To the Lighthouse


Virginia Woolf

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To the Lighthouse: Time Passes, 6 Summary & Analysis

Spring comes and is compared to a “fierce” “scornful” virgin. In parentheses, Prue is married in May. Spring gives way to summer and the air is full of the promise of summer’s riches. It seems that “good triumphs,” “order rules.” In parentheses, Prue dies that summer during childbirth. Summer reaches its hottest and the nights are short. Late in the summer one can hear “ominous sounds like the measured blows of hammers dulled on felt.” In parentheses, a shell explodes killing a group of young soldiers in France, Andrew among them.
Again, the text’s perspective privileges natural, cyclical time and minimizes the discrete events of individual human lives. Thus, three very critical events for the Ramsays—Prue’s marriage, and her and Andrew’s deaths—are relegated to one-line parentheticals. Even World War I is only acknowledged as vague, unnamed sounds in late summer.
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Amidst the sea scenery, a battleship intrudes. Nature remains indifferent and “that dream…of…finding in solitude on the beach answer, was but a reflection in a mirror” and the mirror itself just “the surface glassiness” of peace and the mirror is broken. In parentheses, Mr. Carmichael publishes a book of poetry to unanticipated success. “The war, people said, had revived their interest in poetry.”
Nature remains equally apathetic to human life in war and peacetime, but in peacetime, the text suggests, humans are more likely to misread nature’s apathy as sympathy. Again, a major human life event—Mr. Carmichael’s success—is minimized in a parenthetical.
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