To the Lighthouse is a 1927 novel by Virginia Woolf. The novel centres on the Ramsay family and their visits to the Isle of Skye in Scotland between 1910 and 1920. Following and extending the tradition of modernist novelists like Marcel Proust and James Joyce, the plot of To the Lighthouse is secondary to its philosophical introspection. Cited as a key example of the literary technique of multiple focalization, the novel includes little dialogue and almost no direct action; most of it is written as thoughts and observations. To the Lighthouse is made up of three powerfully charged visions into the life of the Ramsay family, living in a summer house off the rocky coast of Scotland. There’s maternal Mrs. Ramsay, the highbrow Mr. Ramsay, their eight children, and assorted holiday guests. From Mr. Ramsay’s seemingly trivial postponement of a visit to a nearby lighthouse, Virginia Woolf examines tensions and allegiances and shows that the small joys and quiet tragedies of everyday life could go on forever. The novel recalls childhood emotions and highlights adult relationships. Among the book’s many tropes and themes are those of loss, subjectivity, the nature of art and the problem of perception.
To the Lighthouse
A landmark of high modernism and the most autobiographical of Virginia Woolf’s novels, To the Lighthouse explores themes of loss, class structure and the question of perception, in a hauntingly beautiful memorial to the lost but not forgotten.