To the Lighthouse. Virginia Woolf. Wordsworth Classic. 1927



The modernist narrative dissolves the omniscient narrator so to create a stream of consciousness where the point of view keeps changing, catching thoughts and immediate perceptions of the individual experience by the means of flashbacks and mental associations.

A woman’s emotional universe

However, the specificity of Virginia’s prose lies in an advanced observation capacity, able to notice hidden physical details and to link them to her characters’ psychological and existential narratives, designing both vivid and aery scenarios through poetic effects of rhythm. Besides, while writing the novel, she was processing a few dynamics of her own family constellation, which would add realistic nuances to the story.


The time is that of a family, it flows creating the three chapters of the book – the window, time passes, the lighthouse – discouraging any attempt to stop it. The location is the Skye Island in Scotland, where Mrs Ramsay, Mr Ramsay, their eight sons and a few friends decide to spend the summer hoping of going to the lighthouse.


The location is definite but the postponement of the trip to the lighthouse creates a tension that allows the story to proceed outlining the characters’ different perceptions of space. The lighthouse, intended as rescuing landing from night and danger, is the symbol of stability, awareness and brightness: as a matter of fact the light defines many novel’s scenarios as opposed to night meant as symbol of life caducity, oblivion and emotional darkness.

Now all the candles were lit, and the faces on both sides of the table were brought nearer by the candlelight, and composed, as they had not been in the twilight, into a party round a table, for the night was now shut off by panes of glasses, which, far from giving any accurate view of the outside world, rippled it so strangely that here, inside the room, seemed to be order and dry land; there, outside, a reflection in which things wavered and vanished, waterily.
Some change at once went through them all conscious of making a party together in a hollow, on an island; had their common cause against that fluidity out there.

The lighthouse seems like representing for the characters the idea, working at subconscious level, of being able to save part of the individual experience from the relentless and incessant transformation and refraction of its physical, emotional and intellectual presence.

The lighthouse

Through the bright and resilient image of the lighthouse that stands out against a landscape in continuous change the novel outlines the individual psychological dimension of its characters and connects it to the collective philosophical perception of human experience.

Hence the craved lighthouse, both near and far, as it were the lens of a camera, allows Virginia to shot pictures made of words for her characters to use against the perpetual flow of time to capture and freeze their own emotions, thoughts and narratives.