Male Superiority within Domestic Life
Throughout the book To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, there are many burdens upon relationships in the storyline. One such burden is that of male superiority; through the belief of male superiority relationships are stressed because males constantly need to prove that they are better then females. This stress causes problems within marriages and affects the domestic life of husbands and wives. The unspoken problem between the sexes causes tension and affects thoughts shown within internal monologues more then it directly affects events.
Men in this novel need sympathy from the women in order to prove their superiority because by getting sympathy from a woman the man is acting superior over the woman. Mr. Ramsey proves this fact when he works to receive Lily’s sympathy. This is shown when Lily thinks, “You shan’t touch your canvas, he seemed to say, bearing down on her, until you’ve given me what I want from you” (150); about Mr. Ramsey as he approaches her while she is painting. In this scene what Mr. Ramsey wants from Lily is sympathy and he acts as if he is in control over Lily and therefore can force her to give him sympathy. Eventually, Lily gives Mr. Ramsay the sympathy he wants which is shown when she thinks to herself, “Why, at this completely inappropriate moment, when he was stooping over her shoe, should she be so tormented with sympathy for him that, as she stooped too, the blood rushed to her face and thinking of her callousness (she had called him a play-actor) she felt her eyes swell and tingle with tears?” (154) and thus feels sympathy for Mr. Ramsay even when she decidedly did not want to. Not only does Lily feel sympathy for Mr. Ramsay but she also feels bad about thinking negatively about him. Lily’s feeling of guilt shows Mr. Ramsay being superior to her that is in turn an example of male supremacy.
During the dinner table discussion, Mr. Tansley shows male supremacy when he thinks, “he was not going to talk the kind of rot these people wanted him to talk. He was not going to be condescended by these silly women” (85). Mr. Tansley’s thoughts in this quotation show that he is putting himself above women by staying independent of their conversation therefore showing that they have no power over him. Mr. Tansley continues to exhibit male supremacy when his need to assert himself arises. In Lily’s monologue, she thinks, “Quotation” (91). This shows that there is a code of behavior within society in which male supremacy is supported; and according to this code women must make it convenient for men to express themselves.
The topic of male supremacy can be seen from a female perspective when Mr. Ramsay, Cam, and James are riding on the boat with Macalister and Woolf narrates,
“see that little house,’ he said pointing, wishing Cam to look. She raised herself reluctantly and looked” (165). During this part, even though Cam does not want to give in to Mr. Ramsay’s wishes, she sees the authority he has over her and therefore complies with his wishes. Cam is similar to her mother in her regard towards men. Mrs. Ramsay feels that the way Mr. Ramsay is perceived will affect her appearance as well. This is shown in her reaction to Mr. Ramsay quoting poetry at dinner. This is shown in Lily’s internal monologue where she thinks, “she pitied men as if they lacked something – women never, as if they had something” (85). She refers to Mrs. Ramsay and this quotation shows that Mrs. Ramsay pities men as if they are unfortunate unconditionally. In this way she helps men look good and maintains the image of male supremacy, thus causing a burden on her relationship with Mr. Ramsay.
There are many burdens upon relationships. One such burden is that of male superiority; through the belief of male superiority relationships are stressed because males constantly need to prove that they are better then females. This stress causes problems within marriages and affects the domestic life of husbands and wives, as you can see with Mr. And Mrs. Ramsay. The unspoken problem between the sexes causes tension and affects thoughts shown within internal monologues more then it directly affects events.
Male Superiority within Domestic Life