full title To the Lighthouse
author Virginia Woolf
type of work Novel
genre Stream of consciousness
time and place written 1926, London
date of first publication 1927
publisher Hogarth Press
narrator The narrator is anonymous.
point of view The narrator speaks in the third person and describes the characters and actions subjectively, giving us insight into the characters’ feelings. The narrative switches constantly from the perceptions of one character to those of the next.
tone Elegiac, poetic, rhythmic, imaginative
setting (time) The years immediately preceding and following World War I
setting (place) The Isle of Skye, in the Hebrides (a group of islands west of Scotland)
protagonist Although Mrs. Ramsay is the central focus of the beginning of To the Lighthouse, the novel traces the development of Lily Briscoe to the end, making it more accurate to describe Lily as the protagonist.
major conflict The common struggle that each of the characters faces is to bring meaning and order to the chaos of life.
rising action James’s desire to journey to the lighthouse; Mr. Ramsay’s need to ask Mrs. Ramsay for sympathy; Charles Tansley’s insistence that women cannot paint or write; Lily Briscoe’s stalled attempt at her painting
climax Mrs. Ramsay’s dinner party
falling action Mr. Ramsay’s trip to the lighthouse with Cam and James; Lily Briscoe’s completion of her painting
themes The transience of life and work; art as a means of preservation; the subjective nature of reality; the restorative effects of beauty
motifs The differing behaviors of men and women; brackets
symbols The lighthouse, Lily’s painting, the Ramsays’ house, the sea, the boar’s skull, the fruit basket
foreshadowing James’s initial desire and anxiety surrounding the voyage to the lighthouse foreshadows the trip he makes a decade later.