To the Lighthouse: Remembering the Past | Teen Ink

To the Lighthouse: Remembering the Past

March 29, 2021
By Hi-I-am-Jason GOLD, Brookline, Massachusetts
Hi-I-am-Jason GOLD, Brookline, Massachusetts
11 articles 0 photos 0 comments

To the Lighthouse is a novel by Virginia Woolf that discusses moments in the Ramsey family, as well as in other character’s lives. The majority of the book takes place in the past and portrays reflections. Therefore, the main theme is how certain memories and emotions are eternal. Woolf goes to great lengths to carefully paint a vivid picture to the readers, including the design of her characters, different perspectives, and many examples of love in this story to show how emotions and memories are preserved throughout life.

Woolf uses characters to emphasize the eternalization of past memories. Many of the characters introduced in this novel have ways to record their life. For example, Mr. Ramsey writes about his life and remembers his academic accomplishments, Mrs. Ramsey attempts to remember life through love, and Lily Briscoe simply records life by painting. Through these characters, Woolf shows the various ways humans remember events or others, using an eternal bond, or through recorded writings and paintings. Mr. Ramsey ponders whether his academic work will be remembered. He is conflicted whether written records will preserve his life and ideas after his death, with newer works and the passing of time, and if his memory will disappear and be forgotten. Meanwhile, Mrs. Ramsey believes that people remember best with love, she is a great example herself. Mrs. Ramsey’s death is a huge impact on the Ramseys’. Mr. Ramsey loved his wife a lot as she was his emotional support throughout his life. Losing this loving bond showed both Mr. Ramsey and the reader how important Mrs. Ramsey was in his life, and this love left a mark even after she has passed away. Virginia Woolf ponders the temporal briefness of human life and experiences in these lasting memories in To the Lighthouse through the characters she created carefully.

The author also demonstrates memories in To the Lighthouse using multiple perspectives. She first creates a clear setting that allowed her to jump seamlessly in between characters’ narratives, describing clearly where the characters are and what they are doing throughout the book. Woolf then jumps in between people to fully flesh out the many different thoughts, perspectives, and feelings on a specific, single event through various points of view. The theme of this book is memories, and by using a classical third-person narrative, the narrator distances the reader from the characters and events in the book. By portraying the memories and emotions in the past through different eyes and minds, the readers paint different imageries of the same event. The free-flowing shift between perspectives gives readers a broad view, yet in-depth understanding of the memory, which allows readers to explore and recollect it with certain details depending on the character’s point of view.

Finally, Woolf implements many different versions of love in her book to illustrate how these “loves” age throughout the novel. There is lasting, familial love, friendship love, and even everlasting love. Love is an example that demonstrates how strong emotions are affected over time. Love is sometimes eternal, like the characters’ love for Mrs. Ramsey. Love can also be temporal, like the awkward ending to Paul and Minta’s love. However, one thing is certain, that people who love someone will remember them forever, even if that someone leaves their side. One example of this is despite the passing of Mrs. Ramsey, everyone still loves her and cherishes the memories and past emotions they shared with her. Virginia Woolf illustrates to the reader that while the bond of love can be broken, the memories and emotions it produces along the way will be remembered forever.

To the Lighthouse is an interesting book. Its distorted perception of time, the use of many perspectives replacing a traditional, singular third-person narrator, and carefully sculpted characters are all reasons this book is unique and a good read. To the Lighthouse was human-like, it was relatable, and readers enjoyed being able to see themselves in the book. However, what captures the readers the most is its theme of remembrance and eternalized emotions through Woolf’s character design, perspective-shifting, and the many variations of love she portrays in her book.

The author's comments:

This is my first submission, I hope people enjoy it. (I do think there is a little spoiling in the review so please proceed at your own will). 

While this book was originally fairly complicated and confusing to read through (pardon my comprehension skills), after a re-read I managed to understand this weird flow of time. I discovered that the first half of the book is basically in the past, and I loved this concept. Remembering something from the past evokes a strong, sweet feeling of nostalgia. When coupled with the many forms of love in this book, it was (to me) a reflection of how humans have always tried to grasp firmly to what they have now, to record their stories down and eternalize themselves. I thought this memory theme would be an excellent topic to write about so here I am!

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