On the sailboat, James watches Mr. Ramsay looking very old reading and thinks he is the image of “that loneliness” which they both believe resides at the heart of everything. Approaching the Lighthouse, James is pleased to feel that it somehow rebukes the optimistic pleasantries of old ladies among the garden at home. He feels he shares this knowledge, too, with his father, and recites a line of poetry (“We are driving before a gale—we must sink”) just like his father would.
Time has aged Mr. Ramsay and refined James’ feelings towards his father. He can now see that, despite his resentment of Mr. Ramsay’s moods, he and his father share an understanding of the meaning of life. He also shares his father’s inclination to turn to poetry to express life’s gloom.
Cam thinks how, while she and James have resolved to fight their father with a pact of silence, Mr. Ramsay is totally oblivious of the fact and thereby flies, as he often does, out of reach of anyone trying to snare him. Mr. Ramsay initiates lunch and, as they eat, Cam feels steadied by his presence. She feels they are simultaneously having an ordinary lunch and making an adventurous escape from shipwreck, as in the story she’s telling herself.
Mr. Ramsay’s inability to perceive other people’s interior states frees him from the burden of people’s silently conveyed messages and moods. As Lily seeks to balance the ordinariness of life with life’s miraculous mystery, so too does Cam balance these two visions of life over lunch.
Macalister’s boy points out that they’ve reached the spot on the water where the ship had sunk and three men had drowned. James and Cam dread Mr. Ramsay exclaiming the line, “But I beneath a rougher sea,” but, to their relief, he does not. They are nearing shore and their father praises James’ steering. Cam knows that James must be ecstatic, having finally gotten the praise from his father that he most wants. Yet James is so happy, that he does not show any sign of it, afraid of losing any part of his pleasure by sharing it with the world.
James and Cam are pleasantly surprised to realize that their father is not as transparently predictable as they think he is. Cam feels that James’ desire for his father’s praise organizes his whole life and gives it meaning. James, like Mrs. Ramsay, is expert at concealing his interior emotions behind his external appearance.
As the sailboat pulls up to the Lighthouse, James and Cam watch Mr. Ramsay all ready to leap off the boat and wonder what he’s thinking, what drives him, what he wants. They each long to offer to give him anything. But he asks nothing of them and they have no insight into his mind. He directs the children to bring the packages for the Lighthouse men and stands in the boat’s bow. James thinks he looks as if he is proclaiming that there is no God. Cam thinks he looks as if he is leaping into space. He jumps “like a young man” onto the rock and his children follow him.
Mr. Ramsay continues to be opaque to his children. Though they each feel Mr. Ramsay embodies the meaning of life, his own interior life and personal desires are unknown to them.