By January 14, 2008 0 Comments Read More →

To the Lighthouse: Discussion Questions

Many groups start by reading Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, but I think To the Lighthouse is another great one to start with. It focuses on the Ramsey family and their summer guests in the Hebrides. Here are some discussion questions I came up with when I could not find any elsewhere:

1. What distinguishes Woolf from other writers? What is her writing style?
2. Woolf often employs stream-of-consciousness in her writing. Why do you think that she does this through multiple and shifting perspectives in this book? What does this accomplish?
3. Mr. Ramsey is described by Mrs. Ramsey and Lily with violent and domineering imagery. What does this say about him in relation to the two women? What does Woolf want to say about relationships between women and men?
4. Time is a major theme in this novel. How does Woolf and her characters approach the passage of time?
5. How does Mrs. Ramsey affect those around her? How do you view her designs for other people’s lives? What is her role or sphere of influence?
6. What is the nature of the relationship between Mrs. Ramsey and Lily? How does it change? How does each woman view friendship?
7. Maturity and striking out on your own are recurrent themes in the novel. Mr. Ramsay remarks that he wants his children to know that life “requires courage, truth and the power to endure.” What are Mrs. Ramsey’s views on how to approach and live life? What are the author’s views?
8. “If only she could out them together, she felt, write them out in some sentence, then she would have got at the truth of things.” Lily wants to capture the Ramseys and her time with them. Can artists, can art, capture truth? Are truths universal or subjective?
9. What does Lily, does Woolf, think about the role of art in exploring life and human relationships?
10. How is gender and male and female roles explored throughout the novel? What do Mrs. Ramsey, Mr. Ramsey and Lily embody?
11. What does the Lighthouse, and going to the lighthouse, represent?

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About the Author:

Misha Stone is a readers' advisory librarian with The Seattle Public Library. Follow her on Twitter at @ahsimlibrarian.

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