Academic journal article Studies in Literature and Language

Metaphors of Patriarchy in the Context of Intertextuality: Rereading to the Lighthouse

Academic journal article Studies in Literature and Language

Metaphors of Patriarchy in the Context of Intertextuality: Rereading to the Lighthouse

Article excerpt


This paper rereads To the Lighthouse from the viewpoint of intertextuality. It takes the classical fairytale The Fisherman and His Wife by Brothers Grimm as a breakthrough point and tries to reestablish the relationship between the two texts. It introduces the theory of intertextuality and tries to find out how the two texts (the tale and the novel) intertextualize with each other. In the meanwhile, the metaphors of patriarchy are pointed out in the context of intertextuality.

Key words: To the Lighthouse; The fairytale; Intertextuality; Patriarchy


Virginia Woolf, whose position in English literature no critic can ignore, is one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century. As the daughter of the well-known English essayist, critic and biographer Sir Leslie Stephen, as early as childhood, she received a very good education and at the same time suffered from periods of nervous depressions. In 1904, she began her writing career until she drowned herself in 1941.

Virginia Woolf has mainly made three contributions to English literature. First, together with James Joyce, she is an experimental novelist for the use of the stream- of-consciousness method in fiction. With her skillful representation of inner workings of human mind, her works present readers a new possibility and authenticity of expression such as in Mrs. Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), Orlando (1928), The Waves (1931), etc. . Second, she is also an excellent literary critic and her literary reviews are mainly collected in The Common Reader (1925) and The Second Common Reader (1932). Third, she is a feminist and her feminism is shown in Three Guineas (1938) and A Room of One's Own (1929). In fact, throughout all her works, she reveals the discrimination women have received in society and calls for real equality between men and women.


As one of the representative works of Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse was published in 1927 and received the most appreciation from the readers among her works. Roger Fry writes to Woolf that he thinks To the lighthouse "the best thing you've done, actually better than Mrs. Dalloway" (Bell, 1986, p.128) and Woolf replies that it has "kept me on the right path, so far as writing goes, more than anyone" (Evans, 1989, p.101). E. M. Forster writes that the book is "awfully sad, very beautiful both in (non-radiant) color and shape, it stirs me much more to questions of whether and why than anything else you have written" (Woolf, 1980, pp.77-78). It is also one of the writer's favorites, "My present opinion is that it is easily the best of my books" (Evans, 1989, p.101).

The story is composed of three parts. In the first part, The Ramsays are on vocation with some friends in their villa by the sea. The youngest child James puts forward a request "going to the lighthouse" the next day, which receives warm response from his mother, but cold and rational disapproval from his father with weather being possibly bad as the excuse. With the flow of consciousness, the picture shifts from mother and son to other members and friends of the family and then to a family dinner party with beautiful hostess Mrs. Ramsay as the center. In the second part, the war breaks out and ten years passes in which Mrs. Ramsay has passed away suddenly, her beautiful daughter Prue gets married but later dies of childbirth, and her clever son Andrew dies on the front. In the third part, the broken family returns to the villa by the sea, and under the leadership of Mr. Ramsay, together with his two children Cam and James, they set out for the lighthouse.

1.1 Different Reviews on To the Lighthouse

In the past few decades or so, the study on To the Lighthouse can be divided into several periods. Just after the publication of the novel, in spite of warm welcome from readers, it received some sharp criticism from the critics. Times Literary Supplement finds its characters "not completely real" (Majumdar & McLaurin, 1975, p. …

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