To the Lighthouse Review ⭐

‘To the Lighthouse’ by Virginia Woolf is an experimental piece of western literature that melds modernist styles like stream-of-consciousness and interior monologue.

To the Lighthouse

Virginia Woolf

‘To the Lighthouse’ is as dedicated to documenting an experience of lived time as it is interested in the artifacts that endure after experience, and the book supports a variety of memory types. The objective and sparsely repeated events in Part 2’s bullet-like plot summary serve as an example of the history book recollection of an event. Mrs. Ramsay experiences a circular memory in which she reflects on her youth, sees in her children’s childhood their future recollections, and believes that life is a circle of marriage and childbirth passed down from generation to generation.

In the end, Woolf’s ‘To the Lighthouse’ highlights how inadequate clock time is for measuring human experience because life is not experienced second by orderly second. Instead, the following 20 years fly by as one minute appears to last forever. A human lifespan is first seen as a long, luxurious period, and then it is realized that it is only a tiny portion of Earth’s far longer lifespan. Memories resurface in the present and persist, at times appearing to have never ended.

Style of Prose

The plot of the book is revealed through alternating viewpoints on each character’s awareness, which is an uncommon sort of omniscient narrator. Shifts can happen even in the middle of a sentence, and in some ways, they mimic the lighthouse’s rotating beam.

Because of the novel’s distinctive use of omniscient narration, readers are pushed to conclude the subtle changes in character development because so much of the plot is described in unclear or even contradictory ways.

As opposed to Part I, where the novel focuses on showing the connection between the experience the character is having and their surroundings, Part II, “Time Passes,” which lacks relatable characters, portrays events differently. Instead, Woolf intended for the section to be read in connection to time and wrote it from the viewpoint of an out-of-place, unrelated narrator. Because of this, the narration is disjointed and warped, illustrative of what Virginia Woolf called “life as it is when we have no role in it.”

Symbolism in To the Lighthouse

The Painting of Lily Briscoe.

Charles Tansley’s claim that women cannot paint or write is depicted by Lily’s painting as a struggle against gender convention. Lily’s ambition to capture the spirit of Mrs. Ramsay as a wife and mother in the picture echoes the need for contemporary women to be intimately familiar with and cognizant of the gendered experiences of women who came before them. As Woolf’s creation of Mrs. Ramsay’s character reflects her attempts to access and portray her mother, Lily’s composition seeks to access and understand Mrs. Ramsay’s beauty. Through Lily’s fear of exposing it to William Bankes, the painting also expresses devotion to a female artistic vision. Lily decides to develop her artistic voice by determining that finishing the painting, no matter what happens to it, is the most essential thing. She ultimately concludes that her vision hinges on harmony and synthesis, or how to bring different things together. In this way, her work is similar to that of Virginia Woolf, whose writing combines the perspectives of a variety of her characters to create a fair and accurate portrayal of the world.

The Sea

‘To the Lighthouse’ has numerous allusions to the ocean. The ever-shifting, ever-moving waves generally reflect the changes brought about by time’s unrelenting forward motion. Although Woolf writes affectionately and beautifully about the water, her most vivid descriptions emphasize the sea’s wrath. The water is a potent reminder of the transience and fragility of human existence and achievements since it is a force that delivers disaster, can destroy islands, and “eats away the ground we stand on,” as Mr. Ramsay remarks.

The Boar’s Skull

When Mrs. Ramsay leaves her dinner party and goes upstairs, she discovers the kids awake and distressed by the boar’s skull hanging on the nursery wall. The skull serves as an ominous reminder that death is always a possibility, even (or even especially) during life’s most joyful times.

Impact of To the Lighthouse

Virginia Woolf’s magnum opus has had a significant impact on Western literature. It has been consistently ranked as one of the best books of the twentieth century. Woolf, James Joyce, and Marcel Proust pioneered and popularized modernism in literature.


What is the difference between James Joyce’s style and Virginia Woolf’s in ‘To the Lighthouse’?

Woolf’s manner is a more poetic paraphrase than James Joyce’s stream of consciousness, which frequently uses abrupt fragments to describe characters’ cognitive processes. Because of the novel’s distinctive use of omniscient narration, readers are constantly challenged to draw their conclusions and opinions from the subtle changes in character development.

How does Virginia Woolf’s ‘To the Lighthouse’ address gender roles?

‘To the Lighthouse’ explores how the pre-World War I gender roles are like the institution of marriage. Lily Briscoe’s character serves as the perfect mechanism for critiquing society’s pigeonholed version of femininity and masculinity and the dichotomy that exists therein. Her paintings take on an ambiguous and androgynous role — a staple of the modernist artifact.

What is the purpose of symbolism in ‘To the Lighthouse’?

‘To the Lighthouse’ is full of symbols that are difficult to interpret. To fully understand the significance of the mangled fish, the boar’s head draped in Mrs. Ramsay’s shawl, Lily’s artwork, and the lighthouse itself; we must sort through a variety of interpretations. This is the purpose of Woolf’s modernist approach to writing; it forces the reader to view a particular event from multiple perspectives.

To the Lighthouse Review
  • Story
  • Characters
  • Setting
  • Writing Style
  • Dialogue
  • Conclusion
  • Lasting Effect on the Reader

To the Lighthouse Review

‘To the Lighthouse’ by Virginia Woolf is an experimental piece of western literature that melds modernist styles like stream-of-consciousness and interior monologue.


  • It is socially conscious
  • The character development is impressive
  • It is well thought out.


  • It is a difficult read
  • The story is somewhat boring
Charles Asoluka
About Charles Asoluka
Charles is an experienced content creator, writer, and literary critic. He has written professionally for multiple reputable media organizations. He loves reading Western classics and reviewing them.
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