Woolf was born in 1882. Her father was a man of letters, so she grew up in intellectual atmosphere. She studied at king’s collage and spent her summers at Cornwall and the sea remained central to her art as a symbol. For Virginia, water represented harmony but also possibility of the resolution of intolerable conflicts in death. The Second World War increased her anxiety and fears. After rewriting drafts of her suicide note, she put rocks into her pockets and drowned herself in the River Ouse. In 1904 she became a member of the Bloomsbury Group. This meant the rejection of traditional morality and artistic conventions. The main aim is give voice to the complex inner world of feeling and memory. The human personality is a continuous shift of impressions and emotions. Disappearance of the omniscient narrator. Point of view is shifted inside the characters’ minds through flashbacks, momentary impressions presented as a continuous flux. Stream of consciousness technique consists in revealing the plot through the mental processes of the characters and characters development is achieved through revelation of extremely personal thoughts. The action of the plot moves back and forth through present time to memories of past events and dreams of the future. While in the traditional technique, plot is the commentary of an omniscient narrator through dialogue or the narrator’s descriptions. The action corresponds to real chronological time.
To the Lighthouse
The novel is divided in three parts.
Part 1 The Ramsay family are on holiday. There are 8 children and a group of intellectual guests. The central characters is Mrs Ramsay, a beautiful and sensitive woman with a deep understanding for other people. She has promised her youngest son, James, to let him go on a trip to the lighthouse, but the trip does not take place because of the bad weather.
Part 2 Ten years have passed. Mrs Ramsay has died and that her eldest daughter and her son Andrew are also died.
Part 3 The Ramsays return to the old house with some friends and James can go on a trip to the lighthouse. But everything changed, only the lighthouse is still the same.
The structure and the subdivision in three parts, reproduce the beams of the light from the lighthouse: a first long one, a pause of darkness, another flash. The whole novel is marked with a series of long monologues; during these monologues, the most various things flow through the mind of the characters.
Mrs Ramsay is always ready to pick up, to record the slightest emotions which may come even from the most banal experiences. In Mrs Ramsay’s monologue, we feel her fondness for the innocence of children, her fear for the loss of that innocence the children will suffer when they grow up, the clash between the magic world of the fairy tale she is reading and the reality, the sense of disorder reigning in the world. Mrs Ramsay’s world is a world of intense emotions. Her thoughts are intercalated, from time to time, with the reading of few lines of the fairy tale. In the first section of the novel, we see the Ramsay and their guests arranging an expedition to the lighthouse for the next day. Mrs Ramsay and her son James expect the moment of the trip with great enthusiasm but the trip is put off due to bad weather. The reality of the life has broken the spell, the dream. The lighthouse will be visited ten years later meanwhile two sons of Mrs Ramsay’s have been killed; Mrs Ramsay herself has died. The survivors of the group of ten years before who visit the lighthouse, among whom an artist, Lily Briscoe, look at the lighthouse as the ultimate symbol of life which provides an illusion of permanence in the flux of life, the latter symbolized by the sea. The lighthouse stands for stability, permanence in contrast with the sea that means flux, change and decay. It is through the vision of the lighthouse that Lily has created a work of art which will withstanding the destructive force of the time. That harmony that Mrs Ramsay had sought and encouraged, not always successfully, in the human relationships, has been eventually carried out in the world of art. The novel leaves space to hope. Mrs Ramsay died hopeless but her lie made of self abnegation and devotion to the others. Lily has not wasted her life in her constant devotion to art. She has expressed her genius, even though quite few people are able to understand her work.