To the Lighthouse

Time is a concept that is hard to define.  It’s not exactly a tangible object but in one way or another we can see time.  We see it as people and things grow from young to old and day turns into night.  Time is important; it can bring the means to an end or a beginning.  Woolf demonstrates time well in her novel “To The Lighthouse”.  In the beginning, she illustrates time as being slow, standing still.  Time is frozen; it’s the calm before a storm.  Everyone has experienced this sort of calmness where everything seems to be suspended.  One feels it before a natural disaster hits i.e. a tornado or tsunami.  It is also felt by soldiers just before battle or whole nations before war erupts.  It was felt during WWI.  Time was frozen while the war occurred seeming as though it would never move on and the world would remain in a mass of chaos.  But then the war ended and time sped up catching people off guard.  Woolf’s novel is a good depiction of how the war seemed to its participants.  Before Woolf’s section ‘Time Passes’, she sets her novel to consist of an entire day.  She freezes time in order to reflect on every little aspect life has to offer.  She takes in every point of view that she can and shows the world in that blink of an eye before the storm hits.  It’s very sublime in the way she freezes time for her readers.  Even though time is constantly moving, it is the most stable thing in this world.  It never goes away like all other things in this world; time is universal.  Woolf reflects this stability in the lighthouse.  The lighthouse offers a sense of stability and comfort.  It also reflects time.  A lighthouse is always standing.  It is what sailors seek in times of refuge.  In the beginning of her novel the lighthouse seems to be off but once Woolf begins the section on ‘Time Passes’ the lighthouse has been turned on.  The revolving light of the lighthouse is a reflection on how quickly time moves.  The light turning illustrates days turning to weeks and weeks to months then to years.  In ‘Time Passes’ Woolf speeds up time.  Time is no longer standing still; it is revolving just as the lighthouse light is.  She also gives the impression of time being serene and quiet just sitting back and watching from above.  In my opinion, it’s almost as if Woolf is giving time a god like feeling in the second part.  But this is, of course, just my interpretation of Woolf’s meaning behind time.

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One thought on “To the Lighthouse

  1. I think you placed a lot of emphasis on the portrayal of time in part I, and, while I definitely agree this has a “calm before the storm” effect on the story, there is so much left to say about “Time Passes” itself. I think it’s important to note that nature seems unaffected by the war while mankind is suffering from it. Woolf illustrates this by showing the regular passing of seasons and the “plants [that] were as gay as ever” (135) in contrast with the manmade “house [which was] sinking, falling” (138). However, you are right about the lighthouse being a sign of stability. Even as the building is decaying, the lighthouse beam continues to shine through its windows. This either resembles the ubiquitous nature of hope, or the consistency of time. Perhaps, it resembles both; maybe this is Virginia Woolf’s way of saying that even though terrible things may be happening, the world will carry on, so there is always hope. Another important thing you forgot to mention was the bracketed asides updating the reader on the lives of the characters. This is so significant considering Woolf used quite a few pages just to describe a dinner party, but now she only uses a single sentence to say that “Prue Ramsay died that summer” (132). This symbolizes how the overall view of death may have changed in the wake of such a destructive war. Before, a death would’ve received a lot of time and attention, but during the war (and during “Time Passes”) deaths became so common that the same care and amount of time could not be paid to every single death. Overall, however, you are right about Virginia Woolf speeding up time during “Time Passes”.

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