Virginia Woolf's novel To The Lighthouse suggests that life's meaning lies in the discovery of a power which destroys time. Mrs. Woolf's book presents two different concepts of time. One is the time of man's world; the record of human events. It can be measured by clock and calendar and its passing brings change, decay, and death. The other is that time of a world apart from man. It is the endurance of nature and the flux of history. It knows not of man, death or decay, and it cannot be measured because it is like the water of a river. Throughout the novel, several of the characters strive to become immortal in the former world, but until the end cannot realize that immortality in man's world is insignificant. Mr. Ramsay and Lily Briscoe especially strive for this long lasting remembrance and become blinded by their desire for eternal fame. Neither realize that true greatness, true immortality, can be achieved only through the world apart from man. Though both Mr. Ramsay and Lily worry about their legacy, only Mrs. Ramsay, who concerns herself naught with how she will be remembered, continues to exist after death, and her spirit guides both Mr. Ramsay and Lily toward a path of understanding, demonstrating her true greatness.
In the first section of the book, "The Window", both Lily Briscoe and Mr. Ramsay worry about the legacy of what may happen to their works after they die. Mr. Ramsay, forever trying to advance intellectually in the world, believes "it is permissible even for a dying hero to think before he dies how men will speak of him hereafter." (p. 35) He becomes so wrapped up in his obsession with legacy that he loses sight of not only his goal as a philosopher but also of his family. Lily Briscoe feels similarly about her painting. She too gets so caught up in wondering what will become of her painting after she passes that she is unable to finish her work. While both of these characters search for a way to transcend time, both lose...
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