While I am no fan of the stream of consciousness technique, Ms. Woolf clearly understood its concepts and applied it quite adroitly with To the Lighthouse. The thoughts of the various characters were unique and truly gave the reader the feeling that they understood what was going through their minds.
The assortment of characters did get confusing at times and I had to re-read once I realized the voice I thought I was reading actually belonged to another.
My knowledge of Ms. Woolf’s suicide, prior to reading, put me out of sorts each time I encountered the symbolic water or lighthouse, as I kept imagining impending doom within the novel or was wondering if Ms. Woolf had, at that time sketched out a plan and was subconsciously asking for help…‘We perished, each alone’. My apologies for my digression.
Not much happens in To the Lighthouse, or rather not much intrigue and excitement happens. What does happen is the mundane, yet with an insight into the insecurities and inner thoughts of a multitude of characters, some endearing, some loathsome.
Were I able to chat with Virginia Woolf, I believe she’d be a rather gracious host and surely put me at ease. I’d love to ask her about the insights she had into a variety of personalities and how she so applied it to her writing.
It was a splendid mind. For if thought is like the keyboard of a piano, divided into so many notes, or like the alphabet is ranged in twenty-six letters all in order, then his splendid mind had no sort of difficulty in running over those letters one by one, firmly and accurately, until it had reached, say, the letter Q.
…as if to be caught happy in a world of misery was for an honest man the most despicable of crimes.
She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of–to think; well not even to think. To be silent; to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others.
And looking up, she saw above the thin trees the first pulse of the full-throbbing star, and wanted to make her husband look at it; for the sight gave her such keen pleasure. But she stopped herself. He never looked at things. If he did all he would say would be, Poor little world, with one of his sighs.
He felt rigid and barren, like a pair of boots that has been soaked and gone dry so that you can hardly force your feet into them. Yet he must force his feet into them. He must make himself talk. Unless he were very careful, she would find out this treachery of his; that he did not care a straw for her, and that would not be at all pleasant, he thought. So he bent his head courteously in her direction.
…for she could not shake herself free from the sense that everything this morning was happening for the first time, perhaps for the last time, as a traveller, even though he is half asleep, knows, looking out of the train window that he must look now, for he will never see that town, or that mule-cart, or that woman at work in the fields, again.
My rating for To the Lighthouse is an 8 out of 10.
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