Virginia Woolf’s ‘To The Lighthouse’

Woolf doesn’t write climaxes. She writes the book as a process.

Who should read: Those who want to explore the “stream-of-consciousness” style of narration, a typical Woolf with a lot of it in her other works: Mrs. Dalloway, The Waves. Basically, if you want to get lost inside the characters’ heads.

Why: If you’re a writer/poet/artist of any sort, the imagery, metaphors, personification would certainly inspire you and cure that writer’s block (reason why I picked it up).

Why not: There’s no destination because her books are not journeys in themselves. Stream of consciousness is a style that focusses on people’s psyches which contain not-so-logical thought movement and thus you are not going to get anything substantial that could be labelled as an “end” to a book. Woolf doesn’t write climaxes. She writes the book as a process.

  • “Since he belonged, even at the age of six, to that great clan which cannot keep this feeling separate from that, but must let future prospects, with their joys and sorrows, cloud what is actually at hand…”
  • “…windows covered with spray…”
  • “He was such a miserable specimen, all humps and hollows…”
  • “…who was basking with his yellow cat’s eyes ajar, so that like a cat’s they seemed to reflect the branches moving or the clouds passing, but to give no inkling of any inner thoughts or emotion whatsoever, if he wanted anything.”
  • “…moving with an indescribable air of expectation, as if she were going to meet some one round the corner.”
  • “…he was coming to see himself, and everything he had ever known gone crooked a little.”
  • “They must keep the windows open and the doors shut.”
  • “Stepping through fields of flowers and taking to her breast buds that had broken and lambs that had fallen; with the stars in her eyes and the wind in her hair”
  • “…ephemeral as a rainbow…”
  • “It was as if the water floated off and set sailing thoughts which had grown stagnant on dry land, and gave to their bodies even some sort of physical relief.”
  • “…one watched, on the pale semicircular beach, wave after wave shredding again and again smoothly a film of mother-of-pearl.”
  • “Whose fault it was he could not say, only after a time, repetition had taken the place of newness. It was to repeat that they met.”
  • “Summer — reducing of lovely evenings”
  • “…to wipe their feet and not bring the beach in with them…”
  • “She often felt she was nothing but a sponge sopped full of human emotions”
  • “There he stood, demanding sympathy”
  • “…the torch of her beauty; she carried it erect into any room that she entered”
  • “…on a spit of land which the sea is slowly eating away”
  • “Why so brave a man in thought should be so timid in life”
  • “The sky stuck to them; the birds sang through them”
  • “…how life, from being made up of little separate incidents which one lived one by one…”
  • “…love that never attempted to clutch its object; but, like the love which mathematicians bear their symbols, or poets their phrases, was meant to be spread over the world and become part of the human gain.”
  • “…the light of a butterfly’s wing lying upon the arches of a cathedral.”
  • “White lights parted the curtains”
  • “One could worry things out alone.”
  • “All this phrase-making was a game”
  • “…giving herself a little shake that one gives a watch that has stopped”
  • “She began all this business, as a sailor not without weariness sees the wind fill his sail and yet hardly wants to be off again and thinks how, had the ship sunk, he would have whirled round and round and found rest on the floor of the sea.”
  • “Lily Briscoe watched her drifting into that strange no man’s land where to follow people is impossible and yet their going inflicts such a chill on those who watch them that they always try at least to follow them with their eyes as one follows a fading ship until the sails have sunk beneath the horizon.”
  • “He could almost pity these mild cultivated people, who would be blown sky high, like bales of wool and barrels of apples, one of these days by the gunpowder that was in him.”
  • “It was like reading a good book again, for she knew the end of that story.”
  • “She saw his anger fly like a pack of hounds into his eyes, his brow, and she knew that in a moment something violent would explode.”
  • “And all the lives we ever lived and all the lives to be
    Are full of trees and changing leaves.”
  • “Somebody laughed aloud as if sharing a joke with nothingness”
  • “Night, however, succeeds to night. The winter holds a pack of them in store and deals them equally, evenly, with indefatigable fingers.”
  • “What people shed and left — a pair of shoes, a shooting cap, some faded skirts and coats in wardrobes — those alone kept the human shape and in the emptiness indicated how once they were filled and animated”
  • “The house was left; the house was deserted. It was left like a shell on a sandhill to fill with dry salt grains now that life had left it.”
  • “Tortoise shell butterflies burst from the chrysalis and pattered their life out on the window-pane”
  • “She clutched at her blankets as a faller clutches at the turf on the edge of the cliff.”
  • “His immense self-pity, his demand for sympathy poured and spread itself in pools at her feet, and all she did, miserable sinner that she was, was to draw her skirts a little closer round her ankles, lest she should get wet.”
  • “She rammed a little hole in the sand and covered it up, by way of burying in it the perfection of the moment.”
  • “And as happens sometimes when the weather is very fine, the cliffs looked as if they were conscious of the ships, and the ships looked as if they were conscious of the cliffs, as if they signalled to each other some message of their own.”