ramsays' summer home in Hebrides
  3. Representative part of the lighthouse
  4. The novel's setting on abstract thoughts
  5. The second part of the novel
  6. The breakage of the story
  7. Conclusion

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. [...]

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