There have been many views, many opinions on marriage throughout history. In To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf marriage, through the characters of Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay, can be viewed as an outmoded institution in need of revision.
Society successfully trained Mrs. Ramsay for the role of nurturer in marriage: she goes instinctively “like the swallows for the south” to those who need care (196). In contrast, Woolf depicts Mr. Ramsay as childish and authoritarian, which cause his failure as philosopher and parent. Childishly territorial, Ramsey turns to his wife for comfort when Banks and Lily disrupt his solitude in the hedge, for “all his vanity, all his satisfaction in his own splendor, riding [ . . . ] fierce as a hawk at the head of his men [ . . . ] had been shattered, destroyed” (30). Mrs. Ramsay restores her husband’s ego; however, now his voice, “like the cuckoo” (33) seems ridiculous, as does his extreme need of her that burdens their relationship leaving her exhausted to “fold herself together, one petal closed in another, and the whole fabric fell in exhaustion upon itself” (38). This altogether shows how though trained for her position in matrimony with the patriarchal man, Mr. Ramsay, marriage is still an institution in need of change as it leaves the women exhausted like a wilting flower in July heat, which is provided by the intensity of the man’s needs and demands.
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