Honors Program


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Graubard, Anya. "The Tyrant Father": Leslie Stephen and Masculine Influences on Virginia Woolf and her Novel, To the Lighthouse. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. May 2019.


Copyright Anya Graubard 2019.


This paper examines the volatile yet nurturing relationship between Virginia Woolf and her father, Leslie Stephen. It specifically considers the effects of three male “tyrants” in Woolf’s childhood, including not only her father but also her two half-brothers, who abused her sexually. Analysis of the dynamics of these relationships provides insight into Woolf’s lifelong battle with mental illness and helps us to understand the complicated relationships she had as an adult with men and women.

In her letters, diaries, and memoir essays, Woolf reveals how she drew from her own experiences of childhood to write her most famous novel, To the Lighthouse. The fictional Ramsay family may be seen as a portrait of the actual Stephen family. Virginia Woolf herself can be seen in several characters—in James, in Cam, and in Lily. This paper demonstrates that Woolf not only drew from her personal life as she wrote the novel, but also shows that by writing it, she was able to free herself from some unresolved feelings about her parents, especially her demanding father.