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5 May 1927
5 May 1927, by Virginia Woolf
The three sections of the book take place between 1910 and 1920 and revolve around various members of the Ramsay family during visits to their summer residence on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. In the first part, the reader looks at the world through Mrs. Ramsay’s eyes as she presides over her children and a group of guests on a summer holiday. In the second section, Woolf illustrates time’s passage by describing the changes wrought in the summer home over a decade. The third section relates the return of the Ramsay children, now grown, and Lily Briscoe, a painter and friend of the family.
The novel explores themes of marriage, perception, memory and the passing of time. A central motif of the novel is the conflict between the feminine and masculine principles at work in the universe.
Mrs. Ramsay, Mr. Ramsay, Lily Briscoe, James Ramsay, Paul Rayley, Minta Doyle, Charles Tansley, William Bankes
The work is one of Woolf's most successful and accessible experiments in the stream-of-consciousness style. Cited as a key example of the literary technique of multiple focalization, the novel includes little dialogue and almost no direct action; most of it is written as thoughts and observations.
Woolf began writing To the Lighthouse partly as a way of understanding and dealing with unresolved issues concerning both her parents and indeed there are many similarities between the plot and her own life. Her visits with her parents and family to St Ives, Cornwall, where her father rented a house, were perhaps the happiest times of Woolf's life, but when she was thirteen her mother died and, like Mr. Ramsay, her father Leslie Stephen plunged into gloom and self-pity.
“And all the lives we ever lived and all the lives to be are full of trees and changing leaves.”
“He smiled the most exquisite smile, veiled by memory, tinged by dreams.”
“Friendships, even the best of them, are frail things. One drifts apart.”
“Beauty was not everything. Beauty had this penalty — it came too readily, came too completely. It stilled life — froze it.”
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