Introduction: Lily Briscoe is introduced to us in the beginning of To the Lighthouse as one of the guests of Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay. She is very close to Mrs. Ramsay though she does not have much of a liking for Mr. Ramsay. Painting pictures is her hobby and now she is engaged in painting a picture in which Mrs. Ramsay and her son James figure. Lily is a novice in painting. She is not satisfied with the picture she is painting because she feels that there is a great difference between her intention and her performance so far as this picture is concerned. very
Lily is confronted with a problem: Lily’s picture is partly intended as a tribute to Mrs. Ramsay but she is facing a problem. Mrs. Ramsay has been able to forge moments of order with her own strength and love in the course of an evening, but such moments of order cannot be so easily managed or created by an artist. In Lily’s case, ten years pass between the start and the completion of her picture. The problems confronting her as an artist are strictly aesthetic and broadly human. The aesthetic problem before Lily in the case of her picture is how to connect the mass on the right hand with the mass on the left hand. She might do it by bringing the line of the branch across, so; or she might do it by breaking the vacancy in the foreground with some object, so. But the danger is that if she follows either of these courses, the unity of the whole picture might be broken.
A unified vision is necessary for creation of art: A complete work of art is not possible without a unified vision behind it, and it is this, rather than any technical organization of mass or colour, that Lily struggles with throughout Part I and Part III of the novel. While painting, her thoughts turn to Mrs. Ramsay and Mr. Ramsay. Mr. Ramsay is an aggressive intellectual who makes incessant demands for sympathy but Lily fails to reconcile herself to this man either emotionally or imaginatively. Whereas, Mrs. Ramsay can always find something to offer to her husband. Lily only wants to avoid this man and his demand for sympathy. Thus Lily has to struggle with an incomplete view of reality which makes her artistic task of completing her picture difficult.
How Lily’s problem is solved: It is only much later (in Part III of the novel) when Mr. Ramsay, having failed to obtain Lily’s sympathy sails away with his childre towards the Lighthouse that Lily’s attitude towards him begins to change. She realizes the extraordinary powers of Mrs. Ramsay to render certain moments memorable and to invigorate the human beings around her. Thus realizing Mrs. Ramsay’s enormous creative powers and relenting towards Mr. Ramsay and offering to him he whole-hearted sympathy even though he is not present before her, Lily is able to see the vision which had so far eluded her. And while seeing the vision, she draws a line on her picture and completes it.
Conclusion: Thus through art Lily has been able to catch at glimpse of eternity and reality, the value of both masculine and feminine traits of the human character.
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