In her article, ‘Cam the Wicked’: Woolf’s Portrait of the Artist as her Father’s Daughter, Elizabeth Abel successfully highlights the ways in which Cam, the youngest Ramsey daughter in Woolf’s To The Lighthouse, is a reflection of the daughter whose actions hinge and rely on the thoughts of the father. Abel claims that To The Lighthouse is Woolf’s most profound psychoanalytical text as it addresses the competing critical interpretations of maternal and paternal influences and highlights the twisted undertones of Freud’s Oedipal Complex in terms of the Ramsey family (Abel 172). Abel also discusses the idea of narrative imprisonment and how is arises from Cam’s inheritance of the mother’s middle position between the son and the father/husband. Through Abel’s article, one can interpret Cam’s silence as a reaction to the Oedipal Complex and women’s inability to find a voice when functioning in their adolescent thoughts of the father. Abel also declares Cam as Woolf own ‘self-portrait as her father’s daughter’ thus using a psycho biographical approach to further develop her critical argument.
Abel sets up two crucial situations during which Cam seems to relate more heavily to her father than her mother. In discussing the boat and study scenes, Abel highlights the ways in which Cam admires and fears disappointment from her father. She also discusses the way in which Cam is paralyzed by a desire to fulfill both her brother and father’s wishes. When the conflict between the two men is resolved is when Cam is finally able to recover her own memories and think truly for herself. These thoughts, however, are constantly imposed upon by the memories of her father and Abel continually states that Cam is eager for ‘access to a discourse who terms diminish her” (Abel 178). Thus Cam’s existence in society is complicated by her willingness to see herself through her father.
One interpretation specifically imposed by Abel concerns the relationship between Lily and Cam. For Abel, Lily is the epitome of the perfect daughter and more successful sister. She is the counterpart to Cam and thus juxtaposes the functions of women who see themselves through the mother vs. the father. Lily overshadows Cam in most situations and helps the reader see the costs and limits placed upon Cam because of her affiliation with the father.
Overall, I enjoyed Abel’s article and its critique of Cam. Abel goes into great depth explaining the core of her argument and maps out a distinct set of actions performed by Cam within the text. Because of her textual support, I believe Abel successfully articulates her views and breaks down the claim made by most critics concerning a women’s automatic affiliation with the mother.
Able, Elizabeth. 'Cam the Wicked': Woolf's Portrait of the Artist as her Father's Daughter. Virginia Woolf and Bloomsbury.