This blog is a combination of information compiled as an element of a seminar course revolving around Virginia Woolf.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Power of Art in The Lighthouse

The third chapter of The Lighthouse really caught my attention. While reading thru the first portion of the entire last section, I began to mark examples of where characters felt alone or portrayed a sense of emptiness. This ideal was most commonly displayed thru Lily Briscoe’s character. In the beginning of the second portion, Woolf states,” It seemed to rebuke her…he had gone and she had been so sorry for him and she had said nothing) trooped off the field; and then emptiness. (160). However, soon after the statement of these lines, the reader sees a change in Lilly’s attitude. She returns to painting and a ‘curious physical sensation’ begins to emerge as displayed by the language in the text (161).

Surprisingly, it seems as if Lily’s painting and its implications are physically abusing or raping her. Language and phrases such as ‘laid hands on her,’ ‘banged,’ ‘intercourse,’ ‘protruded,’ and ‘lubrication’ give the text a very sexual connotation. When used within a sentence, most of these words are incorporated in a violent way, which gives the reader (or me anyway) the sense that Lily is being physically raped by the art. Since this situation is not actually possible, one must deduce what Virginia Woolf is actually trying to say. Personally, I believe she is commenting on the power of art as an expression of emotion. In this scenario, art is belittling Lilly and her capabilities as an artist. This section shows the power a blank canvas can have over a person and in this case in particular, a woman.

In later paragraphs, Woolf reiterates Charles Tansley and his comment concerning woman and art. He states, “ Women can’t paint, can’t write.” (165). Lily reminisces of Mrs. Ramsey writings letters on the beach and seems to have much admiration for Mrs. Ramsey because she breaks the code established by Tansley’s claim. In the same way, Lily breaks the code established by Tansley. Slowly, she begins to lose consciousness of outer things and becomes completely immersed within the work. The text states, “Her mind kept throwing up from its depths, scenes, and names, and sayings, and memories and ideas, like a fountain spurting over the glaring, hideously difficult white space, while she modeled it with greens and blues.” It is only when Lily lets go of her insecurities of being a woman and subordinate to the male that her creativity flows. The violent and forceful language ceases and the reader sees a canvas full of vibrant colors rather than plain white. Similarly, the repetitive mentions of emptiness cease and move from Lily to the Ramsey’s daughter, Cam.

Through this scene, one can finally deduce that the colors of blue and green seem to be the colors of ecstasy. Lily is finally able to paint when she triumphs over Mr. Tansley’s idea that a woman can’t paint or write and she does so by using these two colors. Having power to create art rather than let art control her gives Lily satisfaction. If Lily is able to create art then she also triumphs over the male gender’s perception than women cannot be involved in the artistic process. Overall, I think this entire third section of The Lighthouse is important in discussing male/female relations, the power of art, and the violent nature of humanity in one intertwined context.

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