Theme of Time
Time is not experienced conventionally in To the Lighthouse (but seriously, what is?). Instead,
time is anchored in certain select moments, which completely distorts it Irom the way a clock
experiences time. Time is measured as it is experienced by certain people, which inIuses select
moments with incredible importance and duration. In other parts oI the novel, ten years is
covered in about a dozen pages. Time is thereIore both elongated and compressed.
1. hat is the eIIect oI compressing ten years into a dozen or so pages? Do you think
Virginia oolI did it successIully?
2. hat are the diIIerences and similarities in how Mrs. Ramsay, Mr. Ramsay, and Lily
view and approach time?
3. In a sense, To the Lighthouse takes place over the span oI 24 hours. e begin with an
aIternoon and evening (part one), enter into a long night (part two, which also happens to
be ten years), and then we end with the events oI one morning. hat is the eIIect oI this?
Could the author have done it diIIerently?
4. In some parts oI the novel, many pages are lavished on moments that last nanoseconds. In
other parts, barely a word is given to the passing oI years. Does this distortion oI time
accurately reIlect how humans perceive the world?
Part Two oI the novel, "Time Passes," is the only portion oI the novel we see what the
characters are so concerned with the destructiveness oI time.
1. 1o her son these words conveyed an extraordinary joy, as if it were settled, the expedition
were bound to take place, and the wonder to which he had looked forward, for years and years
it seemed, was, after a night's darkness and a day's sail, within touch.
ames Ramsay experiences time in extremely relative terms: great anticipation equals years oI
waiting, and the Iuture is capable oI inIusing the present.
2. .warned her whose day had slipped past in one quick doing after another that it was all
ephemeral as a rainbow.
Mrs. Ramsay lives her liIe to the timing oI surrounding noises the waves on the beach being
predominant among them.
. .instead of merriment felt come over them some sadness-because the thing was
completed partly, and partly because distant views seem to outlast by a million years
Lily and Mr. Bankes are overcome as they Ieel the vastness oI time as embodied by the distant
4. It is permissible even for a dying hero to think before he dies how men will speak of him
hereafter. His fame lasts perhaps two thousand years. And what are two thousand years?
(asked Mr. Ramsay ironically, staring at the hedge).
5. 1he very stone one kicks with one's boot will outlast Shakespeare. His own little light would
shine, not very brightly, for a year or two, and would then be merged in some bigger light, and
that in a bigger still.
Mr. Ramsay takes a very long-term view oI time, as evident in his exclaiming, "hat are two
thousand years?" From that perspective, naturally, his eIIorts and achievements are miniscule.
ô. Oh, but she never wanted 1ames to grow a day older! or Cam either. 1hese two she would
have liked to keep for ever just as they were, demons of wickedness, angels of delight, never to
see them grow up into long-legged monsters. Aothing made up for the loss.
Mrs. Ramsay wishes that she could Ireeze her children in their childhood.
7. And the whole of the effort of merging and flowing and creating rested on her. Again she
felt, as a fact without hostility, the sterility of men, for if she did not do it nobody would do it,
and so, giving herself a little shake that one gives a watch that has stopped, the old familiar
pulse began beating, as the watch begins ticking-one, two, three, one, two, three. And so on
and so on.
Mrs. Ramsay Ieels the weight oI creating a convivial dinner atmosphere to rest squarely on her
shoulders. Here Mrs. Ramsay is compared to a watch. She regains her sense oI selI, her sense oI
obligation to her guests, and her ability to create unity, in the same way that a watch beats out
8. .to speak to the maid. It must have been fifteen- no, twenty years ago-that I last saw
her," And was Carrie still living at Marlow, and was everything still the same? Oh, she could
remember it as if it were yesterday.
In a sense, Mrs. Ramsay is astonished to Iind that twenty years have passed since seeing her
Iriend Carrie, because her memory oI her last encounter with Carrie remains sharp and vivid.
9. "Ah, but how long do you think it'll last?".A question like that would lead, almost
certainly, to something being said which reminded him of his own failure. How long would he
be read-he would think at once.. ho could tell what was going to last-in literature or
indeed in anything else?
1ô. (and she knew that Mr. Ramsay was beginning to be uneasy); to want somebody to say,
Oh, but your work will last, Mr. Ramsay, or something like that. He showed his uneasiness
quite clearly now by saying, with some irritation, that, anyhow, Scott (or was it Shakespeare ?)
would last him his lifetime. He said it irritably. Everybody, she thought, felt a little
Certain books will last and withstand the destructiveness oI time but it is diIIicult to ascertain
which will do so.
11. .she waited a moment longer in a scene which was vanishing even as she looked.. it
had become, she knew, giving one last look at it over her shoulder, already the past.
As she leaves the dining room, Mrs. Ramsay pauses Ior a moment to consider the successIul
meal, which, due to the ephemeral nature oI time, is already part oI the past.
12. 1hey would, she thought, going on again, however long they lived, come back to this
night; this moon; this wind; this house: and to her too. It flattered her, where she was most
susceptible of flattery,.
Mrs. Ramsay gains a sense oI where she and tonight`s dinner stand in the stream oI time. She
uses elm trees, which have a stillness that her world does not, to anchor herselI while she tries to
grasp a moment at dinner to analyze. She lets herselI believe that tonight will last in her dinner
guests` hearts, that it will be remembered, that it will not be ephemeral but as we see in Part
Three, no one thinks about the dinner in any substantive way.
1. But what after all is one night? A short space, especially when the darkness dims so soon,
and so soon a bird sings, a cock crows, or a faint green quickens, like a turning leaf, in the
hollow of the wave. Aight, however, succeeds to night.
As night succeeds night, so one night is stretched into ten years in Part Two oI oolI`s novel.
14. 1he house was left; the house was deserted. It was left like a shell on a sandhill to fill with
dry salt grains now that life had left it. 1he long night seemed to have set in.
Nature and time are winning against a civilized house.
15. Aight after night, summer and winter, the torment of storms, the arrow-like stillness of
fine weather, held their court without interference.
The house in the Hebrides is leIt to the ravages oI time. It is our evidence that time has passed.
1ô. All of a sudden, would Mrs. McAab see that the house was ready, one of the young ladies
wrote: would she get this done; would she get that done; all in a hurry. 1hey might be coming
for the summer; had left everything to the last; expected to find things as they had left them.
It is pure chance the drop or not oI a Ieather that rescues the house Irom a Iate oI total ruin
and into restoration.
Theme of Memory and the Past
Because time is such a distorted thing in To the Lighthouse, memory and the past are a vital part
oI the characters` present. hen a single moment is given the tenth degree, every signiIicant
aspect oI the moment is interrogated. It`s also important to note that a lot oI important
inIormation is transIerred via characters` memories which makes sense, since in real time the
novel only truly covers one day.
1. In Part One, Mrs. Ramsay makes a number oI predictions regarding what events or
occurrences various people will remember. Using Part Three as your guide, to what
extent were Mrs. Ramsay`s predictions accurate?
2. Lily`s attitude towards the time she spent at the Ramsays` summer house ten years ago
alternates between sadness and relieI. eigh her emotions. hat is the net outcome? Is
she nostalgic Ior that time or happy to be Iree oI it?
3. How and where does the memory oI Mrs. Ramsay come up in Part Three? Is it weird that
Lily seems to think oI Mrs. Ramsay the most oIten?
Part Three oI the novel cinches Lily Briscoe`s position as the book`s protagonist, as her
memories and perspective on the past are the most telling and important.
The primary diIIerence between Lily`s Ieelings in Part One and Part Three lie in the presence or
absence oI Mrs. Ramsay, and her Ieelings toward the past thereIore mirror the conIlict oI her
Ieelings towards Mrs. Ramsay.
17. Charles 1ansley used to say that, she remembered, women can't paint, can't write.
Coming up behind her, he had stood close beside her, a thing she hated, as she painted her on
this very spot. "Shag tobacco," he said, "fivepence an ounce," parading his poverty, his
principles. (But the war had drawn the sting of her femininity. Poor devils, one thought, poor
devils, of both sexes.)
Here, at last, we have evidence oI a Mrs. Ramsay`s success. In smoothing over the diIIerences
between Lily Briscoe and Charles Tansley during one aIternoon, Mrs. Ramsay irrevocably
altered Lily`s memories oI Mr. Tansley.
18. 1he Lighthouse was then a silvery, misty-looking tower with a yellow eye, that opened
suddenly, and softly in the evening. Aow-
19. 1ames looked at the Lighthouse. He could see the white-washed rocks; the tower, stark
and straight; he could see that it was barred with black and white; he could see windows in it;
he could even see washing spread on the rocks to dry. So that was the Lighthouse, was it? Ao,
the other was also the Lighthouse. For nothing was simply one thing. 1he other Lighthouse
was true too.
During the expedition to the Lighthouse, ames is given the opportunity to compare the actual
Lighthouse to how he has always seen it Irom across the bay. He believes that both lighthouses
exist: the Lighthouse oI his memory and the Lighthouse oI actuality.
Theme of Love
Love takes several diIIerent Iorms in the text: lasting love that`s still Ilawed, love that casts a
glow on everyone else, love that doesn`t last, Iriendly love, Iamilial love, admiring love, love as
an intellectual topic, etc., but the main point is that love is not the sort oI all-consuming Iorce
you see in 33, K,7e3i3,. Love in To the Lighthouse is pretty tame and usually turns out to be
love Ior Mrs. Ramsay.
1. hy does everyone keep Ialling in love with Mrs. Ramsay (iI they weren`t already)?
ho does not, or who loves her with a grain oI salt?
2. Much is made oI Paul and Minta on the night oI their engagement they`re so in love.
hy didn`t this last? hat do they lack that Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay do not?
3. According to Lily, love takes "a thousand shapes." hat are the various shapes it takes in
To the Lighthouse?
4. Do Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay love each other?
Lily loves Mrs. Ramsay despite spurning almost everything Mrs. Ramsay stands Ior.
2ô..it was painful to be reminded of the inadequacy of human relationships, that the most
perfect was flawed, and could not bear the examination which, loving her husband, with her
instinct for truth, she turned upon it; when it was painful to feel herself convicted of
Mrs. Ramsay is Irustrated that even the most perIect oI relationships (her marriage) has Ilaws,
and she vents this by singling out Mr. Carmichael as he walks past.
21. A bit of a hypocrite? she repeated. Oh, no-the most sincere of men, the truest (here he
was), the best; but, looking down, she thought, he is absorbed in himself, he is tyrannical, he is
unjust; and kept looking down, purposely, for only so could she keep steady, staying with the
Lily sees Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay as the quintessential couple in love.
22. .could Mr. Bankes have said why that woman pleased him so; why the sight of her
reading a fairy tale to her boy had upon him precisely the same effect as the solution of a
scientific problem, so that he rested in contemplation of it, and felt, as he felt when he had
2. 1hat people should love like this, that Mr. Bankes should feel this for Mrs. Ramsey (she
glanced at him musing) was helpful, was exalting.
Mr. Bankes`s love Ior Mrs. Ramsay isn`t sexual, possessive, or demanding, but rather pure and
adoring. Furthermore, Lily doesn`t Ieel excluded Irom this love, but rather exalted by it.
24. She put a spell on them all, by wishing, so simply, so directly, and Lily contrasted that
abundance with her own poverty of spirit
Lily perceives love as an exalted adventure guarded over by Mrs. Ramsay. She Ieels very small
in the Iace oI the love that has gripped Paul Rayley.
25. For at any rate, she said to herself, catching sight of the salt cellar on the pattern, she need
not marry, thank Heaven: she need not undergo that degradation. She was saved from that
dilution. She would move the tree rather more to the middle.
Lily sees the "dark side" oI love and is grateIul that she does not have to marry. She paints as a
preIerred alternative to marriage. Lily is pleased at the idea that she does not have to marry. She
will paint instead, which seems to be a preIerred alternative Ior her.
2ô. It is so beautiful, so exciting, this love, that I tremble on the verge of it, and offer, quite out
of my own habit, to look for a brooch on a beach; also it is the stupidest, the most barbaric of
human passions, and turns a nice young man with a profile like a gem's (Paul's was
exquisite) into a bully with a crowbar (he was swaggering, he was insolent).
27..the women, judging from her own experience, would all the time be feeling, 1his is not
what we want; there is nothing more tedious, puerile, and inhumane than this; yet it is also
beautiful and necessary.
Lily is conIused about love it is both a compelling and exciting Iorce, as well as a Iorce that
changes a person`s character, making them Ioolish, and even harsh.
28. Mrs. Ramsay looked from one to the other and said, speaking to Prue in her own mind,
You will be as happy as she is one of these days. You will be much happier, she added, because
you are my daughter, she meant; her own daughter must be happier than other people's
Minta`s happiness is reIlected on Prue. Mrs. Ramsay sees this and believes that romantic love
will Iind her daughter, and Prue will have an even happier ending than Minta.
29. He wanted something-wanted the thing she always found it so difficult to give him;
wanted her to tell him that she loved him. And that, no, she could not do.. She never told him
that she loved him. But it was not so-it was not so. It was only that she never could say what
ô. She could not say it...As she looked at him she began to smile, for though she had not
said a word, he knew, of course he knew, that she loved him. He could not deny it. And
smiling she looked out of the window and said (thinking to herself, Aothing on earth can
equal this happiness)-
1. "Yes, you were right. It's going to be wet tomorrow. You won't be able to go." And she
looked at him smiling. For she had triumphed again. She had not said it: yet he knew.
Mrs. Ramsay is incapable oI expressing her love Ior her husband through words, but she does in
Iact love him. However, her love does not need to be expressed in words in order Ior it to be
understood by her husband.
2. that crass blindness and tyranny of his which had poisoned her childhood and raised bitter
storms, so that even now she woke in the night trembling with rage and remembered some
command of his; some insolence: "Do this," "Do that," his dominance: his "Submit to me."
Love is not always public in this novel. Cam`s Ieelings towards her Iather are divided. In the end,
her love Ior him is expressed privately.
. One could talk of painting then seriously to a man. Indeed, his friendship had been one of
the pleasures of her life. She loved illiam Bankes.
Lily loves illiam as a Iriend. ithout romantic love getting in the way, she can share her
passions with illiam.
Theme of Gender
ell, it`s a oolI novel. Gender Iigures in all the chauvinistic remarks that the men make, and
the protective tone towards men that Mrs. Ramsay takes. Also, Mrs. Ramsay is held up as an
ideal oI womanhood. Lily Briscoe deviates Irom this ideal because she is not interested in
marriage or comIorting and sympathizing with every male character in the novel.
1. hich men in To the Lighthouse have the most positive view oI women? hich men
have the most negative view?
2. Is Mrs. Ramsay ultimately a triumphant Iigure oI Iemininity or a downtrodden (and
3. Is Cam more oI a traditional Mrs. Ramsay-like woman or a rebellious Lily-like woman?
4. hat`s up with the whole women being Iertile and men being barren thing?
In To the Lighthouse, the male characters that look down upon women are the most dependent on
4. Indeed, she had the whole of the other sex under her protection; for reasons she could not
explain, for their chivalry and valour, for the fact that they negotiated treaties, ruled India,
controlled finance; finally for an attitude towards herself which no woman could fail to feel or
to find agreeable, something trustful, childlike, reverential;
Mrs. Ramsay believes that men deserve her protection Iirst, because they rule the world, and
second, Ior their attitude towards women (as experienced by herselI in particular.)
5. Prue, Aancy, Rose-could sport with infidel ideas which they had brewed for themselves
of a life different from hers; in Paris, perhaps; a wilder life; not always taking care of some
man or other; for there was in all their minds a mute questioning of deference and chivalry, of
the Bank of England and the Indian Empire,
Although they respect and honor their mother`s way oI liIe, Mrs. Ramsay`s daughters imagine
diIIerent lives Ior themselves. They don`t tell their mother about their dreams oI an alternate
ô. How did he know? She asked. 1he wind often changed. 1he extraordinary irrationality of
her remark, the folly of women's minds enraged him. He had ridden through the valley of
death, been shattered and shivered; and now, she flew in the face of facts, made his children
hope what was utterly out of the question, in effect, told lies. He stamped his foot on the stone
step. "Damn you," he said. But what had she said? Simply that it might be fine tomorrow. So
For Mr. Ramsay, his wiIe`s Iaith that the weather might still be Iine tomorrow reIlects the
inIeriority oI the Iemale mind.
7. He was a failure, he said. Mrs. Ramsay flashed her needles. Mr. Ramsay repeated, never
taking his eyes from her face, that he was a failure..It was sympathy he wanted, to be
assured of his genius, first of all, and then to be taken within the circle of life, warmed and
soothed, to have his senses restored to him, his barrenness made fertile
omen are Iertile and men are barren, which is the real reason that men need women women
are warm and Ilattering, capable oI restoring a man`s senses.
8. She took shelter from the reverence which covered all women; she felt herself praised.
Cross-reIerence this sentence with the quotes abovr, and remember that the "she" here is Lily
Briscoe. hat does this say about Lily as opposed to Mrs. Ramsay`s daughters?
9. "Do you write many letters, Mr. 1ansley?" asked Mrs. Ramsay, pitying him too, Lily
supposed; for that was true of Mrs. Ramsay-she pitied men always as if they lacked
something-women never, as if they had something.
According to Lily, Mrs. Ramsay pities men but never women because women are complete
whereas men are lacking in something.
4ô. 1hey did nothing but talk, talk, talk, eat, eat, eat. It was the women's fault. omen made
civilisation impossible with all their "charm," all their silliness.
Mr. Tansley is ill at ease at the dinner table, and blames "women" Ior it. He seems to think that
the presence oI women demands he get dressed Ior dinner, conversing on light topics, and bear
their silliness, etc.
41. ...the most uncharming human being she had ever met. 1hen why did she mind what he
said? omen can't write, women can't paint.
Although Lily recognizes that Mr. Tansley does not believe his own comments regarding Iemale
ability, it still aIIects her. His comment continues to motivate her ten years lager.
42. .she could not do it. She ought to have floated off instantly upon some wave of
sympathetic expansion: the pressure on her was tremendous. But she remained stuck.
Mr. Ramsay occasionally Ieels a great need to receive sympathy Irom the nearest woman
immediately. Lily reIuses to act like a typical (or conventional) woman by withholding her
4.there issued from him such a groan that any other woman in the whole world would have
done something, said something-all except myself.
Lily recognizes that she is Ilouting established gender norms by not sympathizing with Mr.
Ramsay, and mocks herselI Ior thereIore not being a woman.
44.a woman, she should have known how to deal with it. It was immensely to her discredit,
sexually, to stand there dumb.
Mr. Ramsay would not seek sympathy in Iront oI a man. He seeks sympathy Irom Lily solely
because she is a woman, and although Lily recognizes this, she cannot move herselI to act the
role that her gender demands.
45. He thought, women are always like that; the vagueness of their minds is hopeless; it was a
thing he had never been able to understand; but so it was. It had been so with her-his wife.
Mr. Ramsay does not respect the capabilities oI the Iemale mind.
4ô..then somebody sitting with him laughed, surrendered, and he was very angry. It must
have been his mother, he thought, sitting on a low chair, with his father standing over her.
hen ames sees Cam`s expression, he is reminded oI his mother`s expression ten years ago
when Mr. Ramsay demanded sympathy and Mrs. Ramsay gave way. It`s a Iemale expression.
Theme of Marriage
Mrs. Ramsay really wants everyone to get married particularly women. She herselI is in a
marriage that at least one character holds up as an ideal. Interestingly enough, her marriage to
Mr. Ramsay is actually the only real marriage we see in the novel. e do, however, "hear about"
(via Lily`s memory) how the Rayley marriage, which Mrs. Ramsay had encouraged so much,
worked out it was unsuccessIul.
1. ho wears the pants in the Ramsay marriage?
2. hat makes Ior a successIul marriage in the world oI To the Lighthouse?
3. hy did Mrs. Ramsay have such a hard time telling her husband about the greenhouse
4. hy does Mrs. Ramsay read to ames, The Fishe72,3 ,3/ his Wife?
Mrs. Ramsay is the more powerIul partner in her marriage.
47. Lily's picture! Mrs. Ramsay smiled. ith her little Chinese eyes and her puckered-up face,
she would never marry; one could not take her painting very seriously; she was an
independent little creature, and Mrs. Ramsay liked her for it.
Although Lily doesn`t Iit into Mrs. Ramsay`s (and society`s) notions oI womanhood, Mrs.
Ramsay likes her anyways.
48..she liked to be alone; she liked to be herself; she was not made for that
Mrs. Ramsay believes that everyone should get married. Although Lily Briscoe sees Mrs.
Ramsay`s liIe as containing more meaning than her own, she is still certain that she does not
want to marry.
49.she guessed what he was thinking-he would have written better books if he had not
There is a large tension between Mr. Ramsay`s intellectual accomplishments and his domestic
5ô. She had made him think he could do anything. Aobody else took him seriously. But she
made him believe that he could do whatever he wanted. He had felt her eyes on him all day
today, following him about (though she never said a word) as if she were saying, "Yes, you
can do it. I believe in you. I expect it of you."
Entering into an engagement oI marriage is Irightening and stressIul Ior Paul. However, Mrs.
Ramsay gave Paul the courage to propose to Minta. e have conIirmation that Mrs. Ramsay
does indeed bear at least some responsibility Ior Paul`s proposal to Minta.
51. He was screwing his face up, he was scowling and frowning, and flushing with anger.
hat on earth was it about? she wondered. hat could be the matter? Only that poor old
Augustus had asked for another plate of soup-that was all. It was unthinkable, it was
Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay are so close that they can have an argument without speaking, as well as
separated by the length oI a dining room table. Mrs. Ramsay is Iurthermore so attuned to the
moods oI the people around her that she knows how to stave oII social Iiasco.
52..through the crepuscular walls of their intimacy, for they were drawing together,
involuntarily, coming side by side, quite close, she could feel his mind like a raised hand
shadowing her mind.
Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay are such a close couple that they can read each others` minds; Mr. Ramsay
reassures Mrs. Ramsay that a Paul/Minta marriage will turn out all right.
5. She had only escaped by the skin of her teeth though, she thought. She had been looking
at the table-cloth, and it had flashed upon her that she would move the tree to the middle, and
need never marry anybody, and she had felt an enormous exultation.
Although Lily did Ieel a strong pull to marriage, she is quite happy she escaped and didn`t
succumb to Mrs. Ramsay`s urgings.
Then having lighted his pipe he took out his watch. He looked at it attentively; he made, perhaps,
some mathematical calculation. At last he said, triumphantly: "ell done!" ames had steered
them like a born sailor.
54. 1here! Cam thought, addressing herself silently to 1ames. You've got it at last. For she
knew that this was what 1ames had been wanting..He was so pleased that he was not going
to let anybody share a grain of his pleasure. His father had praised him. 1hey must think that
he was perfectly indifferent.
ames has received a victory in the Iorm oI a long-delayed compliment Irom his Iather.
Theme of Laws and Order
Mrs. Ramsay is extremely attuned to harmony and discord, and she also takes on the task oI
creating as much harmony as possible. This is a double-edged sword because she Irequently
sacriIices truth in order to preserve harmony. She adheres to a certain ideal oI the world in which
everyone is united and everything is at peace.
1. To what extent is Mrs. Ramsay`s preIerence Ior harmony positive?
2. hat causes division among the houseguests in the Iirst place?
3. How do Mr. Tansley and Mr. Carmichael play into the harmony vs. discord schema?
Characters in To the Lighthouse preIer Mrs. Ramsay to Mr. Ramsay because she values the
promotion oI harmony while her husband errs on the side oI discord.
55. As if the link that usually bound things together had been cut, and they floated up here,
down there, off, anyhow. How aimless it was,, how chaotic, how unreal it was, she thought,
looking at her empty coffee cup. Mrs. Ramsay dead; Andrew killed; Prue dead too.
The Ramsays` chaotic morning causes Lily to Ieel isolated Irom the rest oI the Iamily.
mportant Quotations Explained
5ô. ho will not secretly rejoice when the hero puts his armour off, and halts by the window
and gazes at his wife and son, who, very distant at first, gradually come closer and closer, till
lips and book and head are clearly before him-who will blame him if he does homage to the
beauty of the world?
Explanation Ior Quotation 1 ~~
As Mr. Ramsay strolls across the lawn in Chapter VI oI 'The indow,¨ he catches sight oI Mrs.
Ramsay and ames in the window. His reaction comes as something oI a surprise given the
troubled ruminations oI his mind described just pages beIore. He, like nearly every character in
the novel, is keenly aware oI the inevitability oI death and the likelihood oI its casting his
existence into absolute oblivion. Mr. Ramsay knows that Iew men achieve intellectual
immortality. The above passage testiIies to his knowledge that all things, Irom the stars in the
sky to the Iruits oI his career, are doomed to perish. Here, rather than cave in to the anxieties
brought on by that knowledge, punish ames Ior dreaming oI the lighthouse, or demand that Mrs.
Ramsay or Lily lavish him with sympathy, Mr. Ramsay satisIies himselI by appreciating the
beauty that surrounds him. The tableau oI his wiIe and child cannot lastaIter all, they will
eventually move and break the posebut it has the power, nevertheless, to assuage his troubled
mind. These moments integrate the random Iragments oI experience and interaction in the world.
As Mr. Ramsay brings his wiIe and son visually 'closer and closer,¨ the distance among the
three shortens, buoying Mr. Ramsay up Irom the depths oI despair.
57. Could loving, as people called it, make her and Mrs. Ramsay one? for it was not
knowledge but unity that she desired, not inscriptions on tablets, nothing that could be written
in any language known to men, but intimacy itself, which is knowledge.
Explanation Ior Quotation 2 ~~
These musings come Irom Lily in Chapter IX oI 'The indow,¨ as she and illiam Bankes
stand on the lawn watching the Ramsays. Bankes criticizes Mr. Ramsay Ior his hypocrisy in
being narrow-minded, and Lily is about to respond with a criticism oI Mrs. -Ramsay when she
notices the look oI rapture on Bankes`s Iace. She realizes that he loves Mrs. Ramsay, and she
Ieels that this emotion is a contribution to the good oI humanity. Overwhelmed with love herselI,
Lily approaches Mrs. Ramsay and sits beside her. Her thoughts here are noteworthy because they
point to the distinction between ways oI acquiring knowledge: instinct, on the one hand, and
intelligence, on the other. Mrs. Ramsay knows what she does oI the world by the Iormer method,
while Mr. Ramsay depends upon 'inscriptions on tablets.¨ Here, as she wonders how one person
comes to truly know another, Lily straddles the line that separates emotions Irom intellect, and
that separates Mrs. Ramsay Irom her husband. This position anticipates Lily`s role at the end oI
the novel, when she stands watching Mr. Ramsay`s boat and indulges in powerIul remembrances
oI Mrs. Ramsay. At that moment, Lily arrives at her elusive vision, completes her painting, and
achieves the unity she craves in the above passage.
58. It partook . . . of eternity . . . there is a coherence in things, a stability; something, she
meant, is immune from change, and shines out in the face of the flowing, the fleeting, the
spectral, like a ruby; so that again tonight she had the feeling she had had once today,
already, of peace, of rest. Of such moments, she thought, the thing is made that endures.
Explanation Ior Quotation 3 ~~
Chapter XVII oI 'The indow¨ is, in many respects, the heart oI the novel. In Mrs. Ramsay`s
dinner party, we see the rhythmic movement Irom chaos to order, Irom obscurity to clarity oI
vision, through which the novel progresses. The dinner party begins, to Mrs. Ramsay`s mind, as
something oI a disaster. Not all oI the guests have arrived (Paul and Minta, Ior instance, have yet
to return Irom the beach with Andrew and Nancy); Charles Tansley makes hostile comments to
Lily; Augustus Carmichael oIIends his host by asking Ior a second plate oI soup. Soon enough,
however, as darkness descends outside and the candles are lit, the evening rights itselI. Everyone
is content, as Mrs. Ramsay intends, and everyone will remember the evening as beautiIul and
right. This passage describes these rare, priceless moments, which take on a kind oI
psychological permanence. The guests will remember this evening and will experience, with
inexorable nostalgia, peace, and rest. In a world in which struggle and destruction are inevitable,
the possibility Ior such domestic respite provides great comIort.
59. [Sjhe could not say it. . . . As she looked at him she began to smile, for though she had not
said a word, he knew, of course he knew, that she loved him. He could not deny it. And
smiling she looked out of the window and said (thinking to herself, Aothing on earth can
equal this happiness)-
"Yes, you were right. It's going to be wet tomorrow. You won't be able to go." And she looked
at him smiling. For she had triumphed again. She had not said it: yet he knew.
Explanation Ior Quotation 4 ~~
This passage, taken Irom Chapter XIX oI 'The indow,¨ is a lyrical demonstration oI how
disjointed people and their Iragmented emotions can come together. Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay
represent opposite approaches to liIe. Possessed oI a stolidly rational and scientiIic mind, Mr.
Ramsay relies on what can be studied, proven, and spoken. Hence, at the end oI 'The indow,¨
he wants to hear Mrs. Ramsay declare her love Ior him. Mrs. Ramsay, however, navigates liIe on
a less predictable course. She is led by her emotions rather than her mind. This approach
provides her a greater range and Ireedom oI expression. For instance, she can express her
aIIection Ior her guests by orchestrating a lovely and memorable evening rather than Iorcing
herselI to articulate (or, like Mr. Ramsay, punish herselI Ior not being able to articulate) these
Ieelings. In oolI`s estimation, these traits are gender-speciIic. She argues that men are most
oIten satisIied by direct declarations, as when, in the novel`s Iinal pages, ames is molliIied only
by his Iather`s praise oI his sailing skills. omen, on the other hand, oIten convey their meaning
by what they choose 3ot to say. Like Mrs. Ramsay in her triumph at the end oI 'The indow,¨
Lily is able to convey her sympathy Ior Mr. Ramsay without pronouncing it: she lets him tie her
ôô. 1he Lighthouse was then a silvery, misty-looking tower with a yellow eye, that opened
suddenly, and softly in the evening. Aow-
1ames looked at the Lighthouse. He could see the white-washed rocks; the tower, stark and
straight; he could see that it was barred with black and white; he could see windows in it; he
could even see washing spread on the rocks to dry. So that was the Lighthouse, was it?
Ao, the other was also the Lighthouse. For nothing was simply one thing. 1he other
Lighthouse was true too.
Explanation Ior Quotation 5 ~~
As the Ramsays` boat approaches the lighthouse in Chapter VIII oI 'The Lighthouse,¨ ames
reIlects on images oI the ediIice that are competing in his mind. The Iirst is Irom his childhood,
when the lighthouse, seen Irom a distance, was a 'silvery, misty-looking tower.¨ The second
image, Iormed as he sails closer, is stripped oI its shadows and romance. The structure appears
hard, plain, and real. Its barred windows and the laundry drying on the rocks present nothing
magical. ames`s Iirst inclination is to banish one oI these pictures Irom his mind and grant the
other sovereignty, but he corrects himselI, realizing that the lighthouse is both what it was then
and what it is now. The task that ames Iaces is a reconciliation oI these competing images into a
whole truth. This challenge is the same one that Lily Iaces at the end oI the novel, Ior she must
reconcile her romantic vision oI, and disappointment with, Mrs. Ramsay. To do so and to admit
the complex, even contradictory, nature oI all things, the novel suggests, is to possess a greater
(and more artIul) understanding oI liIe.