To the Lighthouse

Time after Time

Virginia Woolf's To the Lighouse is ultimately a celebration of the human spirit. In the novel, time is synonymous with the ocean and darkness, and this triumvirate of forces, in essence, acts as the antagonist. Time ebbs and flows, continuing on ceaselessly, destroying whatever lies in its path. It is nature's supreme forceunstoppable, unyielding. Whereas it emphasizes the utter insignificance and transience of humanity, it simultaneously underscores humanity's two greatest abilitiesthe ability to adapt to monumental change and the ability to freeze certain instances of time. Indeed, in these two abilities, humanity has managed to somewhat tame the effects of time, defeating it at least momentarily. Though it initially appears as though time will defeat humanity in the end, erasing all its achievements and glory, one realizes by the end of the novel that though it may eventually erode human honor, it is necessary, even essential, in allowing human brilliance and happiness to be as intense and as cherished as it is.

From the beginning of the novel, Mr. Ramsay and Mrs. Ramsay contemplate time and its effects. In the first mention of the passage of time, Mrs. Ramsay compares it to the waves, saying, "...[T]he...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 747 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 4491 literature essays, 1451 sample college application essays, 183 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in