To the Lighthouse

Rendering Meaning Through the Mind-Body Connection: The Importance of the Physical, and its Relation to Identity, in the Subjective Reality of To the Lighthouse

In her novel To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf lavishly constructs the individual “realities” of multiple characters though a narration of their thoughts, impressions, perceptions, doubts, and the silent, self-questioning processes underlying the surface of human behavior. As a result, reality in the book exists only as it is perceived. There is no finite, singular definition of “right,” “true,” or “actual,” only a collection of distinct moments and experiences skillfully woven together to craft the rich tapestry of the novel’s interior. There is a sense that characters feel in To the Lighthouse, not that they actively live as in a traditional narrative. They are not defined by externals, or by oppositional categories of personality, unequivocally good or bad, altruistic or selfish, intelligent or simple. Because they are subject to the ambiguity, nuance and caprice of another’s interpretation, which itself varies along a continuum of mood and impulse, characters are not determinant, empirically “identifiable” forms. The mind, therefore, is the source of all-forward motion in To the Lighthouse, the guiding narrative agent. It exists both within and outside the confines of the novel, the purveyor of the subjective reality in...

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