To the Lighthouse

Overcoming Conventions in Thought and Gender in To the Lighthouse

A "splendid mind," is Mr. Ramsay's most coveted and powerful instrument, the one constantly at his disposal for perceiving, judging and dissecting the universe. His is an intelligence comparable to a mechanism with gears which move steadily in one direction, limited by infinite, unseen parameters. His beautiful wife, Mrs. Ramsay, on the other hand, is an intelligent, dependent and giving individual; one who bestows her ostensibly universal presence until she withers away. The couple, each with their limited perception of reality and distinctive flaws, come to embody the conflict between the division of feminine and masculine energy at work in the universe. These two characters in particular, as well as the general style of the novel, provide the framework necessary for Woolf to attempt to transcend the conventions not only of traditional Western narrative structure, but of established modes of consciousness and how they are represented in literature as well. It is the character Lily, who, in the end, represents that which is capable of overcoming all convention, including these bifurcated feelings, and catches "the vision."

Mr. Ramsay, a self-centered philosopher, expresses the male principle in his...

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