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Discuss the trauma of transition from the Victorian female ideal to the feminist figure in Virginia Woolf's "To the Lighthouse."

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Introduction

Tradition and Change in Modern Literature Virginia Woolf: To the Lighthouse Question: Discuss the trauma of transition from the Victorian female ideal to the feminist figure in Virginia Woolf's "To the Lighthouse." Virginia Woolf's, To the Lighthouse is widely considered one of the most important works of the twentieth century. With this novel, Woolf established herself as one of the leading writers of modernism. The novel develops innovative literary techniques to reveal women's experience and to provide an alternative to male-dominated views of reality. To the Lighthouse examines the role of women or more specifically, the evolution of the modern woman. The two main female characters in the novel, Mrs Ramsay and Lily Briscoe, both represent different views on life and follow different paths on their search for meaning. Lily Briscoe transcends the traditional female gender role embodied by Mrs Ramsay; by coming into her own, as an independent and modern woman, she symbolizes the advent of modernism and rejection of traditional Victorian values. Transition in the simplest sense means change and the idea of trauma or pain is always associated with change. ...read more.

Middle

Through the character of Mrs Ramsay, the Victorian female ideal adheres rigidly to the patriarchal system which portrays women as sweet, modest, humble and subservient in contrast to their male counterpart who is portrayed as a heroic tyrant. Mrs Ramsay's space was the domestic sphere confined to the house and the family. She is not a helpless woman but she is not independent in the way that Lily Briscoe is. While she is perfectly capable of being the boss of trivial and "womanly" things such as dinner, the higher level decisions are always made by her husband. In the novel, To the Lighthouse, the Victorian female is highlighted as a woman without higher education. This enforces the difference of gender roles. Education was not the ideal for a woman; the male was educated and admired for academic achievements. Lily Briscoe on the other hand, is never seen in the novel as being anywhere near the kitchen, the table or performing 'womanly' chores. From her first appearance in the novel she is already going against convention 'but the sight of the girl on the lawn painting reminded her' (p.10) ...read more.

Conclusion

(p.3) Also in the management of the family affairs she felt she might have managed things better and not have to worry about the fifty pounds to mend the greenhouse roof, 'when she looked in the glass and saw her grey hair, her cheek sunk, at fifty, she thought possibly she might have managed things better - her husband; money, his books.' (p.3) Even though she fully conformed outwardly to the ideals of the Victorian woman, inwardly, in that secret place was the thought of independence and freedom that she saw in Lily and admired. The death of Mrs Ramsay was sudden but it signified the trauma of transition. Death of the old Victorian Female Ideal who conformed to the ideology of society and the birth of the new modern woman or feminist figure who conforms to her own ideology. Lily's painting challenged convention because it was abstract and it was painted by a woman. The completion of Lily's painting signified the evolution of the modern woman. ...read more.

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