To the Lighthouse Symbolism

To the Lighthouse Summary: Part 1: The Window The novel starts in the Ramsays’ summer home. Mr Ramsay tells to the family that will take them to the Lighthouse on the next day but it wasn’t possible due to bad weather. This makes a certain tension between James the son of the family and his father because he really wants to get to the Lighthouse. In this part Lily Briscoe attempts to paint a portrayal of Mrs Ramsay and her son James.

Part 2: Time passes This second part gives the feeling of time passing and also death. Ten years pass, during which the four-year First World War begins and ends and also Mrs Ramsay passes away.

Part 3: The Lighthouse In the final part the remaining members of the Ramsay family return to their summer house ten years after part 1. Mr Ramsay finally decides to keep his word and take his son James and his daughter Camila to the Lighthouse. In this section Lily attempts to finally complete the painting that she started in part 1.

Upon finishing the painting (and at the same time the sailing boat of Ramsay family reaches the lighthouse) and seeing that it satisfies her, she realizes that the execution of her vision is more important to her than the idea of leaving some sort of legacy in her work.

Symbolism of the Lighthouse. Before launching into what Virginia Woolf might be talking about Lighthouse I’m going to take a few seconds to explain you what it is.

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The meaning of Lighthouse it refers to beacon it’s something people who are lost can look towards for guidance and the light it moves around. When the night falls, it flashes on, and when the sun rises, it shuts off. So a lighthouse works as both a symbol of stability (as a beacon) and of change (as its lights go on and off with the turning of the day).

Now, about this specific Lighthouse. We know that it’s visible from the Ramsays’ summer home but separated from it by a stretch of sea. And we know that, at least at first, James Ramsay really wants to get there – so much that when Mr. Ramsay says they won’t be able to sail to the Lighthouse the next day, James Ramsay goes very mad. But the Lighthouse also is a symbol for Traditional Family Structure. One important thing they share in common is that they’re both guys. Another important thing is that they’re both really into Mrs. Ramsay.

Sure, one’s her husband and the other’s her son, but they feel they have to compete with each other for her attention. All this leads us to a roundabout way, the Lighthouse is potentially a symbol for family structure, and especially for the authority of the father in the traditional family. So the lighthouse is kind of a phallic symbol, and phallic symbols in literature often mean that there are daddy issues coming down the pike. In other words James and Mr. Ramsay are squabbling over who gets power over the family: Mr. Ramsay is the authority figure, so he gets to say “No! he weather will be bad! ” And James is a rebel who’s all “Why do you have to ruin everything? In conclusion I have talked about the Lighthouse as a symbol for family authority and how control over getting to the Lighthouse has a lot to do with family power. But like the Lighthouse tower itself, the family as an institution is solid and unchanging. But individual families come and go as rapidly as a lighthouse of a beacon goes on and off – time changes the shape of all families. All families have their upon and down. Bibliography To The Lighthouse (Sparknotes Literature Guide). Edition: 2003

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To the Lighthouse Symbolism. (2019, Jun 20). Retrieved from

To the Lighthouse Symbolism
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