Literature Study GuidesTo The LighthouseThe Lighthouse Chapter 4 Summary

To the Lighthouse | Study Guide

Virginia Woolf

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To the Lighthouse | The Lighthouse, Chapter 4 | Summary



The boat hardly moves, and Cam and James hope they will have to turn back. The siblings worry their father's behavior will make Macalister and his son, whom they hired to take them to the lighthouse, "uncomfortable." After Macalister's son rows out farther, the boat takes off.

As Mr. Ramsay and Macalister talk about a big storm in which 11 ships were driven into the bay, Mr. Ramsay becomes engrossed in and connected to the story. Cam admires her father's strength, thinking he would have been among the rescuers, a feeling that threatens her resolve to join her brother in fighting their father's tyranny.

Then reciting the closing lines of William Cowper's "The Castaway," Mr. Ramsay points out their house to Cam, startling her. He points again. All look, but Cam fails to see it. He mocks and scolds her. Annoyed yet charmed by women, he tries to remedy the situation by asking about their puppy. She answers halfheartedly and then ignores his subsequent question. He reaches for his book, and she stares at the island, remembering his "crass blindness and tyranny."


The people on the boat are in close proximity but interact little, their internal lives dominating their external lives, and thus highlighting the lack of connection among them. The one exception is Macalister and Mr. Ramsay's connection during the discussion of the storm.

This social tension in the boat is reminiscent of Mrs. Ramsay's dinner. Because Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay represent oppositions, the events they host reflect these differences: an intimate dinner within the house and an adventurous excursion outdoors.

Forced into Mr. Ramsay's ritual, Cam and James are angry. In "The Window" the siblings fought about the skull, but here, 10 years later at 17 and 16, respectively, they are united, developing their characters and their connection. In response to their father's authoritarian personality, they promise each other to "resist tyranny to the death," thereby deepening the tension and interpersonal connection on the boat.

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