|Neptune in the Trevi Fountain in Rome (Trident broke off).|
In her article “Demeter and Poseidon: Fusion and Distance in To the Lighthouse” Anne Golomb Hoffman tries to cover a lot of material. She begins her essay with stating that the novel has a tension between form and chaos, and she carries this forth into the realm of the mythical tales of Poseidon and Demeter and Persephone. She contends that Mrs. Ramsay is Demeter while Prue is Persephone. Mrs. Ramsay seeks form with her tendency of match-making; she wants everyone paired. Perhaps we could associate her better with Noah. Augustus Carmichael’s separateness is momentarily pulled in by the connection with Mrs. Ramsay in the admiring of the beauty of the fruit arrangement. Lily pulls him in with her needs in finishing her painting. She contends that Mr. C. was originally only in section one in the original manuscript. She contends that one of his roles in the novel is “to articulate the theme of the survival of culture amid the ravages of time and war” (184).
I think Hoffman stretches the novel to fit her belief that Mrs. Ramsay represents Demeter, especially when it is widely known that Mrs. Ramsay represents Virginia Woolf’s mother. Hoffman claims that the “identification with Demeter underscores the ritual function of woman in marriage and maternity” (185). Demeter is the bountiful goddess of the grain and is associated with wheat, corn, and poppies (Tatlock). The growing of grain is indeed propagation, but it is neither maternal nor matrimonial. Demeter, as far as I can remember, had an extremely close relationship with her daughter, Persephone. In contrast, Mrs. Ramsay was closest to her youngest son, James. If Demeter is associated with the bounty of grain food, it appears to me that that is of a cyclic nature. Hoffman quotes Julia Stephen’s directly that she prefers the sick to the well (187), so that doesn’t seem to represent the cyclic nature of rebirth.
I didn’t necessarily see a thread that ran through the paper; I felt as if she went into too many directions. The title of the article leads one to believe that the paper is also about Mr. Carmichael as Poseidon, and although she does mention it, it is a very small portion of the essay. She does a good job of explaining how she believes that Mrs. Ramsay is the aspect of fusion with the characters and with that I agree.
Although I think the title misleading, I believe the bit of information about Mr. Carmichael will help me with my paper. Ironically, it led me to the idea that Mr. Carmichael may be more related to Neptune than Poseidon (although Poseidon is the Greek version of Neptune the Roman god (Tatlock)).
Hoffman, Anne Golomb. “Demeter and Poseidon: Fusion and Distance in To the Lighthouse.” Studies in the Novel 16 (1984): 182-196.
Tatlock, Jessie May. Greek and Roman Mythology. New York: The Century Company, 1917. Google Book Search. Web. 8 November 2010.