Question: Discuss the aptness of the title To the Lighthouse.
We know that the title of the novel must be consistent with the theme so that the reader can easily understand the quality and substance of the novel. The title of the novel “To the Lighthouse” by Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) is very important and successful because the novel is symbolic and autobiographical.
Stark presence of the lighthouse
The lighthouse revolves around the plot. Literally, the first and third sections of the novel are about moving to the lighthouse. The novel is based on sundry questions about whether the Ramsay family is going to visit the lighthouse or not. How annoying would it be if James Ramsay could not go to the lighthouse? Mr. Ramsay insists that they must go to the lighthouse in the third section. All this noise about the lighthouse certainly makes us wonder how exactly the lighthouse is spread throughout the plot of the novel.
The symbolic significance of the title
The lighthouse serves as a symbol of different and competing versions of reality throughout the novel that focuses on the passing of time and emotions or thematic experiences. This is most clearly seen in Chapter eight when on the boat in way of the lighthouse, James Ramsay reflects the various images of the lighthouse in his mind. He deliberately remembers the memory of his childhood about the lighthouse. In his childhood, it possessed an important place in his imagination, but it has become a foggy tower in his maturity.
“The lighthouse was then a silvery, misty-looking tower with a yellow eye, that opened suddenly, and softly in the evening”.
Now James has to reconcile into one unifying truth with the contradictory images of the lighthouse. This is the challenge that must be faced by the characters in this novel. Thus, the readers get a universal message that reconciliation with contradictions to enjoy life is a rich understanding.
Focusing on the significance of family and power of authority
Again, for us, the lighthouse symbolizes family and authority. That is why James Ramsay wants to go to the lighthouse so badly. For this reason, he is rebelling against his father and clinging to his mother. James wants to stake out the lighthouse as his own. To put it differently, it means his bad authority. After all, this book is all about individual characters as they strive for a place in a broken and repressive family structure. In a sense, all of the Ramsay children and even Charles Tansley and Lily Briscoe want to get to the lighthouse. In fact, they all want to find ways of discussing with Mr. Ramsay who truly represents the power of authority in the novel “To the Lighthouse”.
The title contains autobiographical elements. Woolf’s father started renting Talland House in St Ives Bay in 1882 after the birth of Woolf. For the next ten years, the family used the house on summer vacation. The location of the original story in “To the Lighthouse” was built by Woolf in imitation of the Talland House. Many of the original features from St Ives Bay have been brought into the story, including the gardens that descend to the sea, the sea itself, and the lighthouse.
Thus, a careful and close study of “To the Lighthouse” clearly reveals to us that the theme of the novel is symbolic in its implication based starkly on the lighthouse. Though the framework is simple, the allegorical title of the novel makes it extraordinary. So, the aptness and significance of the title are undoubtedly perfect.