Virginia Woolf: to the Lighthouse

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In Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse the immense complexities that define one’s identity and self worth are presented. In world of rigid social structure, the conventional expectations of society construe and distort independent identity. Mr. Ramsey, Mrs. Ramsey, and Lily Briscoe each experience these external pressures that shape their values in different ways. Mr. Ramsey focuses on the acceptance of his philosophical work by others while Mrs. Ramsey embraces the gender role society has given her. On the other hand, Lily rejects conventionality all together and struggles with her need for acceptance. Through the stream of consciousness of the characters, Woolf depicts the underlying internal debate each face as they try to understand themselves. As a dedicated philosopher, Mr. Ramsey puts all his value on the permanence and greatness of his works. His need for intellectual success is metaphorically described as a journey between A to Z to a point where he is finally content with his contribution to and the lasting effect of his works on society. Mr. Ramsey shows the extent of his dependence on opinion of others often by constantly doubting himself. The smallest things trigger his biggest insecurities. For example, during the dinner conversation where the guests fail to mentions his works causing him much anxiety. In attempts to hide his vulnerability, Mr. Ramsey becomes controlling to those around him. His vengeance for the dinner conversation is seen clearly when he gets irrationally angry with Carmichael for consuming an extra bowl of soup. Mr. Ramsey tries to compensate for his dependence on others for self worth through his tyrant actions. Since his identity is based solely on the perception of others, Mr. Ramsey constantly needs external validation. Although Mrs. Ramsey mocks her husband’s absurd anger towards the consumption of an extra bowl of soup, she understands that it is really about his insecurities and takes it upon herself to praise him enough...
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