To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf: An Excerpt

I’m just getting started with my marathon reading of Virginia Woolf…has anyone any thoughts to share about this novel or its author?

Photograph of Virginia Woolf

I’ve become inspired to read all of Virginia Woolf’s books, starting with “To The Lighthouse.” For some time I’ve wanted to take on this delightful task, and I recently read a blog by a Virginia Woolf lover that inspired me to just get on with it.

So last night, after watching “Law and Order,” (wish I’d just got going with the novel), I got cozy in bed and began reading. I think I’m on to something really interesting. Here is a description of Mr. Tansley’s feelings for the main character, Mrs. Ramsay, who thinks Tansley is “an odious little man,”

…she was the most beautiful person he had ever seen. With stars in her eyes and veils in her hair, with cyclamen and wild violets – what nonsense was he thinking? She was fifty at least; she had eight children. Stepping through fields of flowers and taking breast buds that had broken and lambs that had fallen; with the stars in her eyes and the wind in her hair – He took her bag…Charles Tansley felt an extraordinary pride; felt the wind and the cyclamen and the violets for he was walking with a beautiful woman for the first time in his life. “He had hold of her bag.”

To The Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf

What does it mean when a man is willing, even eager, to hold a women’s purse?
Now this passage reminds me of a conversation I had a number of years ago with a young man, still in high school, who mentioned he was on the lookout for a beautiful girlfriend and he would welcome the opportunity to hold her purse any where, any time as proof she was his and he hers ( I assumed), a kind of marking of territory, I supposed. There seems to be a statement a man makes when he carries things for women. It’s as if he is now willing to take her on in certain ways, to do some heavy lifting on her behalf, to offer support and to shoulder some of life’s burdens. And, Virginia Woolf’s Tansley’s reflection on his feelings for Mrs. Ramsay sums it up – “He had hold of her bag.”

I also love the fact that Mrs. Ramsay is over fifty and has eight children.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Topics I Love

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