the theme of human relationships in the novel.
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Few novels capture the ephemeral (relationships as being temporary) nature of life as poignantly as Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse. Reality, when conceived of as a collection of fleeting moments, seems as chaotic and fluid as ocean waves. Each of the main characters struggles with this realization, and they all grasp for symbols of permanence and stability despite their understanding of the transience of experience. Mrs. Ramsay, consumed by a need to connect herself to lasting experiences, looks to the pulsating glow of the Lighthouse to unite her experience with a sense of endurance. For her, the steady stroke of the Lighthouse light represents stability and permanence. For this reason, she connects herself to it, unites herself with it, in the hope of gaining a similar sense of connection both to her present and to eternity. In fact, she seeks not only to unite herself with the permanent objects in the physical world, but also to unite her friends, family, and guests in the creation of lasting beauty.
Whereas Mrs. Ramsay's search for permanence lies in the emotional realm of experience, her husband's is based entirely in the intellectual sphere. He longs to transcend his own lifetime with an important philosophical contribution, yet feels practically certain that this goal is unachievable.Lily Briscoe suffers from a similar fear that her paintings will be thrown into the attic, never to be fully appreciated and never to make a lasting impression.
By the culmination of the novel, however, Lily is able to surrender this need for permanence and meaning, and she is thus finally able to fulfill her artistic vision. This final scene suggests that Lily can only achieve a sense of fulfillment because she is able to relinquish her need for a permanently significant existence. She finally embraces the ephemeral nature of the countless experiences that constitute a lifetime.