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Virgina Woolfe's to the Lighthouse (A Critical Analysis by Qaisar Iqbal Janjua)

Virgina Woolfe's to the Lighthouse (A Critical Analysis by Qaisar Iqbal Janjua)

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Published by: Qaisar Iqbal Janjua on Jan 08, 2010
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Qaisar Iqbal Janjua, Contact: (92) 300 94 678qaisarjanjua@hotmail.com
TO The Lighthouse
Virginia Woolf
“In To The Lighthouse Woolf tried not only to recover the memories of her childhood butalso to record her tangled feelings aboutVictorian marriage and family life as wellas about the substitutes for them that somerebellious modern spirits had proposed.” 
Alex Zwerdling 
Qaisar Iqbal Janjua, Contact: (92) 300 94 678qaisarjanjua@hotmail.com
In 1878, Leslie Stephen and Julia Jackson Duckworth married a second marriage forboth. They gave birth to Adeline Virginia Stephen four years later on the 26th of March at22 Hyde Park Gate, London. Virginia followed Vanessa and Julian Thoby and precededAdrian. Leslie Stephen began his career as a clergyman but soon became agnostic andtook up journalism. He and Julia provided their children with a home of wealth andcomfort. Virginia, though denied the formal education allowed to males, was able to takeadvantage of her father's abundant library, to observe his writing talent, and to besurrounded by intellectual conversation. The same year Virginia was born, for instance,her father began editing the Dictionary of National Biography, a huge undertaking.Virginia's mother was more delicate and helped to bring out the more emotional sides ofher children. Both parents were very strong personalities. By them, Virginia would feelovershadowed for years.Virginia would suffer through three major mental breakdowns during her lifetime.In all likelihood, her compulsive drive to work, which she acquired from her parents,combined with her natural fragile state largely contributed to these breakdowns. Yet, thesituation was more complicated. Her first breakdown was suffered shortly following thedeath of her mother in 1895, which Virginia later described as "the greatest disaster thatcould have happened." Some have suggested that Virginia may have felt guilt overchoosing her father as the favourite parent. However, her mental state could not havebeen aided by the excessive mourning period enacted by her father. Two years later,Stella Duckworth, Virginia's stepsister, died. Stella had assumed charge of the householdduties after Julia's death, causing a rift between her and Virginia. Virginia fell sick soonafter her death. The same year, Virginia began her first diary.Over the next seven years, Virginia's decision to write took hold and her admirationfor women grew. She educated herself and greatly admired women such as MadgeVaughan, daughter of John Addington Symonds, who wrote novels and would later beillustrated as Sally Seton in Mrs. Dalloway. Her admiration for strong women wascoupled with a growing dislike for the male domination in society. Virginia's feelingswere likely affected by her relationship to her stepbrother, George Duckworth, who wasalready fourteen when Virginia was born. In the last year of her life, Virginia wrote to afriend regarding the shame she felt when, at the age of six, she was fondled by George.Similar incidents reoccurred throughout her childhood until Virginia was in her earlytwenties.In 1904, her father, shortly after he finished the Dictionary and received aknighthood, died. Though freed from his shadow, Virginia was still overcome by theevent and suffered her second mental breakdown, combined with scarlet fever and anattempted suicide. When she recovered, Virginia left Kensington with her three siblingsand moved to Bloomsbury, where she began to seriously consider herself an artist. Shewas able to immerse herself in the intellectual company of Thoby and his Cambridgefriends. This group, including E.M. Forster and Lytton Strachey, later formed what wasknown as the Bloomsbury Group, under the Cambridge don G.E. Moore. They werededicated to the liberal discussion of politics and art. In 1906, Thoby died of typhoidfever and Virginia's sister married one of Thoby's college friends, Clive Bell. Virginia wason her own.Over the next four years, Virginia would begin work on her first novel, The VoyageOut. In 1909, she accepted a marriage proposal from Strachey, who later broke off theengagement. She received a legacy of 2,500 pounds the same year, which would allowher to live independently. In 1911, Leonard Woolf, another of the Bloomsbury Group,returned from Ceylon and they were married in 1912. Woolf was the stable presenceVirginia needed to control her moods and steady her talent. He gave their home a
Qaisar Iqbal Janjua, Contact: (92) 300 94 678qaisarjanjua@hotmail.com
musical atmosphere. Virginia trusted his literary judgment. Their marriage was apartnership, though some suggest their sexual relationship was nonexistent. Virginia fellill more frequently as she grew older, often taking respite in rest homes and in the care ofher husband. In 1917, Leonard founded the Hogarth Press to publish their own books,hoping that Virginia could bestow the care on the press that she would have bestowedon children. She had been advised by doctors to not become pregnant after her thirdserious breakdown in 1913. The Voyage Out was published earlier in that year. Virginiawas fond of children, however, and spent much time with her brother and sister'schildren. Through the press, she had an early look at Joyce's Ulysses and aided authorssuch as Forster, Freud, Isherwood, Mansfield, Tolstoy, and Chekhov. She sold her halfinterest in 1938.Before her death, Virginia would publish an extraordinary amount ofgroundbreaking material. She was a renowned member of the Bloomsbury group and aleader of the modernist literary movement. Over the course of many illnesses, the mostnotable publications of Virginia's were Night and Day, The Mark on the Wall, Jacob'sRoom, Monday or Tuesday, Mrs. Dalloway, To The Lighthouse, Orlando, A Room ofOne's Own, The Waves, The Years, and Between the Acts. She had intense powers ofconcentration, which allowed her to work ten to twelve hour days. In total, sheaccumulated a treasure chest of work, containing five volumes of collected essays andreviews, two biographies (Flush and Roger Fry), two libertarian books, a volume ofselections from her diary, nine novels, and a volume of short stories. In March of 1941,Woolf left a suicide note behind for her husband and sister before drowning herself in anearby river. She feared her madness was returning and that she would not be able tocontinue writing. She wished to spare her loved ones. The time was World War IIEngland; she and Leonard had sworn to commit suicide if the Nazis had invaded.
Virginia Woolf grew up among the most important and influential Britishintellectuals of her time and received free rein to explore her father’s library. Herpersonal connections and abundant talent soon opened doors for her. Woolf wrote thatshe found herself in “a position where it was easier on the whole to be eminent thanobscure.” Almost from the beginning, her life was a precarious balance of extraordinarysuccess and mental instability.As a young woman, Woolf wrote for the prestigious Times Literary Supplement,and as an adult she quickly found herself at the centre of England’s most importantliterary community. Known as the “Bloomsbury Group” after the section of London inwhich its members lived, this group of writers, artists, and philosophers emphasizednonconformity, aesthetic pleasure, and intellectual freedom, and included suchluminaries as the painter Lytton Strachey, the novelist E. M. Forster, the composerBenjamin Brittan, and the economist John Maynard Keynes. Working among such aninspirational group of peers and possessing an incredible talent in her own right, Woolfpublished her most famous novels by the mid-1920s, including The Voyage Out, Mrs.Dalloway, Orlando, and To the Lighthouse. With these works she reached the pinnacle ofher profession.Woolf’s life was equally dominated by mental illness. Her parents died when she wasyoung-her mother in 1895 and her father in 1904-and she was prone to intense, terribleheadaches and emotional breakdowns. After her father’s death, she attempted suicide,throwing herself out a window. Though she married Leonard Woolf in 1912 and loved himdeeply, she was not entirely satisfied romantically or sexually. For years she sustained anintimate relationship with the novelist Vita Sackville-West. Late in life, Woolf becameterrified by the idea that another nervous breakdown was close at hand, one from whichshe would not recover. On March 28, 1941, she wrote her husband a note stating that shedid not wish to spoil his life by going mad. She then drowned herself in the River Ouse.

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