Date of Award

Spring 5-12-2020

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


English, Linguistics, and Communication

Department Chair or Program Director

Richards, Gary

First Advisor

Haffey, Kate

Major or Concentration



This paper uses sociologist Erving Goffman’s theories to examine the nature of gender and identity in Virginia Woolf’s 1927 novel, To The Lighthouse. By reading the novel through the lens of Goffman’s theory about what constitutes a performance, as well as applying his argument about the role of the front region and back region in shaping human conduct, gendered behavior is shown to be part of a “socialized [and] molded” (Goffman 35) performance instead of being a predisposed trait. In her representation of the Victorian man Mr. Ramsay, the Victorian woman Mrs. Ramsay, and the modern woman Lily Briscoe, Woolf demonstrates how gender practices shifted to fit the social beliefs and opportunities of different points in history. Furthermore, the novel illustrates how the decisions characters make to either adhere to or challenge societal gender standards directly impacts their sense of identity.