A lighthouse is a structure that warns and navigates ships at night as they near land, creating specific signals for guidance. In Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse, the Lighthouse stands a monument to motivation for completion of long-term goals. Every character’s goals guides him or her through life, and the way that each person sees the world depends on goals they make. Some characters’ goals relate directly to the Lighthouse, others indirectly. Some goals abstractly relate to the Lighthouse. The omnipresent structure pours its guiding light over every character and every action. The spouses Ramsey have Shiva and Parvati-like roles in life, and their goals correspond to these roles.
Mr. Ramsey differs in that he separates unconscious goals from conscious goals. Subconsciously, Mr. Ramsey manifests the character of destruction. His role is necessary to the well being of the family; though he seems at times to suck life from others with his bitter pessimism, his role is as important as the role of his wife, the giver and the nurturer. Mr. Ramsey exists in order to balance his wife’s personality.
His rage complements her love. Consciously, Mr. Ramsey aspires to intellectual enlightenment through his philosophizing. His attitude in traveling to the Lighthouse mirrors his attitude towards attaining this goal.
Mr. Ramsey has no hope that he will be able to reach either, and almost gives up both before trying, shifting the blame from him to outside forces. The trip to the lighthouse was unattainable because of conditions that do not have to do with neither him nor the goal: the weather conditions were not easily sailable. Intellectual enlightenment will be unattainable because of conditions that do not have to do with either him or the goal, as well. “He would have written better books if he had not married (Woolf 69).” His marriage and children become the scapegoat for this goal not being attained.
Mr. Ramsey makes excuses for not becoming intellectually enlightened in the same vain that he makes excuses for not sailing to the Lighthouse.Mrs. Ramsey is the ideal wife and mother. She uses her love to create and build, not in the physical sense, but more in the sense of relationship, community, and hope building. She is perhaps the most successful of the characters, in that her goals are she feels she has become her goal: one who helps people, brings them together, and to infuses them with hope and love.
“She looked up over the knitting and met the third stroke of the light at the Lighthouse and it seemed to her like her own eyes meeting her own eyes (63).” Mrs. Ramsey always attempts to make connections between people, and to bring together parts into a whole.
She is at the metaphorical Lighthouse, in terms of accomplishing her goals. She radiates inspiration and joy to those who notice her. “For him to gaze as Lily saw him gazing at Mrs. Ramsey was a rapture (47).” In the book, Mrs.
Ramsey refers only to the journey to the Lighthouse in terms of helping those who are at its helm, bringing them and their family knitted socks and food and other things to show that she cares. James, as a young child, at the beginning of the book, does not understand his father’s role, and thus cannot understand how his father loves. The Lighthouse also perplexes young James.
“The Lighthouse was then a silvery, misty-looking tower with a yellow eye, that opened suddenly, and softly in the evening. (Woolf 186).” James harbors feelings of hatred for his father even when James and his sister, Cam, sailed out to the Lighthouse with him. James looked at the Lighthouse.
He could see.