Gender aspect of reading Virginia Wolf's novel "To the lighthouse"

Дубкова Юлия Сергеевна – старший преподаватель кафедры Лингводидактики и зарубежной филологии Севастопольского государственного университета.

Аннотация: В данной статье рассматривается роман В.Вульф «На маяк», выявляются основные проблемы и темы, раскрываемые автором. Отмечается значимость романа для мировой и американской литературы. Отмечается, что автор одной из первых поднимает гендерные проблемы на глобальный уровень.

Abstract: This article examines the novel by V. Woolf "To the lighthouse", identifies the main problems and themes revealed by the author. The author notes the significance of the novel for world and American literature. It is noted that the author is one of the first to raise gender issues to the global level.

Ключевые слова: гендер, антропологическая теория, гендерные проблемы, феминизм, андрогинность, женский роман.

Keywords: gender, anthropological theory, gender issues, feminism, androgyny, women's romance.

In foreign literary criticism, the work of Virginia Woolf aroused keen interest throughout the 20th century. Several biographies of Woolf have been published (D. Daches, K. Bell, G. Lee, J. King, N. Nicholson). Scientists devoted their work to various aspects of the writer's work. Many works focused on the novels of the writer, and often included in the composition of the novel's work “Orlando" and "Flash”. Such attention to the work and personal biography of Virginia Woolf is due to the relevance in the conditions of modern reality to the topics and problems that the writer raised in her works. In Russian literary criticism, the work of an outstanding British writer, a leading figure in modernist literature of the first half of the 20th century, has practically not been studied. The relevance of the work is due to the increasing attention to the creative heritage and personal fate of Virginia Woolf in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, as well as the increased interest of the reading public in the works created by women in general. In science, completely new categories do not appear so often, forcing to evaluate in a different way already known phenomena and processes. Gender research has become one of these innovations in science. The term "gender" first appeared in American historiography when, in 1986, J.W. Scott published the article "Gender: A Relevant Category of Historical Analysis" [2; 58]. The introduction of this term made it possible to reconsider the questioned opposition between women and men. Until the 17th century, an anthropological theory existed in society, which owed its authority to Aristotle: a man is the measure of a person. A woman is an underdeveloped being compared to a man. Throughout human history, the role of women in society has been constantly changing. In antiquity, a woman has no rights, the attitude towards her is negative. In the era of feudalism, a woman controls the household and is respected, but she is still a slave to her husband. The hostility to women and femininity was the reason for the emergence of the women's liberation movement, which by the end of the 19th century confidently declared its existence. The woman becomes a symbol of the 19th - 20th centuries, since this period is characterized by a new phase of gender relations. All these changes are reflected in the literature, which, as you know, is the “mirror of culture”. The works of Rousseau and Tolstoy were the impetus for the development of "women's literature" [3]. The novel "To the Lighthouse" by Virginia Woolf, which has biographical origins, is one of the first works that in world and American literature raises gender issues to a global level. A special theme, which is the most important in the context of the literature of the late XIX - early XX centuries, has become a common theme for all of Woolf's work - this is the topic of women's inequality. Thanks to this, W. Woolf's work attracts modern researchers-genderologists. Her work begins to be explored, first of all, in the context of the influence of feminism. The work of Woolf, one of the classics of world literature of the twentieth century, is multifaceted: novels, essays, literary criticism, biographies, historical and cultural essays. A subtle and perceptive critic, a brilliant theorist of modernism (in fact, this term was entrenched in literary-critical use, not least thanks to her efforts), Virginia Woolf entered the "big literature" thanks to the experimental novels of the twenties [4]. In her works, W. Woolf embodied the search for a "new vision" characteristic of the self-consciousness of the 20th century culture. Developing the poetics of experimental prose, the writer thereby laid the foundations for a new artistic thinking, which largely determined the artistic practices of modern literature and art. All her books touch upon and explore similar problems: the problem of the predominance of the aesthetic, the problem of perception and the problem of emotional states, when the mental and aesthetic are intertwined.

An extraordinary psychological world distinguishes the work “To the Lighthouse”. This work is largely autobiographical: Mrs and Mr Ramsay "copied" from the parents of Virginia Woolf; in Mr. Ramsay, an intellectual, a professor at several universities, a family despot, a nervous, irritable figure, contemporaries easily recognized Leslie Stephen, in Mrs Ramsay herself - the mother of the writer Julia Duckworth. And the whole way of the Ramsey family, with countless friends and acquaintances visiting the house, crowded noisy meals, exquisite literary conversations, reminded the atmosphere that prevailed in the house of Virginia Stephen. The novel “To the Lighthouse” muted the anger and pain that invariably accompanied the writer's memories and reflections about the marriage of her father - Sir Leslie Stephen and mother - Julia Duckworth, which made it possible to calmly and objectively approach the problem of “the lot of women in general and of a woman writer, in in particular, in a world dominated by men ”[1; 89]. Virginia Woolf proceeds from the personal belief that a work of literature is not a creation of gender, but of intelligence. On the basis of this belief, she builds her theory of androgyny, according to which human consciousness contains the features of both sexes and is only able to function normally when these opposites coexist harmoniously. Mrs. Ramsay, her children, guests are going to visit the lighthouse on the island not far from their home. For various reasons, the trip is always postponed and is carried out only many years later, at the very end of the book, when Mrs. Ramsay, like some of her children, is no longer alive. However, the lighthouse is only formally plot, compositional core of the story. First of all, the lighthouse and its uneven in strength and brightness rays, which it directs into the world, are a symbol of the essence and meaning of knowledge for Virginia Woolf. The center of attention of the author “To the lighthouse” is "ordinary consciousness during an ordinary day", which consists of "myriads of impressions - ingenuous, fantastic, fleeting, imprinted with the sharpness of steel." It is not surprising that the main and, perhaps, the only hero of these works is the stream of consciousness. All other characters dissolve in it almost without a trace. To a certain extent, this is a women's novel, the heroines of which are "doubles" of the author, different sides of Virginia Woolf herself [4]. The formal heroes, so to speak, designated the protagonists of the novel, must be considered Mrs. Ramsay, fifty-year-old, beautiful, charming woman, mother of eight children, mistress of the house, happy wife; her husband - an intellectual, a writer, a man of academic interests, Mr. Ramsay, their children, numerous guests, among whom the artist Lily Briscoe is especially interesting. Two worlds - female and male - coexist, collide, oppose in the novel. The female personifies Mrs. Ramsay, calmly reading a story to little James at the window. This world is the focus of warmth, comfort, understanding, harmony, sympathy and compassion. Another male world - the possession of Mr. Ramsay, who is all in motion - nervously paces the terrace, looking for something to find fault with, hurts his son with harsh words, spends time in learned conversations with guests. This is a cold world of abstractions, logical constructions, intolerance and self-assertion. But still, the real heroes of this story, who give the book the features of mythological literature - house, time, memory, sea, lighthouse. Virginia Woolf understands the meaning of home broadly. The house, which she, paying tribute to her own memories of childhood and youth, lovingly reproduces on the pages of a book, stands alone on the seashore, far from the noise of a big city, its hustle and bustle. Nothing distracts either the writer or us when we begin to peer into his life, when we read and reread the pages of his history. The house is blown by the winds from all sides, the wallpaper on the walls is damp, the books on the shelves are moldy, the house is gradually falling into disrepair because Mr. Ramsay has no money to maintain it. But all this is secondary. The main thing is that this human dwelling has a soul, born from particles of souls and particles of being of people who inhabit it, from their passions, spiritual struggles, moments of peace, children's laughter, night sobs, noise of waves, table fun, quiet evening conversation of spouses, minutes their piercing happiness and the darkness of their loneliness.

Women's world is the world of home, family, warm relationships. But social conditions that humiliate a woman, trying to lock her within the boundaries of the house, lead to the fact that the female world begins to collapse. The birth of a new type of woman, new types of relationships is the main theme of the novel. Using the manner of secret writing of the soul, the stream of consciousness, W. Woolf is trying to solve the riddle of the female soul, its development.


  1. Virginia Woolf. To the Lighthouse (1927). Per. - E.Suric. V kn.: "Virdzhiniya Vul'f. Izbrannoe". M., "Hudozhestvennaya literatura", 1989. — 358 s.
  2. Aktual'nye problemy izucheniya literatury SSHA i Velikobritanii: Sb. st. / Pod obshch. red. V.V. Halipova, A.M. Butyrchik, N.S. Povalyaevoj. - Minsk: RIVSH BGU, 2003. — 128 s.
  3. Zarubezhnaya literatura 20 veka // pod red. Andreeva L.G. - M.: Vysshaya shkola, 1996. — 559 s.
  4. Mihal'skaya N.P. Vul'f Virdzhiniya // Zarubezhnye pisateli, bibliograficheskij slovar', ch. I. - M.: Prosveshchenie, 1997. — 687 s.

Интересная статья? Поделись ей с другими: