To The Lighthouse exemplifies the condition of women when Woolf was writing and to some extent yet today. It offers a solution to remedy the condition of both men and women. To say the novel is a cry for a change in attitude towards women is not quite correct. It shows the plight of both men and women and how patriarchy is detrimental to both genders. Mrs. Ramsey. Both suffer from the unequal division of gender power in Woolf's society. Lily is also very much a product of society, yet she has new ideas for the role of women and produces one answer to the problems of gender power. Besides providing these examples of patriarchy, To The Lighthouse examines the tenacity of human relationships in general, producing a novel with twists, turns, problems, and perhaps a solution. Mrs. Ramsey is the perfect, patriarchal woman. She scarcely has an identity of her own. Her life is geared towards men:
If he put implicit faith in her, nothing should hurt him; however deep he buried himself or climbed high, not for a second should he find himself without her. So boasting of her capacity to surround and protect, there was scarcely a shell of herself left for her to know herself by. (Woolf, Lighthouse 38).
Identity is a strong desire in all humanity, yet in a patriarchal society it has been denied to women. Women who are owned by men are mere possessions, having no control over themselves and no way to develop their own personalities. Mrs. Ramsey needs people about her at all times because she has nothing internalized. She must create herself through other people. She is always bouncing off someone else, preferably a male who has power, yet needs her to keep that power. By g...
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... promise of bettering those relations through change. Even today there are strong remnants of patriarchy dominating society. Men consistently climb higher in management and receive higher pay for equal jobs. This novel shows both men and women suffering and struggling with societal roles. The answer to the problem lies with both genders. For as Mill states, "Women cannot be expected to devote themselves to the emancipation of women, until men in considerable number are prepared to join with them in the undertaking" (194). This is not a female problem; it is a human problem.
Mill, John Stuart. "the Subjection of Women." On Liberty and Other Writings. New York: Cambridge UP, 1989. 119-94.
Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One's Own Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1929.
---. To The Lighthouse. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1927.
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