Tuesday, November 10, 2009

To the Lighthouse

With To the Lighthouse, Woolf’s setting and treatment of family relations (along with the sense of loss that was emphasized in the later parts of the novel) first made me wonder if this novel was intended on any level to be a response to Mansfield’s stories “Prelude” and “At the Bay,” though I wasn’t exactly sure if Woolf would have meant anything by this except wanting to show her own approach (based more in her own family experiences) to rather similar subject matter. Due to the Introduction, I mostly tried to think about the characters of Mrs. Ramsay and Lily in relation to Mrs. Dalloway. I wasn’t exactly sure how the final versions of these characters would have reacted had they been in the party at the end of Mrs. Dalloway, whether they would have had any real interaction with Clarissa or just focused on the same concerns they had in this story (though given Lily’s tendency in “The Lighthouse” to imagine what could have happened in other people’s lives, I particularly wondered how Clarissa would come across from her perspective, while I imagined Mrs. Ramsay more like she acts in this novel).

I think I mainly ended up thinking of these characters (at least the female ones) in relation to those of Howards End, since Mrs. Ramsay sort of ended up striking me as a more middle-class variation of Ruth Wilcox, with both being representatives of the older Victorian generation’s idea of a wife and mother. This led me to thinking of “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown,” since I figured that out of all of the protagonists in Forster’s novel, Ruth was probably the closest to the kind of “Mrs. Brown” figure that Woolf had proclaimed her interest in, and it did seem as though she showed much more concern than Forster in examining this character type’s feelings about her life and family, while Forster’s main interest with Ruth seemed based on her significance as a class and generational representative, along with her relation to nature as seen in her affection for Howards End. I figured this was might have been at least partly intentional on Woolf’s part, given that “Time Passes” featured a character named Mrs. Bast, which made me think of Jacky, as though Woolf was possibly imagining her fate after losing Leonard (unless Bast was just a common name back then, it just seemed like it would have been a big coincidence).

With Lily, I got more the impression of a Schlegel-type character, as though in this case Woolf was trying to present a newer kind of New Woman who can be an artist without really worrying so much about sex or motherhood (at least not with the kind of men that the Schlegels involved themselves with). In these terms I figured that Clarissa could potentially serve as another sort of variation on the Schlegels, though she seemed more like Margaret in her efforts as a wife, while I figured Lily may have been a bit more like an older version of Helen. I wasn’t sure then if Minta was a kind of Evie Wilcox figure, due to Lily’s ultimate conception of her as sort of failing in her marriage while Evie is finally treated as having lost out to the Schlegels, due to that sense of antagonism between each one and the female protagonist, though Evie seemed defined more by her class position than Minta was.

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