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Maze, J.R. (1981). Classical Female Oedipal Themes in To the Lighthouse. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 8:155-170.

(1981). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 8:155-170

Classical Female Oedipal Themes in To the Lighthouse

J. R. Maze

SUMMARY

An application of Freud's theory of symbolism to Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse reveals the journey to the Lighthouse as a metaphor for dispelling the illusions with which Victorian morality surrounded sexuality and sanctified male supremacy. Besides this explicit theme the novel embodies hostility towards Mrs Ramsay as the 'benevolent' bearer of that alienation, and as the archaic mother suspected of inflicting genital damage upon her daughters. Lily Briscoe, a model for the author, finds Mrs Ramsay to be narcissistic and ungiving, and sets artistic and intellectual achievement at a higher level than Mrs Ramsay's mere procreativity; Mr Ramsay assists the adolescents towards a similar independence. Lily's

'grief' for Mrs Ramsay is spurious and conceals a reproach for the daughter's castration, reflected in Lily's problem of filling the 'awful space' in the centre of her painting. There are signs that Woolf herself could not quite master doubts of her own genital adequacy, or divest herself of the suspicion that her work was in part a fantasy substitute for childbearing—a regrettable legacy of her Victorian upbringing.

On this basis it is contended that Freudian drive psychology offers a richer explanation of the characters' motivation than is afforded by the modern concept of self-integration through merging.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

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