On the sailboat, Cam looks at the shore and thinks “They don’t feel a thing there.” The sail suddenly loses the wind, sags, and the boat stills. Mr. Ramsay doesn’t stop reading but James dreads the moment his father will look up and criticize James’ handling of the sail. James considers his life-long desire to stab his father in the heart. He has realized as he’s aged that in fact it’s not his father but his father’s moods that he wants to kill. He compares those moods to a carriage wheel that mauls someone’s foot by running over it: the damage is done, but not done intentionally or maliciously. James feels that, whatever his profession, he will devote his life to fighting tyranny.
For Cam, distance continues to extinguish the meanings of life on land and makes her feel that people on the shore must be simpler, free of pain. James has borne his childhood resentment of his father throughout his life. But now, since he is no longer a child, James is able to abstract his father’s moods from the person of his father and identify Mr. Ramsay as a victim of his own personality.
James thinks back to his memories of childhood, and recollects his childhood vision of the Lighthouse as something “silvery, misty-looking…with a yellow eye.” But now it is “stark and straight” and detailed with stripes and windows. Still, he thinks his past vision of the Lighthouse is true, too. “For nothing was simply one thing.”
Since the Lighthouse functions in the novel as a symbol of human desire, James’ two perspectives of it also suggest the different perspectives and kinds of desires one possesses throughout one’s life, or as the difference between the dream of attainment of a desire and actual attainment. James himself recognizes that nothing possesses a single meaning: everything is multiple.
James 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 mother, whom he remembers as the only person who said “whatever came into her head” and “spoke the truth.” James exhausts his thoughts and sits miserable and motionless, resenting his father. Then all of a sudden wind bursts into the sail and the boat shoots forward. Mr. Ramsay remains completely absorbed in his book. He slaps his knee.
James memory romanticizes his mother as compared to his father. Chapter 1 ends with Mrs. Ramsay unable to explicitly articulate the true love she feels for Mr. Ramsay, but, in James memory, Mrs. Ramsay always speaks the truth. In his mind, she seems to embody such conventional female virtues as kindness and earnestness.