To the Lighthouse

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Mrs. Ramsay Character Analysis

Beautiful, charming, and nurturing, Mrs. Ramsey holds the Ramsay family together as she holds together every social context she enters by her charisma and instinct for putting people at ease. Mrs. Ramsay also holds To the Lighthouse together, for the novel’s shape is structured around her: her perspective dominates Chapter 1 and, even after she dies in Chapter 2, Mrs. Ramsay remains central in Chapter 3 as the surviving Ramsays manage their grief and Lily revisits her memories of Mrs. Ramsay and makes peace with her ghost. For her own part, Mrs. Ramsay exalts in the beauty of the world and, though she insists she is no thinker, frequently reflects on the nature of time and human experience. An eager matchmaker, Mrs. Ramsay is also, as Lily sees, an artist who can make out of the fleeting moment “something permanent”

Mrs. Ramsay Quotes in To the Lighthouse

The To the Lighthouse quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Ramsay or refer to Mrs. Ramsay. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Time Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt edition of To the Lighthouse published in 1989.
The Window, 1 Quotes

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 find agreeable, something trustful, childlike, reverential…

Related Characters: Mrs. Ramsay
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs. Ramsay offers these sympathetic comments on men after complaining about the character flaws of Charles Tansley. She wonders what precisely causes her to take such a positive stance on the sex.

That Mrs. Ramsay feels men are “under her protection” seems to put her in a position of empowerment, for she determines if they are seen positively or negatively. But that instinct also indicates the power men have exerted on her. Indeed, Mrs. Ramsay seems unable to fully explain her solicitous behavior, indicating it may be irrational or socially constructed. She attempts to brainstorm a variety of reasons: perhaps due to old-fashioned character tropes like “chivalry and valour,” perhaps pragmatically for legal, political, and economic reasons, or perhaps because of how men allow her to be agreeable within her own and others’ minds.

Woolf begins at the novel’s onset a subtle exploration of gender relations within a traditionally patriarchal society. She renders Mrs. Ramsay neither a crusader for female independence nor a simple domestically-confined housewife. Rather, Mrs. Ramsay reveals an awareness of the male forces that dictate her life and finds a source of empowerment in that awareness. Perhaps her protection is not blind, but rather a resourceful calibration of how men can be made useful to her. She is capable, Woolf demonstrates, of interrogating why she embraces traditional gender roles through this interior monologue, while maintaining the external presentation of social decorum.

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…it was only in silence, looking up from their plates, after she had spoken so severely about Charles Tansley, that her daughters—Prue, Nancy, 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, of ringed fingers and lace, though to them all there was something in this of the essence of beauty, which called out the manliness in their girlish hearts, and made them, as they sat at table beneath their mother’s eyes, honour her strange severity, her extreme courtesy…

Related Characters: Mrs. Ramsay, Charles Tansley, Nancy Ramsay, Prue Ramsay, Rose Ramsay
Page Number: 6-7
Explanation and Analysis:

After Mrs. Ramsay has lectured on Charles Tansley’s shortcomings, she pauses, and this space allows her children to reflect on their relationship to their mother—and on the distance between her worldview and theirs.

That the children are only able to visualize these alternative futures “in silence” points to how extensively Mrs. Ramsay has determined her children's personal and social realities. Any idea on “a life different from hers” is deemed “infidel,” as if she has formed a religious cult around womanhood that can define what is spiritually good and evil. The main point of contention concerns men: to have a “wider life” to to question the “deference and chivalry” that Mrs. Ramsay has previously held up as essential to her personality. Indeed, this passage engages directly with the reasons she might find men defensible, citing first chivalry and then economic and political forces: “the Bank of England and the Indian Empire.”

By retracing these same potential reasons to laud and value men, the children conclude that there is indeed something inspiring about their mother—precisely because she can elicit “the manliness in their girlish hearts.” That is to say, Mrs. Ramsay’s unique skill is to rely on gender roles and binaries but to be so adept at maneuvering them that she turns what might be disempowering into a form of empowerment. Consider, for instance, how Woolf takes terms like “severity” and “courtesy” that might both be fodder for critique—and instead with the addition of the adjectives “strange” and “extreme” marks them as warped but useful social tools. Playing off of these stereotypes may make Mrs. Ramsay the subject of her daughters’ critique, but she also inspires their “honour.”

The Window, 3 Quotes

…the monotonous fall of the waves on the beach, which for the most part beat a measured and soothing tattoo to her thoughts and seemed consolingly to repeat over and over again as she sat with the children the words of some old cradle song, murmured by nature, ‘I am guarding you—I am your support’, but at other times suddenly and unexpectedly, especially when her mind raised itself slightly from the task actually in hand, had no such kindly meaning, but like a ghostly roll of drums remorselessly beat the measure of life, made one think of the destruction of the island and its engulfment in the sea, and warned her whose day had slipped past in one quick doing after another that it was all ephemeral as a rainbow…

Related Characters: Mrs. Ramsay
Related Symbols: The Sea
Page Number: 15-16
Explanation and Analysis:

The conversation on plans to see the lighthouse pauses once more, and Mrs. Ramsay suddenly becomes preoccupied by the sound of the waves outside. She observes how the ocean can be both calming and frightening depending on the context in which she hears it.

Woolf is playing here with a writing technique called the “pathetic fallacy.” The term was coined for poets who described a natural phenomenon as if it has human emotion, when in fact the emotion actually belonged to the speaker of the poem or the poet. (It is a fallacy because the body of water is not actually supportive or remorseless, but rather becomes a vehicle for Mrs. Ramsay to make sense of her own emotional state.) Woolf takes the pathetic fallacy out of an isolated moment and instead makes it the subject of longer musings by different characters throughout the text: she exposes and complicates the term by making Mrs. Ramsay aware of the fact that her perceptions of the ocean change depending on her mood and state of mind.

In Mrs. Ramsay’s specific case, the emotional significance of the waves depends on whether they are accompanied by a “task.” When she is preoccupied in her own endeavors, fulfilling her maternal role, their largeness is soothing. When, on the other hand, she can focus fully on their existential “measure of life,” she becomes more philosophical and worries about the smallness, the “ephemeral” quality of her life in comparison to the ocean’s scale. Thus we can see Mrs. Ramsay’s character as one who finds significance and peace in her tasks—one for whom the ocean brings solace to contextualize those tasks, but if focused on solely, will unleash an abstract anxiety about time and meaning.

The Window, 5 Quotes

For always, [Mr. Bankes] thought, there was something incongruous to be worked into the harmony of [Mrs. Ramsay’s] face. She clapped a deer-stalker’s hat on her head; she ran across the lawn in galoshes to snatch a child from mischief. So that if it was her beauty merely that one thought of, one must remember the quivering thing, the living thing…and work it into the picture.

Related Characters: William Bankes (speaker), Mrs. Ramsay
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs. Ramsay is now measuring a stocking, but the scene has slowly zoomed out into first her own mind and then to an external narrative. Here, the the narrator takes on the perspective of Mr. Bankes to reflect on the odd constitution of Mrs. Ramsay’s beauty.

What Mr. Bankes fixates on is the difference between an external beauty and a beauty constituted by internal character and by the action inspired by that character. This is what is “incongruous” and what therefore cannot be explained just by a visual “face.” And to make sense of this, Mr. Bankes cites more energetic and erratic behaviors of Mrs. Ramsay—stressing that her character is far from pristine and vacant. He summarizes this “something incongruous” as “the quivering thing, the living thing,” asserting that while it may be odd in some sense, it also provides a source of stimulation and vigor. Indeed, it is the thing that makes her “living,” that makes her human.

This passage speaks to the exact literary strategy Woolf employs when describing Mrs. Ramsay. Traditional, realist writing would only convey physical details and actions taken by a character, but Woolf delves deeply into Mrs. Ramsay’s mind—as if she herself wants to render for us “the quivering thing.” Indeed, Mr. Bankes' reference to integrating that quality “into the picture” stresses the importance of human interiority in art like that of Lily or Woolf herself. The text implies that pictures alone will mis the the living essence of someone, and that artists must remember to include this quality in their work.

The Window, 6 Quotes

The extraordinary irrationality of [Mrs. Ramsay’s] remark, the folly of women’s minds enraged [Mr. Ramsay]. 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.

Related Characters: Mrs. Ramsay, Mr. Ramsay
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

Mr. Ramsay is infuriated by Mrs. Ramsay’s supposedly irrational belief that the weather will allow them to visit the lighthouse. He defines a striking divergence in their personalities in which Mrs. Ramsay prefers niceties to facts.

Woolf’s text does not lend full allegiance to either side of the debate. It may focus of the “extraordinary irrationality” of what Mrs. Ramsay has said and call her hope for a sunny day mere “lies,” but this language is also being partially constituted by Mr. Ramsay. Indeed, his quick movement from a single comment by his wife to an overarching note on “the folly of women’s minds” parodies how quickly people generalize small instances of human interaction. The bombastic language only grows more dazzling as Mr. Ramsay describes his journey as one through “the valley of death,” making it increasingly difficult for the reader to take his comments seriously. By juxtaposing that rhetoric with his complaints on Mrs. Ramsay’s lies, Woolf shows a certain irony in Mr. Ramsay’s thought process: He is telling his own set of lies to himself—not about something like the weather but about the way he has conceived of himself and of his wife. Thus Mrs. Ramsay’s concern for others is deemed no more false than Mr. Ramsay’s own concern for his self-esteem. Woolf implies that though each one might set up a binary relationship between the two, each is also capable of committing the sin for which they criticize the other.

To pursue truth with such astonishing lack of consideration for other people’s feelings, to rend the thin veils of civilsation so wantonly, so brutally, was to [Mrs. Ramsay] so horrible an outrage of human decency that, without replying, dazed and blinded, she bent her head as if to let the pelt of jagged hail, the drench of dirty water, bespatter her unrebuked.

Related Characters: Mrs. Ramsay, Mr. Ramsay
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Mrs. Ramsay responds to Mr. Ramsay’s outburst. She offers the opposite opinion on the value of fact, arguing that the quest for the truth is only meaningful if accompanied by a sense of human decency.

It’s notable how Mrs. Ramsay uses similarly inflated language here as Mr. Ramsay: Whereas he saw himself as having traveled through “the valley of death,” Mrs. Ramsay describes him as a “pelt of jagged hail, the drench of dirty water.” They thus both recreate their own identities in order to fit their argument. And if Mr. Ramsay’s language was ironically untruthful, Mrs. Ramsay’s is paradoxically uncouth. She complains of how Mr. Ramsay’s can “rend the thin veils of civilisation,” but her own sentence is similarly “wantonly” in that it is thought immediately without any self-editing.

Woolf points out, then, the disjunct between our logically formulated opinions and the way in which our immediate opinions are phrased. The split between the factual Mr. Ramsay and the courteous Mrs. Ramsay is only the tip of the iceberg that obscures an entire psychic complexity within each of their minds. Once more, Woolf’s work points out how radically differently people view their experiences and, even as we might construct a binary between the two of them (or between men and women in general), their internal experiences may reveal more commonality than first perceived.

The Window, 11 Quotes

All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others. Although she continued to knit, and sat upright, it was thus that she felt herself; and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures. When life sank down for a moment, the range of experience seemed limitless. And to everybody there was always this sense of unlimited resources, [Mrs. Ramsay] supposed.

Related Characters: Mrs. Ramsay
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs. Ramsay has now left James and reflects, alone, while looking out to the ocean. She observes how without other people or social responsibilities, she holds within her an endless range of possibilities.

The language in this passage describes two contradictory experiences: the disappearance of the self into invisibility, as well as the expansion of one’s opportunities. Mrs. Ramsay first reflects on the difference between a social identity and a solitary one: The first is constituted by “the being and the doing”; it is large, visual, and auditory, and makes a distinct mark on the world, whereas the second is a silent, small “core of darkness.” Yet that invisibility is not a process of self-abnegation, but rather brings Mrs. Ramsay into more direct contact with her own identity. And this identity is not a fixed sense of self, but rather is defined as the potential for “the strangest adventures,” “limitless,” and “unlimited resources.” The passage implies that a firm sense of self is not necessarily defined by external actions and by fitting into a social network, but rather by quiet moments that actually open one’s identity up into various possibilities. And it marks a striking shift from Mrs. Ramsay’s earlier preference for distraction amidst domestic concerns, for here she feels most empowered when she is alone.

Here Woolf is building on a tradition in romantic literature that valued the solitary, brooding hero who separated himself from society to reflect on identity. But she takes that trope away from its epic context and places it within a home, in the small moments after putting a child to bed. (This also takes the romantic from the more masculine hero and places it in the "feminine" domestic sphere, to which women were often confined.) This is a striking statement on the ability of the human mind to create its own depth and reality: Mrs. Ramsay can think philosophically on the most serious concerns of identity with neither professional employment nor fanciful adventures but simply by employing her mind.

The Window, 17 Quotes

It partook, [Mrs. Ramsay] felt, carefully helping Mr. Bankes to a specially tender piece, of eternity; as she had already felt about something different once before that afternoon; there is a coherence in things, a stability; something, she meant, is immune from change, and shines out (she glanced at the window with its ripple of reflected lights) 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 remains for ever after. This would remain.

Related Characters: Mrs. Ramsay (speaker), William Bankes
Page Number: 105
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs. Ramsay breaks into this moving commentary in the midst of the dinner scene. Though she has previously focused on small human interactions, alternatively appreciating and complaining about the behavior of others, here she sees the moment as beautiful and timeless.

This contrast between banal dinner interactions and Mrs. Ramsay’s sudden rapture can be seen already in the first line. Woolf separates the sentence into “It partook” “of eternity” with a clause on the distribution of dinner meat, stressing how the aesthetic merit of the scene is the result of how a human mind frames the otherwise meaningless occurrences. What constitutes this merit, for Mrs. Ramsay, is the structural unity of the event: its “coherence” and “stability” that mark it more as permanent work of art as opposed to a fleeting moment. Again, this sense does not reflect any actual permanence in the events, which are far from “immune to change”: rather, they have appeared to Mrs. Ramsay’s mind in such a way that they seem archetypal and sanctified—and thus able to “remain.”

The passage brings together a number of important themes in the novel. It summons the specter of human mortality by fixating repeatedly on the eternity of the scene: Mrs. Ramsay regards it with fascination because it seems to escape the laws of time that have preoccupied her throughout the day. That it does so by appearing to be a work of art reiterates the importance various characters have given to their artistic pursuits—but also points out that an artwork is less the providence of sculpture or painting, and far more the result of human perception. Through her vision, Mrs. Ramsay has transformed the scene before her into a piece of art that “would remain” and thus redeem any human triviality.

The Window, 19 Quotes

And then there it was, suddenly entire shaped in [Mrs. Ramsay’s] hands, beautiful and reasonable, clear and complete, the essence sucked out of life and held rounded here—the sonnet.

Related Characters: Mrs. Ramsay
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:

After the dinner has ended, Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay sit beside each other reading. The narrator recounts their vastly different relationships to reading, here focusing on how Mrs. Ramsay seeks an energizing progression to the climax of a text.

This relationship to poetry recalls what Mrs. Ramsay had previously found eternal and meaningful in the dinner scene: the way it was fully unified and coherent. For “the sonnet” is the stereotypical structured format of poetry, one that gives this exact sense of the “clear and complete.” Woolf portrays Mrs. Ramsay’s aesthetic preferences to be those that offer the reader this sense of solace and of “essence”: Some arduous work is required to complete the sonnet, but at its end it is presented quite directly before the reader. Such a relationship to literature contrasts notably with that of Mr. Ramsay, who seeks the confirmation in text that he need not worry about personal achievement. So if Mrs. Ramsay looks for ecstatic unity, Mr. Ramsay hopes for affirming peace. Woolf shows, then, how these different characters’ perceptions of reality also dictate their interpretations of and expectations for literature—a clever comment on how differently people will interpret her novel.

The Lighthouse, 3 Quotes

Mrs. Ramsay making of the moment something permanent (as in another sphere Lily herself tried to make of the moment something permanent)—this was of the nature of a revelation.

Related Characters: Mrs. Ramsay, Lily Briscoe
Page Number: 161
Explanation and Analysis:

Lily connects her memories of Mrs. Ramsay to her realization about the meaning of life. She concludes that the two pursued identical goals of giving the fleeting moment a more eternal existence.

That Lily defines “a revelation” as “making of the moment something permanent” reiterates the importance of eternity to the definition of meaning and artwork. It develops the idea that significance comes from “daily miracles” but extends the earlier passage to claim that those ephemeral moments must somehow be stretched into “something permanent.” Human life is thus not inherently aesthetic, but it can become so if a skilled enough artist can stretch it throughout time to create “a revelation.” For Lily, this happens through painting, while for Mrs. Ramsay it is a matter of creating and examining social scenes.

As is the case throughout the novel, Woolf’s use of parenthesis complicates the narrative perspective. Parentheses are often used in the novel to switch narratorial voice and to offer an alternative or broader perspective on the scene—or on a character’s thoughts. Here, they directly link Mrs. Ramsay and Lily’s forms of art, but it remains unclear whether Lily herself is defining the similarity, or if the narrator is doing it for her. The ambiguity is important because whoever speaks the parentheses is creating her own sort of eternal artwork: by linking Mrs. Ramsay’s behavior to Lily’s, the parenthetical speaker is herself defining an idea that stretches across time and across people and thus has itself “a more eternal existence.” In a sense, that artist is Woolf, for she as a writer is the one who has connected moments across years, aestheticized them, and written them into eternity through the novel.

The Lighthouse, 11 Quotes

One wanted fifty pairs of eyes to see with, [Lily] reflected. Fifty pairs of eyes were not enough to get round that one woman with, she thought. Among them, must be one that was stone blind to [Mrs. Ramsay’s] beauty.

Related Characters: Mrs. Ramsay, Lily Briscoe
Page Number: 198
Explanation and Analysis:

Still pondering the relationship between her painting and the external world, Lily points out the flaws and biases inherent in any single visual perspective. She takes Mrs. Ramsay as her example of how people’s identities cannot be so easily understood from just one point of view.

Lily’s observation here is the logical conclusion that both art and memory capture a partial moment and preserve it for eternity. She wants to crystallize in that artwork the complete "quivering" essence of Mrs. Ramsay, but also realizes that this would require not just her own perspective on the woman but also those of many, many others. This wish to more fully understand the nature of people speaks to Lily’s maturity, for she can now recognize that what other people (like Mr. Ramsay or Mr. Bankes) valued in women she had previously found rather banal. Lily concludes, however, that capturing a person in art is in an impossible feat. Human subjectivity will prevent her from ever forming a complete image—in either painting or in memory—of Mrs. Ramsay.

We should note that this is an observation that several other characters have had, even if phrased in different ways. At this exact moment, for instance, James is observing how the lighthouse can stand for many different things, and at the novel’s onset Mrs. Ramsay pointed out how the ocean could be experienced as either calming or frightening. That this observation on multiple conflicting perceptions is actually shared by many characters thus unifies them even as it articulates their mental distance. Woolf’s novel returns again and again to the idea that people experience external reality vastly differently, constantly misunderstanding each other as a result. Yet by creating a common set of thoughts, images, and conclusions in their minds, she also points out a consistency in human nature that can provide the basis for mutual experience.

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Mrs. Ramsay Character Timeline in To the Lighthouse

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Ramsay appears in To the Lighthouse. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Window, 1
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The novel opens in a summerhouse on the Isle of Skye with Mrs. Ramsay , Mr. Ramsay, their little son James (who is cutting pictures from a magazine), and... (full context)
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Mrs. Ramsay thinks how “odious” Charles Tansley is, but also how she chastises her children for teasing... (full context)
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Mrs. Ramsay reflects on Tansley’s self-absorption, which is what makes the children hate him. She remembers having... (full context)
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On their way off to town, Mrs. Ramsay asked the stoned Mr. Carmichael if he wanted anything, then flattered Tansley during the walk... (full context)
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Mrs. Ramsay exclaimed at a circus tent and Tansley awkwardly confided to her that he had never... (full context)
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Passing the quay where a bunch of artists are gathered painting, Mrs. Ramsay marveled at the beauty of the view then reflected that “since Mr. Paunceforte had been... (full context)
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Waiting downstairs as Mrs. Ramsay visited one of the houses in town, Tansley realized “she was the most beautiful person... (full context)
The Window, 2
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...James,” and though he inwardly attempts to make his voice sound nice “in deference to Mrs. Ramsay ,” she thinks him an “odious little man” to keep saying what he says. (full context)
The Window, 3
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Mrs. Ramsay attempts to comfort James by reminding him there is still a chance the weather the... (full context)
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Mrs. Ramsay is suddenly alarmed to hear the sound of waves unaccompanied by the rhythms of human... (full context)
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Mrs. Ramsay realizes Mr. Ramsay has shaken off Mr. Tansley, ending their conversation. She listens for “some... (full context)
The Window, 5
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Mrs. Ramsay has been knitting a stocking for the Lighthouse keeper’s tubercular boy and, hoping to finish... (full context)
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The perspective zooms out to consider Mrs. Ramsay ’s beauty, recounting people’s curiosity about her as a person living behind “an uncomparable beauty”... (full context)
The Window, 6
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As Mr. Ramsay approaches the window on his march round and round the lawn, Mrs. Ramsay can see right away that her husband is in anguish, “all his vanity, all his... (full context)
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Hearing that Mrs. Ramsay is trying to finish the stocking in case they go to the Lighthouse the next... (full context)
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...though now it sounds to him “changed” and he hums it, then drops it altogether. Mrs. Ramsay smiles, listening. The vague shape of his wife and child at the window “fortified him... (full context)
The Window, 7
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...Ramsay’s] emotion” which interrupted “the perfect simplicity and good sense of his relationship with [ Mrs. Ramsay ]” and draws his mother’s attention away from him. James feels his parents’ chit-chat as... (full context)
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Mrs. Ramsay feels in perfect sync with Mr. Ramsay as he walks away, though the joy of... (full context)
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Mr. Carmichael trudges by in his slippers outside just as Mrs. Ramsay is painfully considering “the inadequacy of human relationships, that the most perfect was flawed” and... (full context)
The Window, 8
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Mrs. Ramsay considers Mr. Carmichael who has been coming to the summerhouse every summer for years and... (full context)
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Mr. Ramsay passes the window just as Mrs. Ramsay reads about the Fisherman reluctantly going out to sea, thinking ‘it is not right’ and... (full context)
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...“the father of eight children has no choice—,” Mr. Ramsay turns back to look at Mrs. Ramsay and James. He admits he is “for the most part happy,” in his family, in... (full context)
The Window, 9
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Standing on the lawn with Mr. Ramsay striding about and Mrs. Ramsay reading at the window, Mr. Bankes and Lily discuss the Ramsays. Mr. Bankes laments that... (full context)
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Before answering, Lily considers Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay , feeling it is only possible to discuss them when they are out of sight... (full context)
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Then, as Lily is about to answer Mr. Bankes with a criticism of Mrs. Ramsay , she notices that Bankes is gazing at Mrs. Ramsay in utter “rapture,” “love that... (full context)
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...opinion that women can neither paint nor write. She remembers she was going to criticize Mrs. Ramsay , and looks up to try to discern the specificity of Mrs. Ramsay’s person within... (full context)
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...the abstraction and shadows and Lily explains that it is both “of” and “not of” Mrs. Ramsay and James, talking about the painting in terms of form. To her delight, Mr. Bankes... (full context)
The Window, 10
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...races by Lily, Mr. Bankes, and Mr. Ramsay on the lawn and only stops after Mrs. Ramsay calls to her twice to send her to ask Mildred the cook if Andrew, Minta... (full context)
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Mrs. Ramsay tries and fails to remember if Nancy had gone along with Andrew, Minta, and Paul.... (full context)
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Mrs. Ramsay looks at James and wishes he and Cam could stay their age forever. She thinks... (full context)
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Mrs. Ramsay does not think she is a pessimist, “only she thought life--…Life: she thought but she... (full context)
The Window, 11
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With James gone, Mrs. Ramsay relishes being alone. Her whole being “shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself,... (full context)
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Mrs. Ramsay ’s mind cycles loosely through snippets of phrases, but when it suddenly alights on the... (full context)
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Mrs. Ramsay as always emerges from solitude by “reluctantly…laying hold of some…sound, some sight.” She looks at... (full context)
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Mr. Ramsay, all the while, is admiring Mrs. Ramsay ’s beauty but resolving not to interrupt her, despite feeling injured by her distance. Then,... (full context)
The Window, 12
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Walking together, Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay chat affectionately about the household and children, Mrs. Ramsay suppressing her worry about the cost... (full context)
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Walking on arm in arm, Mrs. Ramsay sees the Lighthouse and, not liking to be reminded that she had “let herself sit... (full context)
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...that, “if he could not share her thoughts…he would be off,” but wants to assure Mrs. Ramsay before he goes that she needn’t worry about Andrew out walking and that he himself... (full context)
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“Poor little place,” murmurs Mr. Ramsay and Mrs. Ramsay is annoyed, thinking he is always just “phrase-making,” saying “the most melancholy things” and seeming... (full context)
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Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay continue walking and she thinks fondly about how strong her husband is, how he is... (full context)
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Mrs. Ramsay catches sight of Lily and Mr. Bankes walking on the lawn and it occurs to... (full context)
The Window, 13
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As she and Mr. Bankes come upon Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay watching Prue and Jasper playing catch on the lawn, Lily thinks “so that is marriage”... (full context)
The Window, 14
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...to actually propose, he is now eager to tell about it and wants to tell Mrs. Ramsay as he feels she’s “made him” do it by filling him with confidence in himself.... (full context)
The Window, 15
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Prue replies to Mrs. Ramsay that she thinks Nancy did go on the walk. (full context)
The Window, 16
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Finishing up dressing for dinner in her bedroom with Jasper and Rose, Mrs. Ramsay tries to push aside an inward fear that something bad has happened to Nancy, Andrew,... (full context)
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Observing how carefully and seriously Rose chooses her mother’s necklace for her, Mrs. Ramsay tries to think back to her own childhood, “some quite speechless feeling that one had... (full context)
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Then, her outfit complete, Mrs. Ramsay invites the children to escort her downstairs. Catching sight of the rooks again outside the... (full context)
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Entering the hall, Mrs. Ramsay discovers Nancy, Paul, Minta, and Andrew returned, and immediately feels “much more annoyed with them... (full context)
The Window, 17
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Sitting down at the head of the dinner table, Mrs. Ramsay is suddenly overcome with fatigue and hopelessness. “But what have I done with my life?”... (full context)
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Watching Mrs. Ramsay , Lily notes that, asking Mr. Bankes about the letters, Mrs. Ramsay goes from looking... (full context)
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Mr. Tansley resents Mrs. Ramsay ’s yoking him into small talk about letters and resolves “not…to be condescended to by... (full context)
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Mrs. Ramsay is meanwhile asking Mr. Bankes all about the Manning family from whom he’s received a... (full context)
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Mrs. Ramsay has to turn away for a moment to consult with a servant and, left hanging,... (full context)
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Overhearing Mrs. Ramsay and Mr. Bankes’ expressions of etiquette, Mr. Tansley, having never spoken “this language” of etiquette,... (full context)
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Yet, seeing within Mrs. Ramsay ’s quick glance an immense desperation imploring Lily to help her with Mr. Tansley, Lily... (full context)
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Disappointed to find Mr. Bankes has lost interest in discussing the Mannings, Mrs. Ramsay feels “something lacking.” Overcome by “the disagreeableness of life,” Mr. Bankes feels likewise. They turn... (full context)
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Mrs. Ramsay hopes Mr. Ramsay will say something characteristically wise and make the subject of the fishing... (full context)
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Mrs. Ramsay gets up to light the candles, pitying Mr. Carmichael for having to suffer Mr. Ramsay’s... (full context)
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Mrs. Ramsay admires Rose’s arrangement of the fruit bowl, which looks to her like “a trophy” from... (full context)
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Mrs. Ramsay lights the candles and the light turns the indoors into stable, orderly ground and the... (full context)
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...that he enjoyed teasing her, made friends by acting “even more ignorant than she was.” Mrs. Ramsay knows all about her husband’s affection for Minta and all voluptuous tomboys like her. She... (full context)
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As he starts to explain the cause for their delay, Mrs. Ramsay can tell just from Paul’s using the word ‘we’ that he and Minta are engaged.... (full context)
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Mr. Bankes finds the beef delicious and praises Mrs. Ramsay , feeling, once again, that she is remarkable, wonderful, an object of “reverence.” Mrs. Ramsay... (full context)
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As Mrs. Ramsay talks, Lily observes how she is at once “childlike” and “frightening,” how she always gets... (full context)
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Mrs. Ramsay , talking about milk in England, sees Lily’s distance (as Lily thinks about love) and... (full context)
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Mrs. Ramsay feels suddenly that everything is, “for no special reason,” right and good in the moment,... (full context)
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...the men argue about literature and Mr. Tansley aggressively flaunts his opinion to assert himself, Mrs. Ramsay feels her eyes effortlessly unveil the speakers, like light moving underwater so that the fish... (full context)
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As the men argue about literature’s endurance and legacy, Mrs. Ramsay can see that, while Mr. Bankes is unperturbed in his “integrity,” Mr. Ramsay is starting... (full context)
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When offered a piece of fruit, Mrs. Ramsay declines it and realizes she has been unconsciously guarding the beautifully composed fruit bowl, hoping... (full context)
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Mrs. Ramsay looks at all of her children and, seeing they are titillated by some mysterious joke,... (full context)
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Dinner is done and Mrs. Ramsay swells with affection for everyone, even Mr. Tansley. She hears everyone’s voices “as at a... (full context)
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Mrs. Ramsay waits for a moment on the threshold “in a scene which was vanishing even as... (full context)
The Window, 18
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Lily observes that as soon as Mrs. Ramsay leaves, “a sort of disintegration set in.” She notes that Mrs. Ramsay is always rushing... (full context)
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Mrs. Ramsay goes slowly on the stairs, wanting to be still amidst “that clatter” in order to... (full context)
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Seeing the furniture on the landing that she’s inherited from her parents, Mrs. Ramsay thinks how “[a]ll that will be revived again in the lives of Paul and Minta... (full context)
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Entering the nursery, Mrs. Ramsay is annoyed to find James and Cam still awake, arguing about the pig skull on... (full context)
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Mrs. Ramsay descends downstairs and finds Minta, Paul, Lily and Prue planning to go watch waves on... (full context)
The Window, 19
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Entering the sitting room in which Mr. Ramsay sits reading, Mrs. Ramsay feels “she had to come here to get something she wanted.” What she wants has... (full context)
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Mrs. Ramsay observes that Mr. Ramsay is absorbed reading a book by Sir Walter Scott, which she... (full context)
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Mrs. Ramsay sits knitting and feels herself “sinking deeper” towards something she wanted, still not knowing what... (full context)
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Mrs. Ramsay begins reading feeling she is “swinging herself” from line to line. Mr. Ramsay reads Scott... (full context)
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Mrs. Ramsay puts down her book and searches for things to say to Mr. Ramsay. They are... (full context)
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Mrs. Ramsay feels from Mr. Ramsay’s look that he wants her to tell him she loves him.... (full context)
Time Passes, 3
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...Mr. Ramsay reaches his arms out in the hallway on a dark morning and, since Mrs. Ramsay has died suddenly the previous night, his arms “remained empty.” (full context)
Time Passes, 8
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...flowers for herself from the garden. She has heard rumors about the family’s deaths. Seeing Mrs. Ramsay ’s old gray cloak, Mrs. McNab recalls a memory of her walking up the drive... (full context)
The Lighthouse, 1
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...Mr. Ramsay’s imposing presence, Lily thinks angrily that he only knows how to take, while Mrs. Ramsay had always given. She, Lily, will be forced to give, she thinks and, after inwardly... (full context)
The Lighthouse, 3
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...summerhouse ten years before. She recalls skipping stones on the sea with Mr. Tansley while Mrs. Ramsay sat on a beach rock writing letters and, by the power of her soul, making... (full context)
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...She reflects that there has been no “great revelation,” only “little daily miracles.” She compares Mrs. Ramsay ’s “making of the moment something permanent” to her own project as a painter. Both... (full context)
The Lighthouse, 5
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...recounting the reality of Paul and Minta’s failed marriage and her own unmarried life to Mrs. Ramsay , who had been such an eager matchmaker. She wants to tell Mrs. Ramsay that... (full context)
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Lily remembers how Mrs. Ramsay had planned to set her up with Mr. Bankes. Inside parentheses, Lily remembers feeling the... (full context)
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Thinking back to Mr. Bankes’ great admiration for Mrs. Ramsay ’s beauty, Lily considers beauty’s “penalty” which is that “it came too readily…too completely.” Beauty... (full context)
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...say so much that she would have no clear thing to say. She feels that Mrs. Ramsay has gone from being a harmless ghost to being something that “wrung the heart.” Lily... (full context)
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...roll itself up; the space would fill; those empty flourishes would form into shape” and Mrs. Ramsay would return. She calls Mrs. Ramsay’s name aloud, crying. (full context)
The Lighthouse, 7
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Still crying Mrs. Ramsay ’s name in anguish, Lily thinks how silly she must look and is glad Mr.... (full context)
The Lighthouse, 8
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...remembers Mr. Ramsay dashing his hopes about going to the Lighthouse as a child and Mrs. Ramsay ’s attention being deflected away from James towards his father. He thinks back to his... (full context)
The Lighthouse, 11
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...way of knowing people…the outline, not the detail.” She recalls how he had never liked Mrs. Ramsay . (full context)
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Lily thinks back on Mrs. Ramsay , on her idiosyncrasies and unique character. She thinks how Mrs. Ramsay differed both from... (full context)
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Lily considers Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay ’s marriage and feels like she can remember their courtship, which she never witnessed. She... (full context)
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...“moving underneath with extreme speed.” Somebody in the house sits down at the window where Mrs. Ramsay had once sat and Lily thinks, painting again, that the goal is to feel that... (full context)
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...into despair. But the despair, then, “became part of ordinary experience” and Lily feels that Mrs. Ramsay sits knitting in the chair. Lily goes to the edge of the lawn still holding... (full context)