LiteratureTo the Lighthouse

To the Lighthouse; Symbolism

3 Mins read

To the Lighthouse, no doubt, is full of symbolism. Virginia Woolf’s this novel relies on Stream of Conscious technique where the characters’ thoughts are given more significance. In the previous article, we analysed the key themes in To the Lighthouse and now today we’ll look at the symbolism in this novel. Let’s check out them below.

The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse symbolizes human want, a power that pulsates over the detached sea of the pure world and guides folks’s passage throughout it. Yet even because the Lighthouse stands constant day and night, season after season, it stays curiously unattainable. James’ annoyed need to go to the Lighthouse begins the novel, and Mrs. Ramsay seems to be on the Lighthouse as she denies Mr. Ramsay the occupation of affection he needs so badly on the end of Chapter 1. James, finally reaching the Lighthouse in Chapter three a decade after he’d first wished to go, sees that, up close, the Lighthouse seems to be nothing prefer it does from throughout the bay. That misty picture he’d desired from a distance stays unattainable even when he can sail right as much as the structure it’s supposedly connected to. The novel’s title will be understood as an outline for an experience itself. One’s life, then, is the way of transferring in direction of, of reaching, of wanting. It is “to” the Lighthouse, not “at” it.


Painting represents understanding and catharsis. Lily Briscoe paints a scene that features Mrs. Ramsay studying to James within the drawing room. She ponders Mrs. Ramsay’s character, who’s “like a bird for speed, an arrow for directness,” a “commanding” presence opening home windows and shutting doorways. Not making an attempt a “likeness” however reasonably one other sense of “mother and child,” she depicts Mrs. Ramsay as a purple triangular shadow. Later Mrs. Ramsay in “The Window,” Chapter 11, describes herself as a “wedge of darkness,” which resembles a purple triangular shadow.

Read About: To the Lighthouse; Themes

Lily navigates the problem of steadiness within the portrait. Working on the composition, she achieves a sure understanding by shifting the tree to an extra outstanding place to replicate the Mrs. Ramsay’s essence and significance.

The act of painting represents catharsis for Lily. At the start of the novel, she is anxious about exhibiting the painting to others. Introverted and delicate, she is not sure about her skills and intimidated by Charles Tansley’s derogatory feedback about ladies’s inabilities as artists. Although she continues painting, Lily can not obtain full catharsis—for her, the inaccessible—till she absolutely understands her emotions about Mrs. Ramsay.

When Lily lastly permits herself ample distance, she is ready to complete the brand new painting with an easy line down the center, attaining the whole sense of stability she has sought, and she will be able to settle for herself as an artist. If she achieves understanding in “The Window,” she achieves catharsis in “The Lighthouse,” as she finishes the painting simultaneously Mrs. Ramsay’s husband and kids reach to the lighthouse.


In “The Window,” Chapter 4, Lily Briscoe and William Bankes pause by the pear tree, discussing Mr. Ramsay’s stalled profession, a discussion exhibiting the intimacy of their deep friendship. At that spot Lily imagines a kitchen desk which, due to Andrew Ramsay’s rationalization of Mr. Ramsay’s discipline, represents the patriarch and his work—“lodged” within the tree. Lily’s picture, contemplating her love for the Ramsays, illustrates how Mr. Ramsay’s tough skilled life and demanding presence hurt the family’s well-being.

When Lily makes adjustments to the composition of her painting by shifting the tree nearer to the middle, she affirms the tree’s significance as an illustration of the inside spirit of Mrs. Ramsay, which Lily is attempting to seize: the love, life, and connection that make her a nurturing, defending, and stabilizing pressure in others’ lives.

Read About: To the Lighthouse; Analyzing the “Time”

The Sea

The sea symbolizes the pure world and its utter apathy in direction of human life. The pure world – which encompasses time and mortality – proceeds as typical no matter whether or not people are glad or grieving, in peace or at struggle. Like the undeniable fact of loss of life regularly claiming human youth and sweetness, the ocean slowly eats away on the land, dissolving it minute by minute. Like the relentless development of a clock’s hand, the waves beat ceaselessly on the seashore and sluggish for nobody. The sea itself is unchangeable, and the various totally different descriptions of the ocean all through the novel actually describe shifting human opinions. As if it have been a mirror, folks see within the sea a mirrored image of their very own mind-set. Thus, when Mrs. Ramsay feels secure and safe, the waves sound soothing, however when she feels disoriented, the sound of the waves appears violent and ominous. Thus, throughout World War I, the ocean seems mindless and brutal, however in peacetime it seems orderly and exquisite.

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