Essay: To the Lighthouse – Virginia Woolf

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ABSTRACT

In twentieth century To the Lighthouse, which are external indicators of inner realities, evoking various experiences and sensations, is representative of modern novel. To the Lighthouse is masterpiece of Virginia Woolf who has significant place in modern period and changes the traditional novel radically. To the Lighthouse helps to understand reality and Woolf’s aspect of reality. In the novel, vision of reality bases on private experience, stream of conciousness, thoughts and feelings. Moreover, in modern literature and previous literature, reality is one of the most important issues.Virginia Woolf thinks that she should create a kind of brand-new novel for new period properly because she wants to get rid of both traditional narration and ordinary style in previous literature. Woolf’s aim is to destroy traditional reality in English Literature. Virginia Woolf’s reality is the invention of truth and life. To The Lighthouse which each character has different aspect of reality in the novel, is design of what Woolf sees in real life. This article aims to explore reality in the novel and examine Woolf’s aspect of reality expressing meaning of life and evoking various experiences and sensations. Also this study aims to consider how reality occurs inner world of human effecting by external world.

INTRODUCTION

The meaning of real is found that actually existing a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed in and real is defined as authentic, unchangeable truth in dictionaries. If you are talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, brain interprets ‘real’ with electrical signals. Reality is the state of things existing rather than as they may appear or might be imagined. Philosophers, mathematicians, other ancient and modern thinkers, such as Aristotle, Plato, and Russell, have made distinction in reality that houghts of thingst. Besides reality is defined as the interaction of realities. Each person has defined real and reality differently. Reality is examined in different two vision as subjective and objective, initutive and intellectual, and visible and invisible. All of them contains virtually the same thought.Some intellectuals believes that reality occures in external world unlike some of them defends that reality consists in internal world. According to F.Herzeg, lifespan of real is eternal. This statement can be commented as anything is not real if it is not eternal. That is to say, for Muslims unique real is ALLAH because except of ALLAH, everything in the world is temporary. For Remy de Gourmant, real is like a walking-stick which human resist to in duration of life. As states before, real and reality are variable.On the other hand, according to Albert Einstein ”Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. İllusion is not dream, only we cannot see, feels in our minds. When we look this perspectives, we can say there is not accurate ‘reality’ in the world and in reality stream of conciousness takes place important.

In A Room of One’s Own which is novel of Virginia Woolf, she defines reality: What is meant by “reality”? It would seem to be something very erratic, very undependable now to be found in a dusty road, now in a scrap of newspaper in the street, now a daffodil in the sun. It lights up a group in a room and stamps some casual saying. It overwhelms one walking home beneath the stars and makes the silent world more real than the world of speech—and then there it is again in an omnibus in the uproar of Piccadilly. Sometimes, too, it seems to dwell in shapes too far away for us to discern what their nature is. But whatever it touches, it fixes and makes permanent. That is what remains over when the skin of the day has been cast into the hedge; that is what is left of past time and of our loves and hates (Woolf, 1929:91). Virginia Woolf emphasizes that reality is changeable from person to person and is not trustful. In above statement she tells that reality remains only in life from everything. According to her, reality fixes and makes permanent whatever it touches. According to Woolf, reality is thoughts and feelings innerself and arises from a consciousness of ourselves as living in a world. Reality of Virginia Woolf is the exploration of truth and life through subjective efforts. The visible reality is based on observable things but the invisible reality is based on unforeseen things as thoughts, feeling. She mentions reality of life is not material, is spirutual. Reality is fluidic like water, intangible and variable. Virginia Woolf wants to get rid of traditional narration and ordinary style in previous literature. In her book, Virginia Woolf, Mina Urgan states, she knew that she should create a kind of brand-new novel for new period properly. We can understand her desire from her diary in dated 1934. Woolf states ‘I have to some extent forced myself to break every mould and find a fresh form of being, that is of expression, for everything I feel and I think… This needs constant effort.’ Woolf’s aim is to destroy traditional reality in English Literature. In Victorian period, because of bad conditions writers give importance to reality that is in appearences. Most of writers reflects reality without shake up in the world. According to Woolf, in the novel, reality should be bases on innerself and writers should not tell only events. Because events effects human and reality composes innerself of human. Concept of reality takes place in her some novel, A Room of One’s Own,Mr. Dalloway, and To the Lighthouse.

To the Lighthouse is the reflection of what Virginia Woolf sees in real life. A unique mode of perception where both subject and object merge together is demonstrated by Virginia Woolf. She believes that reality is beyond the surface. Any writer can not influence her but they describe her own aspects and experiences. Virginia Woolf sees life as lighthouse. According to Woolf, life is fixed but meaning of life is changeable. Wisdom is superior than reality. To resemble something to another is work of visdom. Reality and meaning of life are fluidic because we make sense to everything. For example when we watch a film, this film maybe comic or emotinal. According to Woolf, innerself of person is not related to apperances of human. She implies perfectly reality in To the Lighthouse.

Vision of Reality in Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse

To the Lighthouse is dense novel which is published in 1927, Modern period. This novel consists of three sections. The structure of To the Lighthouse is resembled the letter ”H: two building blocks connected by a hallway” (Khan,41). In the novel, actions occur in two days but contain ten years. Time Passes is like a H. It provides a link to join from first part the Window to the third part the Lighthouse. In first section, that night Mrs. Ramsay invites a number of guests to dinner such as: the William Bankes, Augustus Carmichael, Charles Transley, Lily Briscoe. the dinner party contains the first section. In the second section, the children grow up, the war breaks out. Mrs. Ramsay dies suddenly and Andrew is killed in battle, and Prue dies for illness. As a result, summerhouse of Ramsays on the Isle of Skye in Hebrides enters into a state of destruction for ten years. In the last section, Mr. Ramsay wants to go to the lighthouse with his two children James and Cam and Lily succeeds in finishing her painting. Actions are limited and novel is full of thougts and feelings as a result, we can say it consists of a series of experiences, memories and feelings and also this novel refers to Woolf’s characters’ consciousness. In twentieth century, To The Lighthouse is a tangible example of the transition period from the Victorian period to the Modern period. It gives a clear portrait of the Victorian family and presents the external factors on people’s innerself. To The Lighthouse is significant work to understand vision of reality. In the novel, reality is given a detailed picture. Reality has two perception as intuitive and intellectual. Every character has different reality aspect because of differences in existence. Lily Briscoe is hardworking and systematic character in the novel. From beginning to end of novel she deals with her painting. She wants to be different and unique although she is interested in Mrs. Ramsay’s potrait in her painting. Mrs. Ramsay becomes the object of her desire in arriving at the inner and outer notions of reality. Lily’s aspect of reality resembles to Virginia Woolf’s. Both of them believe that reality is elusive, and perpetually changes. She is in search of something which she considers as truth. She must wait for eleven years to return to the island and to cover the objective distance to accurately represent her figures and to arrive at her vision. ‘Lily’s painting is the symbolic substitute for fluidity of waves’ (Khan,32). That is to say, life is a sea and waves are experiences in life. Lily’s painting is representer to continues the life. Lily always battles with herself. She wants to find the truth of life. Her painting is truth of life. She discovers slowly and gradually the truth about life. Lily’s Briscoe’s painting symbolises Mr. And Mrs. Ramsay who are symbols of the evanescent and eternal aspect of reality. Lily’s painting represents ‘residue of her thirty-three years, the deposit of each day’s living’ (TTL,38). That is to say, experiences are important for a work and reality. Lily believes that a mother and a child are ‘objects of universal veneration’ and she potraits them with ‘a purple shadow without irreverence’. Actually she wants to integrate subjective and objective reality in struggle of life. Reality is neither terminated by death nor is confined by external events. There is no certain definition of reality. Lily Briscoe wants to refer reality into her painting. Mainly, she needs to establish harmony between subjective and objective rality.She wants to find reality with colours which is not possible. In To The Lighthouse: Woolf’s Search for The Meaning of Life Through Colours Önder Çakırtaş impresses the importance of colours in Lily’s quest. After Mrs. Ramsay’s death, Lily Briscoe, while she was attempting to complete her picture, she imagined her as usual “a lady in a grey cloak”. The reason to portray Mrs. Ramsay in grey is to reflect her neutrality and objectivity through the entire lifespan of her own. In this way, Lily Briscoe portrays Mrs. Ramsay neither totally in black as nor totally in white. Lily thinks that Mrs. Ramsay should be in grey because she was neither “so still” nor “so young” nor “peaceful”. Submitting the transition between black and white, for Mrs. Ramsay, the grey color does not only note that the life is temporary, but also states that she is unable to humour the rapidly changing life.Lily desires to depict Mrs. Ramsay totally in grey. Lily’s quest of reality or meaning of life continues to end of novel. She wants to find reality in painting with colours. As well as her picture represents the androgynous work of art because Mr Ramsay and Mrs. Ramsay are symbols of evanescent and permanent aspect of the reality. To The Lighthouse are interdependent as particular and general. Quest of reality, quest of life’s meaning and quest of individual identity are continuous process in the novel. Lily’s painting is representative of several things throught the novel and it is associated with her senses, her hatred for marriage, and her confused longing for Mrs. Ramsay. All in all, in the novel, Lily is representative of Virginia Woolf in real life. As Woolf, she is not a traditional artist who imitates and paints what is seen by physical eye. A long the same lines, Woolf and Lily, in quest of reality have similar thoughts. For them, truth are not only in appearences but also at the back of things. That is to say, feeling, experiences, stream of conciousness are indispensable things. Was it wisdom? Was it knowledge?…What art was there, known to love or cunning, by which one pressed through into those secret chambers? What device for becoming, like waters poured into one jar, inextricably the same, one with the object one adored? Could the body achieve, or the mind, subtly mingling in the intricate passages of the brain? or the heart? Could loving, as people called it, make her and Mrs Ramsay one? for it was not knowledge but unity that she desired, not inscriptions on tablets, nothing that could be written in any language known to men, but intimacy itself, which is knowledge, she had thought, leaning her head on Mrs Ramsay’s knee.(TTL,37) With above quatation, Lily interrogates wisdom, knowledge and beauty for reality. She resembles Mrs. Ramsay to holy text in tabloids. To know and understand Mrs Ramsay, is not easy. If it is easy, human can learn everything also Lily can complete her painting. She sees as Mrs. Ramsay is the storehouse of wisdom and knowledge. She wants to reach inner world of people because for Lily, reality is hidden in innerself of people or world. According to Imran Ali Khan, there are three devices that help in reaching at the vision of reality. These are; time, complexity, and language. That is to say, these three devices can not be seperated from each other because time only moves, language only express but cannot express the reality in its pure style. All devices are imperfect and can’t reach to reality. Lily wants to unity not knowledge. Knowledge can’t present reality but unity can reach because she desires unity with Mrs. Ramsay. She implies that it is diffucult rather impossible to transfix what she is felt. Lily’s painting is distinctive from ordinary painting. Above all she wants to refer inner feeling through colour and shapes and to transfer subjective into objective. Quickly, as if she were recalled by something over there, she turned to her canvas. There it was—her picture. Yes, with all its greens and blues, its lines running up and across, its attempt at something. It would be hung in the attics, she thought; it would be destroyed. But what did that matter? she asked herself, taking up her brush again. She looked at the steps; they were empty; she looked at her canvas; it was blurred. With a sudden intensity, as if she saw it clear for a second, she drew a line there, in the centre. It was done; it was finished. Yes, she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue, I have had my vision. (154) Lily Briscoe is also a character and supporter of author. Lily Briscoe finishes her work of art and just as accomplishes a harmony between contradicting powers. She has overcome shallow separation which she attempted to ensure in the in the first place some portion of the novel. In the third part she is in a position to cut out more space around her easel then she had beforehand secured. She grows profound connection with the Ramsay’s crew. Whenever Mr. Ramsay alongside his family make outing to the Lighthouse despite the fact that they are physically away yet sincerely stay present in the brain of Lily. At first she can’t finish her work of art in light of the fact that her vision required seeing the world. When she sees the world then she can concur with Mr. Ramsay’s purpose of view; his vision of the world and thus finishes her work. It is a result of the way that she has understood that life is the blend of both subjective and target parts of reality. She starts to comprehend herself and the world around betterly. In To The Lighthouse, it is possible to examine reality as cognitive approach and intuitive approach.

Mr. Ramsay is proponent of objective reality and he approaches to reality cognitively. Mrs. Ramsay is representative subjective reality and she responses to reality intuitively. According to Mr. Ramsay, reality consists of solid objects. He is well educated , well qualified but limited person towards others. He has lack of sympathy. His children hate from him because of his strict rule. He is representative of inadequacy of human relations and false values of society. His reality is defined as ‘scrubbed kitchen table’ by Lily Briscoe and his son, Andrew. He wants to be dominant towards his wife and children. He believes the importance of logic and rejects the inituitive response to reality. Mrs. Ramsay reflects a life force essential for the continuation of literary life of the text. Her subjectivity is shaped in relation to the needs and requirements of her egoistical husband. She allows Mr.Ramsay to develop into her internal center. The development and stability of Mr. Ramsay’s identity as a whole, relies on the continuous misappropriation of the subjectivity of Mrs.Ramsay.Mrs. Ramsay acknowledges life despite its infirmities and considers herself as a feature of the world. She doesn’t move against the stream of life. She looks after others. She is occupied in knitting which is creative duration. She knitts for the lighthouse keeper’s boy who is the lower section of society. Mrs. Ramsay’s knitting mirrors her role as a creative centre of the house. She rises as a figure of competence and protection. She restores her husband when he wanes in his philosophical enterprise and her husband’s ego at whatever point he is going to lose his self-regard. Mrs. Ramsay considers two aspects of reality: the outward appearances and berg which we live invisibly. For Mrs. Ramsay the appearances are similar to a whale coming out to the surface of the sea while underneath the surface there stays another reality that is unimaginably deep. The dept can be investigated when one leaves egomania, sheds his false personas and set up connection with the other that fastens all in one imperceptible web. Similarly, in The Cambridge Companion to Virginia Woolf, Sue Roe implies death is not endig in itself rather a break from the material to unmetarial reality (71). Unlike her husband Mrs. Ramsay has intuitive inclination to help other people as there exists an association that ties us all. She is intuitive in her approach to deal with the things around: She was silent always.She knew then—she knew without having learnt. Her simplicity fathomed what clever people falsified. Her singleness of mind made her drop plumb like a stone, alight exact as a bird, gave her, naturally, this swoop and fall of the spirit upon truth which delighted, eased, sustained—falsely perhaps. By the same token, unified intuitive approach to reality is occurred when Mrs.Ramsay’s inner thoughts are conveyed out to the reader. Thanks to the intuitive response, Mrs. Ramsay becomes a sociable person who make palatable relations with different characters of novel. She is really hospitable and indicates great respect for her guests. This friendliness animates in her the universal spirit fundamental for the continuation of life. Through novel, she does not have any logical explanation. Her all explanation is full of possibility, there is no certainty. Mrs.Ramsay capitulates to the flow of life. She represents that part of human personality which has capitulated to the flow of life without making any resistance. The death of Mrs. Ramsay represents the disintegration of Ramsay’s family. After her death, her value increases in the house. She is symbolic value for the characters and she is not dead in character’s mind. She symbolizes to lighthouse because she serves for people. Moreover, Mrs. Ramsay performs her intuitive role in the world. She never shows antagonism towards nobody. Her attitude towards children is very appreciative. Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay symbolizes different sides of human personality; cognitive and intuitive. Cognitive approach bases on wisdom and knowledge but intuitive response bases on feelings and thoughts. In serial time, moment is not isolated from the past and future but the present moment is closed with sequences both backward and forward directions. The present moment is in state of change. In To The Lighthouse, reality is free and can not limited by time and space. Mr. Ramsay and Mrs. Ramsay and Lily Briscoe are interdependent each other not merely in time and space but also spiritually and physically. To The Lighthouse helps to reach at the vision of reality and cognitive and intuitive approach co-create the structure of meaning. Brian Phillips on Reality and Virginia Woolf opines that her works contain depiction of physical reality and hence alone her characters are consistent with life. Every individual passes through these three stages in order to arrive at the notion of reality. According to Khan, the writer diminishes the view of reality. Reality, cannot be grasped in one go, nor is it the product of subjective consciousness alone. Therefore Woolf’s characters cannot be called as the product of her subjective consciousness. In his paper, Stream of Consciousness and Reality in the Works of Virginia Woolf, Esther Cores Bilbao asserts that To the Lighthouse (1927) poses a quest for control and vision of some cohesion where nature seems hostile. Ramsay’s parents represent a generation which has gone misguide in their spiritual belief. He implies that To The Lighthouse’s response to realism happens through intellect and instincts. Also, he emphasizes that Mr. Ramsay is logical towards the meaning of life and Mrs. Ramsay has intuitive response in the novel. Although she search the meaning of life beyond the visible surface (invisible), according to Mr.Ramsay anything don’t exist beyond the world of facts. He bases on rational interpretation of facts. In her paper The Thing underneath the Semblance of the Thing (1985), Paula Bourner opines that in To the Lighthouse (1927), there are two parts of reality; the outside reality to which we are acclimated and the internal supernatural reality which is found through long lasting knowledge. She additionally relates both levels with male and female shafts of reality. The Masculine post of reality incorporates all the written history and the stories told. The Feminine post of reality incorporates the oblivious and non-levelheaded some portion of the learning. In her books Virginia Woolf ventures manly reality through serial time as vertical continuum and female reality through level continuum. Mrs. Ramsay can see the permanence and coherence which shapes the pattern that lies at the back of life. Virginia Woolf associates this permanent shape of reality with feminine pole of reality because it receives all the things as a woman receives a man during sexual intercourse. She does not hold any superiority of female sex rather she wants to emphasize the fact that masculine and feminine poles of reality are the necessary ingredients of life without which one cannot glimpse reality in its totality (Bourner, 54). Ann Kathleen Kraetzing in her MA thesis, Anti-authoritarian Representation of Reality within two of Virginia Woolf’s Novels mentions that in To The Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf concentrates on the mind and the multiplicity of the characters. She divides Virginia Woolf’s vision of reality into three section. 1. Ascription of reality within the thoughts and sensations of mind, 2. Her qwn view point about expression of the subjective nature of reality, 3. Her life long quest to catch something for her novels which she is not sure to name: ‘life or spirit, truth or reality'(Kraetzig 7). In To The Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf struggles for catching the essence of reality within the ideas and feelings of the character’s mind. She focuses on inner world, rejects the outer events.According to Kraetzing, the subjective reality is more complex because each character has many different thoughts and selves. Woolf attempts to represent reality multiple aspects of minds and voices within each character. This aspect reflects a multiple kinds of the same events and so, contradictory perceptions of reality are created. Ann Kathleen Kraetzing tells the development of reality. According to her, reality is not something to be created in the minds of characters. Reality is reflection of realities. It is something gradually evolved, individually experienced and collectively felt. She implies reality has different perspectives from individual to individual. She examplifies that a colour- blind person cannot be able to differentiate colours like other people. According to his own sense perception, what he observes is correct. That is to say, each person understands the outer world according to his own experiences and sense of perception. Francesco Mulas in his article Virginia Woolf’s to the Lighthouse: a Work in Progress from Vision to Reality emphasizes that Virginia Woolf has two contradictive aproaches to reality. He divides as masculine and feminine approach. He restricts Virginia Woolf’s notion of reality to feminine and masculine approaches. In my opinion he limits Woolf’s reality because feminine and masculine aproaches are ingredient of reality.Cognitive approach helps intuitive approach to reach vision of reality.

CONCLUSION

To the Lighthouse is an interesting and striking novel which has two perspectives of reality as visible an invisible. The visible reality is based on observable things but the invisible reality is based on unforeseen things as thoughts, feeling. Reality of Virginia Woolf is the exploration of truth and life through subjective efforts. To the Lighthouse is the reflection of what Virginia Woolf sees in real life. A unique mode of perception where both subject and object merge together is demonstrated by Virginia Woolf. She believes that reality is beyond the surface. Any writer can not influence her but they describe her own aspects and experiences. Virginia Woolf sees life as lighthouse. According to Woolf, life is fixed but meaning of life is changeable. Wisdom is superior than reality. To resemble something to another is work of visdom. Reality and meaning of life are fluidic because we make sense to everything. For example when we watch a film, this film maybe comic or emotinal. This situation changes from person to person. Woolf does not give importance to egoisticm. Likewise, Language is semiotic which changes inner perception into visible reality. For Woolf, language is not reliable to communication because languae is public but sensation and experiences are private. That is to say, bridle of language is in your hand, if you quit, it never comes back. Speech is not important in To the Lighthouse. There is no dialog because Woolf gives importance to innerself. For Woolf, to tell something is not needed to speech, people can tell something without speech.She mentions that to understand innerworld of each other does not need to open our skull. In To the Lighthouse, painting is aim of Lily Briscoe. Aim is reality of life or meaning of life. This novel is novel of stream of conciousness, thoughts and feelings. All in all, In the To The Lighthouse, reality is given a detailed picture. Reality has two perception as intuitive and intellectual. Every character has different reality aspect because of differences in existence. To the Lighthouse is novel of search of reality. In twentieth century, To The Lighthouse is a tangible example of the transition period from the Victorian period to the Modern period. It gives a clear portrait of the Victorian family and presents the external factors on people’s innerself. To The Lighthouse is significant work to understand vision of reality.

WORK CITED
Bilbao, Esther Cores. Stream of Consciousness and Reality in the Works o f Virginia Woolf. 2013.
Çakırtaş, Önder. To The Lighthouse: Woolf’s Search for The Meaning of Life Through Colours.2014
Çıkla, Selçuk. Romanda Kurmaca ve Gerçeklik, Hece 6., 2002, 65,66,67
Ettinger, Ian. \”Relativity and Quantum Theory in Virginia Woolf’s The Waves.\” Zeteojournal, 2012.
Erus, Zeynep Çetin. Romanda Bakış Açısı ve Sinemaya Uyarlanması. İletişim Fakültesi Dergisi.
Gunes, Ali. Symbolism in Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. 20/07/2013
James, Sherry. To The Lighthouse: An Introduction. 2003
Kale, Özlem. Edebiyatta Bilinç Akışı Tekniğine Başvurulma Sebepleri Üzerine Bazı Dikkatler.
NSWA-Humanities, 2014.
Kraetzig, Ann-Kathleen . Antiauthoritarian Representation of Reality within two of Virginia Woolf’s
Novels. GRIN Verlag, 2008.
Mulas, Francesco. Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse: A Work in Progress from
Phillips, Brian. The Development of Virginia Woolf’s Late Cultural Criticism \”Reality and
VirginiaWoolf\” The Hudson Review, Vol. 56, Issue 3, Autumn 2003. [online]
Roe, Sue, & Sussen Sellers. The Cambridge Companion to Virginia Woolf. London: C.U.P: 2000.
Woolf, Virginia. To The Lighthouse. Penguin Popular Classics U.K: 1996.
Woolf, Virginia. A Writer’s Diary- Harvest/Pdf, London-2003
Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One’s Own. Feedbooks. Copyright,1929.
——————–.Kendine Ait Bir Oda, Kırmızı Kedi Yayınevi, İstanbul, 2012
——————.Deniz Feneri, Kırmızı Kedi Yayınevi, İstanbul, 2012.
WEB SITE
http://www.online-literature.com/periods/realism.php
https://philosophynow.org/issues/61/What_Is_The_Nature_Of_Reality
http://www.world-of-lucid-dreaming.com/what-is-reality.html

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