To the Lighthouse
The Window Towards the Lighthouse
Much of Virginia Woolf's novel To the Lighthouse takes place within her characters' minds. Although, of course, their thoughts cannot stop external happenings, they can and do stop time in one way: through memory. Thus, throughout the novel, Woolf employs certain objects as symbols to instigate memory and transport the mind into the past. One example, in particular, is that of the drawing room window, which develops the story's theme that memory defends the mind against the strain of change.
A prominent symbol, the window is referred to frequently; indeed, the first section of the book is named after it. It serves as the aperture that connects the ever-changing backyard space with the nearly still drawing room. The majority of the action of the first scene occurs in the backyard, but one main character, Mrs. Ramsay, remains in the drawing room with her son. Because of this arrangement, characters must look through the window in order to see the other party; as a result, many of the characters' internal monologues are instigated by the view that is framed by the window. For example, as Woolf writes, "Knitting... with her head outlined absurdly by the gilt frame... Mrs. Ramsay smoothed out what had been harsh...
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