The Waves

Societal Standards and the Impact of the Individual in Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and The Waves 11th Grade

Virginia Woolf, one of the most innovative and important writers of her time, emphasizes modernist ideals and the importance of the individual in her work. In Virginia Woolf’s novels To the Lighthouse and The Waves, Woolf argues the idea that gender roles can be oppressive, often confining men to be tough and nearly emotionless while typecasting women as hysterics, expected to cater to men’s egos. Additionally, Woolf comments on the temporary nature of life, its frailty, and the idea that one may romanticize objects, events, or people in his or her past in order to give extraordinary meaning to his or her existence.

Much of both To the Lighthouse and The Waves comment on the societal expectations of men and women, specifically that society expects men to be consistently stolid while the expectations for women suggest that their emotions guide them, often causing them to make hasty or otherwise hysterical decisions; Woolf also comments on how society also places women in a position where their only true responsibility is to cater to men. In The Waves, Woolf depicts the headmaster of the boarding school that Neville, Luis, and Bernard attend as a stolid, harsh man. When he mounts the pulpit to preach from the Bible, he does so...

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