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… read analysis of Mrs. Ramsay
Observant, philosophical, and independent, Lily is a painter pitied by Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay in Chapter 1 for her homeliness and unattractiveness to men. Still, though Mrs. Ramsay thinks nothing of her painting and wants… read analysis of Lily Briscoe
As brilliant and passionate as he is petty, bossy, and demanding, Mr. Ramsay is a victim of his own mercurial moods and is always shifting in the opinion of those around him. Characters loathe his… read analysis of Mr. Ramsay
One of Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay’s children, James is as bitter and resentful of his father as a six-year-old in Chapter 1 as he is as a sixteen-year-old in Chapter 3. Yet, by Chapter… read analysis of James Ramsay
One of Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay’s children, Cam is a wild seven-year-old girl in Chapter 1 and in Chapter 3, a dreamy seventeen-year-old who imagines fantastic adventures and secretly admires her father despite his imperiousness.
An impoverished, priggish, self-absorbed, and charmless student of Mr. Ramsay’s who stays at the summerhouse in Chapter 1. Despised by everyone, Mr. Tansley tries desperately to “assert” himself and is self-righteous about his financial independence, snobbery, and parsimoniousness.
Even-tempered and judicious, Mr. Bankes is a bachelor botanist and old friend of Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay who stays at the summerhouse in Chapter 1. Though Mrs. Ramsay hopes he will marry Lily, he and Lily instead enjoy a lifelong platonic friendship.
One of Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay’s children, Nancy accompanies Andrew, Paul, and Minta on their walk along the cliffs and intuits Minta’s inward desperation, though she is too young to fully understand its cause.
A dumb but good-hearted young man—what Mrs. Ramsay affectionately calls a “boobie”—Paul is a visitor at the summerhouse in Chapter 1 and is inspired by Mrs. Ramsay to propose to Minta. The lovestruck Paul’s utter indifference to Lily defines Lily’s lifelong understanding of romantic love.
A dreamy opium addict and unknown poet in Chapter 1, Mr. Carmichael’s poetry meets unexpected success during World War I and he is famous by Chapter 3. Yet, in both chapters, Mr. Carmichael is most often seen sitting in a sleepy, silent daze on the summerhouse lawn.
The most intelligent of Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay’s children, Andrew is a budding mathematician in Chapter 1 of whom Mr. Carmichael is especially fond. Soon after Mrs. Ramsay’s death, Andrew dies in World War I.
A golden and voluptuous tomboy of whom Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay are both extremely fond, Minta stays at the summerhouse in Chapter 1. At Mrs. Ramsay’s encouragement, Minta is engaged to Paul Rayley, though the marriage turns out to be a failure.
The most beautiful of Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay’s children, Prue is just on the verge of entering womanhood in Chapter 1 and admires Minta wonderingly. In Chapter 2, Prue marries soon after Mrs. Ramsay’s death, then dies a few months later in childbirth.
One of Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay’s children, Rose has a sophisticated aesthetic sense despite her young age and arranges the fruit bowl on the dinner table in Chapter I to breathtaking effect.
One of Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay’s children, Jasper shoots birds with little remorse as a young child in Chapter 1 and is said to care for Cam’s puppy a decade later in Chapter 3.
One of Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay’s children, Roger is wild and adventurous, like Nancy.
The world-weary caretaker and housekeeper for the summerhouse who maintains (then abandons) the house in the Ramsays’ absence and prepares it for their return.
The Swiss Maid
A young maid in the summerhouse, the Swiss Maid’s melancholy about her father dying in the mountains touches Mrs. Ramsay to the core.
A Scottish fisherman and native of the Isle of Skye, Macalister accompanies Mr. Ramsay, James, and Cam to the Lighthouse.
A Scottish fisherman and native of the Isle of Skye, Macalister’s Boy assists Macalister and accompanies Mr. Ramsay, James, and Cam to the Lighthouse.
A native of the Isle of Skye, Mrs. Bast helps Mrs. McNub prepare the summerhouse for the Ramsays’ return after ten years have passed.
The cook at the Ramsay's house on the Isle of Skye.