Gender Roles And Conflicts Expressed In Virginia Woolf's "To The Lighthouse".

2062 words - 8 pages

Gender Roles and Conflicts Expressed in Virginia Woolf's To the LighthouseTime and time again, gender-conflict has continued to be a focal issue. Since the beginning of time, this dilemma has been articulated through novels or other various forms of writing. It is now brought to the public's attention in forms such as the news, radio and the workplace. Habitually asked, are the age old questions of: "what is a man's place in society?", "what is a woman's place in society?", or "is there a specific place for either?" Furthermore, "is there a genuine difference at all?" One critic explains, "Woolf reaches beyond personal relationships to explore man's wider relation to the Universe" (McNichol 1). In Virginia Woolf's novel, To the Lighthouse, the differences in male and female roles are a reoccurring theme that is ultimately answered by one character in her final days at the Ramsey's home.One of the central motifs in To the Lighthouse is the conflict between the feminine and masculine principles at work in the universe. "Within this symbolic framework Woolf probes the profound tensions at the core of all relationships between men and women" (McNichol 1). Two of the main characters that show the opposing sides are Mr. Ramsey, a self centered philosopher who feels that the duty of women is to cater to the needs of men, and Mrs. Ramsey, an emotional, old fashioned woman. Their flaws consist of their limited views and beliefs. The key factor in Woolf's novel is a character by the name of Lily Briscoe. She is a painter and friend of the family, who vacations at their home each summer. With her perspective on life, she thins out the line between male and female. Not only does this character show the ideal role of male/female in society, but when picked apart ever so carefully, she shows a version of Woolf herself.Growing up in this type of society, during the time period before World War I, for a young woman was a rough time. The expectation of trying to fit into the stereotypical role of women in a male dominated society was a frustrating experience for any woman, if not all women. An example is that of Mrs. Ramsey encouraging all of her daughters to hurry and marry.Minta Doyle and Paul Rayley had not come back then. Thatcould mean, Mrs. Ramsey thought, one thing. She mustaccept him, or she must refuse him. This going off afterluncheon for a walk, even though Andrew was with them-what could it mean? Except that she had decided, rightly, Mrs.Ramsey thought, to accept that good fellow, who might not bebrilliant. (61)The pressure she imposes upon these young girls to make a decision of marriage at such a young age could possibly lead to a rough elder life. Her everyday worries consist typically of whether or not these young men she has met have proposed to her daughters and if her daughters have accepted. These young girls are very comparable to their mother in that they do not object to this prearranged lifestyle that is expected of them. Only a minute...

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