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To The Light-House Novel Summary

Discuss the third section as a befitting conclusion of the novel To The Light-House?

The three blocks of narration in “To the Light-house” are dominated respectively by Mrs. Ramsay’s intuition, Mr. Ramsay’s empticism and Lily’s fusion of the two which is life.

This novel is full of conflicting emotions. Life is a cycle with its movements of destruction and regeneration. In the first section, there is life going on: Then in section “Time Passes”, nature does its work. An impression of emptiness hovers. It suggests the absence of something beautiful and something which can connect things together. There is death that is the cyclic movement of life. But in the third section, life is regenerated. A sense of hollowness has been filled.

The title of the third section “The Light-house” indicates a voyage. The novel is dominated by process–life to death, youth to maturity, promise to fulfillment and disharmony to harmony. So, the third section completes the process. Voyage has come to an end.

In the first section, Mrs. Ramsay has tried to bring relations into some inner spiritual unity. As in the dinner scene, “the whole of the effort of merging and flowing and creating rested on her.” Although, she has been able to unite the guests physically at dinner-table, yet the mental unity has not been attained and the need of unity becomes longing in the text. And in this concluding section, the unity is attained and the problems are solved. First, in the context of Lily Briscoe.

As an artist, she feels incapable of completing her panting and is unable to connect things.

“It was a question… how to connect this mass on the right hand with that on the left.”

To achieve unity is her problem with painting and also with Mrs. Ramsay. It means that her feminity does not engage with other gender. Because of her lack of sexual feeling and her inability to give sympathy and praise even when genuinely merited, Lily’s relation with men are largely “neutral.” As in the dinner scene, she feels no sympathy for the suffering ego of Tansley.

In this concluding section, after ten years, Lily begins to change, “The war had drawn the sting of her feminity. Poor devils, one thought, of both sexes.” Mr. Ramsay demands sympathy–“something she felt she could not give him.” But, they are drawn together by their mutual admiration of his boots and, when he ties her share, “the blood rushed to her face and thinking of her callousness, she felt her eyes swell and tingle with tears.” Here, Lily has become more like Mrs. Ramsay in appreciating the value of intuition and in feeling sympathy for others and able to connect things.

“With a sudden intensity, as if she saw it dear for a second, she drew a line here, in the centre. It was done. It was finished.” The line drawn in the middle of the painting is her tribute to Mr. Ramsay so that “whatever she had wanted to give him. She had given him at last.” In voyage to the Light-house, the final line is a fulfillment of Lily’ personality.

“I have had my vision.”

Another harmony that is created in this befitting section is between the father and the son. To reach the Light-house, is, in a sense, to make contact with truth outside, to surrender one’s ego to an impersonal reality. Mr. Ramsay who is an “egotist” constantly searching applause, resents his young son’s enthusiasm for visiting the Light-house. And, now years after, when his wife has died, he wins freedom and escapes from his egotistical pre-occupations, for the first time, just before the boat finally reached the Light-house. The personal grudges fall away and Mr. Ramsay appreciates as a “born sailor.” And, James, who is full of hatred for his father as “they (James and Cam) vowed, in silence…. To resist tyranny to death,” is happy now. And Cam silently addresses to James “you have got it at last.”

Mrs. Ramsay wants Mr. Carmichael to feel at ease which is done in the concluding scene. Mr. Carmichael was not successful but after the war when people’s opinions and priorities have been changed, he becomes a successful poet. He has his poetry published.

“The Light-house,” the third section, is a befitting conclusion in the sense that the efforts of Mrs. Ramsay, to write and connect things, have been accomplished. Although, physically, she is absent, yet spiritually, she is very much alive in the hearts and minds of the people.

“She (Mrs. Ramsay) never talked of it can act of charity), she went punctually, directly. It was her instinct to go, an instinct like the swallow for the south… turning her infallibly to the human race, making her nest in its heart.”

Ralph Freedman says about the conclusion of this novel.

“The conclusion is divided into three points, two of which serve chiefly in a narrative feature. The first of them is a prologue, comprising Lily’s awakening, her reflection and her encounter with Mr. Ramsay. The third describes the various monologues, the change in the children’s view of father as his boat reaches the Light-house… Mr. Ramsay fulfils its original meaning, he travels out there. As family reaches the Light-house, the cycle is closed.”

So, the third section is a befitting conclusion to the novel.

Bibliography
  • To the Light-house Published by Casebook Series.
  • Longman Study Text edited by Kate Flint.

‘TO THE LIGHT-HOUSE’

                                   (VIRGINIA WOOLF)