To the Lighthouse

Shaping Loss in "To the Lighthouse"

Throughout To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf details the many struggles of the Ramsay family and their houseguests to secure happiness and order within their lives. There are many obstructions to this basic human pursuit, but loss is one of the most powerful and universal. Various forms of loss haunt and torment nearly all of the characters. Fearing a finite, meaningless existence, Mr. Ramsay dreads the loss of time and relies on the support of Mrs. Ramsay to ease his pain, but when she dies, he becomes a helpless victim of time and is forced to grow beyond self-pity and rumination.

As a metaphysician and writer of questionable success, Mr. Ramsay cannot cope with the fact that he is getting older; the damning, unstoppable procession of time robs him of the years necessary to become a great man. He was not born a genius, but hopes to fight so that he may become one. As Mr. Ramsay conceptualizes it, human thought progresses like the alphabet, and though he has endeavored all the way from A to Q, he may not have the time to reach the pinnacle, Z. Even more frustrating is his belief that if he did reach Z, like Shakespeare or the other greats, he still would not be "everlasting". No matter what, time will swallow him up,...

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