Exploration of To the Lighthouse

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Exploration of To the Lighthouse

In Virginia Woolf's fiction, the breakdown or breaking open, of traditional literary forms in the light of the twentieth century querying of perception, reality and linguistic meaning, is recorded as a reconceiving of the novel-form. Throughout the course of her novels she lays down a challenge to official ways of measuring proportion, light, time and human character. Abolishing chapter and verse, Woolf creates a rhythmic, wave-like form of undulating passages as in music, where the structure of parts within an individual movement is a continuous flow rather than a series of stops and starts. She identifies language itself as a volatile and indeterminate system of mirroring suggestions; reality as potentially unknowable, and the novel form itself as inclined to substantial change to accommodate these perspectives.

Virginia Woolf renounces the narrative persona as a sort of privileged extra character testifying to indisputable mental and physical events and evaluating their significance. She shifts significance to the act of mediation itself as a primary subject to be investigated "*. To the Lighthouse "*develops a system of passing the baton of interior monologue from one character to another by its eavesdropping of the self-sealed consciousness of a group enwrapped in meditation through the round of two life-encapsculating days.

In "*To the Lighthouse"* the proportion of direct speech to indirect speech is minuscule, and, indeed rudimentary. If we reduce the first section of the novel to its dialogue, the following structure emerges:'Yes, of course, if it's fine to-morrow,' said Mrs Ramsay. 'But you'll have to be up with the lark'...'But,' said his father . . . 'it won't be fine.'*'But it may be fine - I expect it will be fine,' said Mrs Ramsay . . .

'It's due west,' said the atheist Tansley . . .'Nonsense,' said Mrs Ramsay . . .

*'There'll be no landing at the Lighthouse to-morrow,' said Charles Tansley . . .

'Would it bore you to come with me, Mrs Tansley?'

'Let us all go!' she cried . . .

'Let's go,' he said.

'Good-bye, Elsie,' she said. (pp.3-16)

Inconsequent voices demur about the weather: typical English conversation implying an apathetic form of communion, signifying little - so we might assess this dialogue if it were presented to us as I have transcribed it, dissecting it from its root-network in the complex matrix of the narrative voice which recounts the soliloquies of the persons from whom these extracts of conversation are gathered.
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