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Wednesday, April 22 • 4:25pm - 4:45pm
“I have had my vision:” Balancing Subjective and Objective Views of Reality in To the Lighthouse

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Virginia Woolf’s innovative writing style is one of the many reasons she is considered one of the most significant modernist writers of the twentieth century. She breaks with writing conventions, from the Victorian era in particular, that preceded her. In “Modern Fiction,” Woolf makes clear that these depictions may have been about life but were not of life. As a response, her writing encourages originality by depicting life as she thought it should be experienced, “not [as] a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged” but as a “luminous halo” (160) . In her 1927 novel, To the Lighthouse, she presents two characters, Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay, who illustrate objective and subjective views of life respectively. Mr. Ramsay, for example, is too preoccupied with the longevity of his work and experiences life factually, “what he said was true. It was always true. He was incapable of untruth,” while Mrs. Ramsay views life in a much more fluid and emotional way, as evidenced by Woolf’s comparisons to open windows (4). With these two characters, Woolf illustrates the disabling effect of dwelling too heavily on either end of each opposing force. Another central character, Lily Briscoe, may be read as a combination of both views of reality. Although she struggles to capture reality in a portrait of Mrs. Ramsay that she works on as the novel progresses, she eventually finds a kind of middle-of-the-ground approach between the two views and has ultimately “had [her] vision” (209). This thesis considers how Briscoe’s combined approach typifies the possibility of experiencing and living a more balanced, harmonious life.


Wednesday April 22, 2015 4:25pm - 4:45pm PDT
038 Karpen Hall