`Thoughts are made of pictures.' Our consciousness may be visualized as a photomontage of simultaneous impressions, mostly visual, according to poet John Ciardi (238). In verbalizing conscious experience, authors tend to use metaphor and simile to create images that, like words, possess both denotation, visual identification, and connotation, an emotional aura (Ciardi 239). In To the Lighthouse, by my count, Virginia Woolf employs over one hundred similes, figures of speech making an explicit comparison between two things essentially unlike, to enliven her description of things, places, and people. The majority of these similes relate to people; furthermore, of those relating to people, over thirty describe Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey. The similes Woolf uses to describe Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey fall into three major categories--forces or objects of nature, human, and animal--and reveal Wool's feelings about her parents.
To reveal the climate created in the home by the emotional interplay between a gloomy, childish man and an impulsive, nurturing woman, Woolf compares Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey to forces or objects in nature. When Lily Briscoe and Mr. Banks discover Mr. Ramsey, a professor of philosophy, in the hedge and interrupt Ramsey's thoughts, Ramsey withdraws childishly. Seeking comfort and sympathy from his wife, Ramsey storms into his summer home "fell as a thunderbolt" (30). A later passage reveals that the Ramseys' relationship "was no monotony of bliss": Woolf portrays Mr. Ramsey as a sarcastic man whose violent outbursts shook the house "as if a gusty wind were blowing" (199). Nurturing her child-like husband exhausts Mrs. Ramsey whom Woolf metaphorically calls ...
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...at Woolf uses in To the Lighthouse demonstrate the author's coming to terms with her parents' failures, attempting to become mentally healthier through acknowledging the circumstances of her childhood, and loving her parents in spite of their shortcomings.
Ciardi, John and Miller, Williams. How Does a Poem Mean? 2nd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1975.
DeSalvo, Louise. Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Her Life and Work. New York: Ballantine, 1989.
Temple, Ruth. “Never Say `I’: To the Lighthouse as Vision and Confession.” Virginia Woolf: A Collection of Critical Essays. Claire Sprague, ed. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1971. 90-100.
Woolf, Leonard, ed. A Writer's Diary. New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1953.
Woolf, Virginia. To the Lighthouse. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1989.
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