A Woman Breaking out of Society and it’s Norms: Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse

A Woman Breaking out of Society and it’s Norms: Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse

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In Virginia Woolf’s “To the Lighthouse”, the struggle to secure and proclaim female freedom is constantly challenged by social normalcy. This clash between what the traditional female ideologies should be and those who challenge them, can be seen best in the character of Lily Brisco. She represents the rosy picture of a woman that ends up challenging social norms throughout the novel to effectively achieve a sense of freedom and individuality by the end. Woolf through out the novel shows Lily’s break from conventional female in multiply ways, from a comparison between her and Mrs.Ramsey, Lily’s own stream of consciousness, as well as her own painting.
Throughout “To the Lighthouse”, Woolf explores Lily Brisco and her desire to break with cultural stereotypes. Lily is depicted as a middle aged woman’s, who places a higher importance on her success in painting rather than that of marriage. This conflict will prove difficult to manage against society and those around her like Mrs. Ramsey. All through the novel Lily often feels the pressure to conform to certain gender roles, and from time to time can be seen doubting herself. It clearly weighs heavily on her mind as she goes about creating her painting. As she says in her thoughts “ Even while she looked at the mass, at the line, at the color, Mrs. Ramsay sitting in the window with James, she kept a feeler on her surrounding lest someone should creep up” (13). She undeniably knows that by choosing painting over more conventional paths like marriage is going to force her to stand out, and therefore becomes self conscious of even her painting. The painting itself stands for a clear break from social norms, yet she does not want anyone to see it because she is not entirely confide...


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... paints it so “ the tree [is] further in the middle;”. By placing the tree in her picture towards the middle she is able to take up the otherwise “awkward space”. The reader can interpret the tree and being Lily herself, and by moving the tree to the center of the painting, she is showing that she is committed to be liberated female standing. This continues to the last part of the book when Lily finally is able to establish herself as woman free of the social confines. Woolf writes “ With a sudden intensity, as if she saw it clear for a second, she drew a line there, in the center. It was done;” (154). This final line of the painting, represents a division between the old social system and the one that Lily stands for. Lily is finally comfortable with her choices.




Works Cited

Woolf, Virginia. To the lighthouse. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981. Print.

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