To the Lighthouse

Merging and Flowing: The Metaphor in To the Lighthouse

From the invisible to the visible is but a step, and a very quick step at that. The task of the metaphor is to render concrete and palpable, through analogy, the abstract and unseen, and Virginia Woolf peppers To the Lighthouse, especially the largely interior "moments of being" dinner-party episode, with muscular metaphor and sinuous simile. Two artists here work with metaphor to unite the divided guests: Mrs. Ramsay, a social artist whose conversational gifts link people through a shared language, and Lily Briscoe, whose painting talent translates into a gift for an imaginative visual window into the minds of others. For Mrs. Ramsay, the metaphor resides within the oral present tense as an evanescent bridge between people. Her non-recordable (except by Woolf's pen) art may not last, but it is still necessary. Lily's metaphor is an instantaneous leap, as well, but her analogies freeze moments timelesslythe metaphor is a present action abstractly removed from temporal boundaries. Woolf's strategy of indirect discourse extends Lily's artistry and aids the heteroglot fusion; the present-tense interior voices become timeless and abstract through their confluence in the narrative pool.

The dinner table is a...

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