Time Passes

“Time Passes” is the shortest part of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and displays a stark contrast from the first part of the novel. One thing I found to be very interesting is that this piece is the shortest in the whole novel, yet the largest part of time passes in “Time Passes.” I also found it interesting how it seems that the point of view changed in comparison to “The Window.” In “The Window,” the reader was able to not only see the way that each character was acting, but also the way that each character was thinking and feeling, and how that could have contradicted to their action. In “Time Passes”, this was not a common occurrence. In fact, the house is somewhat personified in this context because we see how it changes. In “Time Passes” the house is vacant and ultimately falling apart. This vacancy and absence to me seems to be a parallel to what happened in Europe during World War I. Though World War I was not actively taking place in Britain, and it was at times thought of as something going on “over there” ti still greatly impacted the people because of the loss of those around them.


Time Passes

“Time Passes” is an appropriate title for this section of Woolf’s novel.  The first section of the novel felt as if time were standing still.  Mr. Ramsey’s thoughts, for example, take up substantial space within the novel while progressing very little of the plot.  As he walks around thinking on how Shakespeare is irrelevant, he slows the plot down to a mere crawl.  This contrasts greatly with the form of “Time Passes” say many important things in a short amount of time.  Late in the passage, Woolf writes “So she was dead; and Mr.  Andrew killed, and Miss Prue dead too, they said, with her first baby; but everyone had lost some one these years”(77).  The twenty year time-travel is evident in this passage through its simulation of the effect of a whiplash speed of time; one only has time to see brief important things and repeat them later as a representation of the whole.  Furthermore, Miss Prue’s death in childbirth represents the inability to reproduce and continue time through human’s own ability, as if time continues while leaving humanity behind.  The irrelevance of man in the riptide of time is evident again through the observation of the cook.   Woolf writes of “The cook now, Mildred, Marian, some such name as that”(77).  The phrasing implies that the cook is a replacement whose name is not worth memorizing, possibly referencing how soon she will be gone too and thus replaced by another nameless cook.

The passage connects with World War I in its confusing and quick movements characterized fewer insights into the characters themselves.  “The Window” contained multiple passages that delved deep into the psyche of Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey, while “Time Passes” implies that the replacement cook, who will soon be replaced herself, is not worth the time taken to memorize her name. In addition, Woolf juxtaposes stillness and chaos with day and night as she says “the stillness and brightness of the day were as confusing as the chaos and tumult of the night” (76). Historians characterize World War I as an unusually uniform war.  Two trenches: one side attacks, the other attacks subsequently, and it goes on. The war dragged on for such a monotonous stalemate that any sort of stillness in the constant fighting would be alien and disorienting.  The passage as a whole uses the speed of time, which was proven to be relative in the early 1900’s, to bring out a meaning of the War’s ability to warp time.  Nature continues on, patient as usual, while humanity gets caught in its own storm, getting left behind in the night.

“Time Passes”

The mechanic of time works very differently in the second section of To The Lighthouse than it does in the first section. In the first section time passes extremely slowly, sometimes even stopping, and great emphasis is put on the interior of characters minds. In “Time Passes” this seems to flip. Time at the house is going by quickly, jumping from season to season, year to year. This section also is interested in the exterior, specifically what the house looks like. “The swallows nested in the drawing=room; the floor was strew with straw; the plaster fell in shovelfuls; rafters were laid bare.”(137) This section also under-emphasizes the actual characters of the story by related the deaths of Mrs. Ramsay, Prue, and Andrew all within brackets as if that information were an aside. This makes the section feel extremely dehumanized which mirrors the sense of dehumanization felt by the survivors of WWI. “Time Passes” presents the cruelty of nature, especially in its ability to continue on cyclically without the need for human life.

To the Lighthouse – “Time Passes”

In the “Time Passes” section of To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf greatly speeds up the way she conveys time. She goes from devoting over one hundred pages to a single day in Part I to devoting less than twenty pages to ten years’ passing. Time is an important concept in this novel, and it is represented differently in the different parts. In “Time Passes,” time is represented in a more conventional and harsh way than it is in Part I. Part I focuses on the many details of a particular day and also expounds on the thoughts of several characters. “Time Passes,” in contrast, does not focus on people and their thoughts but rather on time’s effect on physical things, such as the house. For example, the narrator says that “a thistle thrust itself between the tiles in the larder,” “swallow nested in the drawing-room,” and “the floor was strewn with straw” (137). I think that Woolf chose to convey time in this way during the war period because people felt like they had no control over what was happening and began to feel like their lives were essentially meaningless. Time took over everything, and there was no stopping it. In “Time Passes,” Mrs. Ramsay (the protagonist), Prue, and Andrew all died; this signifies that even the most promising and good people are overtaken by time. The fact that each of their deaths was described quite frankly and briefly in brackets emphasizes the alienation and disillusionment that people felt as they watched the death toll from WWI rise to extreme figures. People knew what was happening, yet they could not process it. In “Time Passes,” the Ramsay family is all but destroyed, and this represents the state of Europe during and after WWI.

“Time Passes”

The “Time Passes” section in Virginia Woolf’s Novel To the Lighthouse dramatically changes the perception of time by condensing ten years of turmoil into only 20 pages. In the first section “The Window” she uses time to deeply describe the psychology of time rather than the chronology of it which portrays the world as a more internal intuition rather than material process. In this section Woolf depicts the cruel effect of time on objects such as the beach house and its contents instead of the personal development of her characters. The Ramsey’s fear of time is finally gaining merit as the legacy and work of some characters are slowly erased by time. The bracketed sentences about Prue and Andrews death create a lack of emotion for such events and depict something of breaking headlines or military orders. This shift from psychologic perception of time to the new chronologic passing of time causes the characters to be revered as secondary supporters to a much bigger picture. This mentality validates Mr. Ramsey’s original thoughts of how a simple stone will outlive us all. How nature is everlasting but the turmoil within each character can cause vast amounts of change in short amounts of time. After the strong winds redesign the landscape, the barren life that the lighthouse now maintains is an eerie remembrance of what life used to be. “A pair of shoes, a shooting cap, some faded skirts, and coats in wardrobes – those alone kept the human shape and in the emptiness indicated how once they were filled and animated;…” (pg. 123). This new environment mixed with the tragedies each character endured miniaturizes he European emotion as a whole after WW1. Prue’s death in childbirth diminishes the continuity of life while Andrew’s death brings out the impact of war. After everything comes to a close the Ramsey’s struggle to continue in their daily life confidently which represents the postwar state of mind of all of Europe.

To The Lighthouse: Time Passes

In the Time Passes section, Woolf uses a much quicker and shorter usage of time. Instead of spending an entire section to describe the actions of the family on one day, as she did in section 1, Woolf spends a much shorter amount of pages describing 20 years. She also uses mostly non-human entities to describe the passage of time instead of actual humans. Though she says that summers and winters pass through the house’s life, she doesn’t out-right say how much time has passed until she uses brackets and thoughts by Mrs.McNab.

The brackets are used to express that the events within the brackets are happening elsewhere. We can see this when she writes on page 133, “{A shell exploded. Twenty or thirty young men were blown up i France, among them Andrew Ramsey, whose death, mercifully, was instantaneous.}” This is a sudden departure from the ghost-like description of the aging house to let the reader know that the war was happened and a major character has died. This is said so quickly and without warning so that Woolf’s form may embody how people experienced the war when it happened. It may be in brackets to also let the reader know that the house only knew that time was passing, not that major tragedies were happening.

The thoughts by Mrs.McNab are used to bring together the mundanity of human consciousness that is shown in part 1 and the almost omniscient, quickly passing consciousness of the house. We hear her thoughts on page 135 saying, “Mrs. Ramsay’s things. Poor lady! She would never want them again. She was dead, they said; years ago, in London.” This shows us an estimate of how much time has passed and gives us another insight to a character’s death. It quickly switches back over to the house’s consciousness, where we don’t spend a lot of time on Mrs. Ramsay’s death, but swiftly move through more seasons.

Working with this very quick movement of time by the house’s perspective is the concept of stillness. The stillness is the opposite of human action and the explanation of the house’s spirit. On page 129, Woolf writes, “So loveliness reigned and stillness, and together made the shape of loveliness itself, a form from which life had parted.” The absence of human interactions and thoughts in the house make the slow movement of time seen in the first part turn into a very rapid movement of time by the house. This is because there is only the stillness of the house, and not any human motives or actions to ponder about and spend longer time thinking over. The Lighthouse is seen by the house’s perspective as the epitome of stillness when Woolf writes, “Only the Lighthouse beam entered the rooms for a moment, sent its sudden stare over a bed and wall in the darkness of winter, looked with equanimity at the thistle and the swallow, the rat and the straw” (138).  This calmness that the lighthouse projects onto the house is fleeting and not very effecting, unlike the lighthouse’s characteristics to the humans in part 1. The human characters in part one spend large amounts of time on the lighthouse and project onto it their thoughts, judgements, histories, and feelings. This expands the amount of time Woolf must spend explaining it. This means that the house only projects its stillness onto the lighthouse, so that it what the lighthouse gives back to it.

This technique of slowing down time when it pertains to human life and speeding it up when it pertains to nature and an empty house is a way to express the processing of the war. Woolf separate the events of the war, which happen very quickly, and how the characters process the war, which takes a considerable longer amount of time. Nature and the house are still, seeing the time of the war only as the passing seasons, while humans are unable to see the passing of time or the effects of the war without their day-to-day, moment-to-moment understanding of it.

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.