To the Lighthouse | Study Guide

Virginia Woolf

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To the Lighthouse | The Window, Chapter 10 | Summary

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Summary

As Cam Ramsay runs past Lily Briscoe and William Bankes, Mrs. Ramsay calls her to deliver a message to the cook. Mrs. Ramsay wants to know whether Andrew, Minta Doyle, and Paul Rayley have returned from their postlunch walk. When Cam says they have not, Mrs. Ramsay, who thinks Paul and Minta should marry, believes the good-natured but not brilliant Paul has proposed.

In the house, Mrs. Ramsay continues reading to James. Because Minta is staying with her, Mrs. Ramsay, conventional in her views on proper social behavior, considers herself responsible to Minta's parents, who were reluctant to let their unconventional daughter stay with the Ramsays because an unnamed woman had once accused Mrs. Ramsay of stealing her daughter's "affections." Mrs. Ramsay worries about her own outward appearances and gossip and is concerned about Minta's walks with Paul Rayley. In thinking of the hurtful accusation, Mrs. Ramsay reflects on her choices and behavior in influencing people, her halted dreams, and her wishes that her children stay young and happy—"for ever just as they were, demons of wickedness, angels of delight." "Feeling life rather sinister again," Mrs. Ramsay experiences guilt over influencing Minta's choice. She wonders if she is "wrong" in suggesting Minta, "only twenty-four," marry, knowing "too quickly" she had, "almost as if it [marrying and having children] were an escape for her too."

As the light wanes, Mrs. Ramsay thinks again about Paul, Minta, and Andrew, who have not yet returned. When she finishes reading to James, she looks at the lighthouse—now lit. Before James has a chance to ask about visiting it again, Mildred takes him away.

Analysis

Lily Briscoe's easel is grazed again, this time by Cam, the "wild" one. This repetitive action could signify how Lily's art is devalued because she is a woman. (No one interrupts the men talking on the terrace.) Initially Cam ignores her mother, who wonders what she is thinking about. Cam's disobedience reflects the distance between her and her mother, whereas James and Mrs. Ramsay seem inseparable, reflecting the dynamics of the parent/child relationships as seen in a Freudian context. In the house Mrs. Ramsay shoos Cam, displaying preference for James's company. After Cam leaves, Mrs. Ramsay is "relieved," for she and James share the same tastes and are comfortable together. Cam's rebellious nature likens Cam to Lily, who doesn't value Mrs. Ramsay's ideals for herself (marriage and children). Mrs. Ramsay's thoughts about Minta and Paul illustrate social expectations for women. Because of how much time Minta and Paul spend alone, Paul is considered a suitor, and Minta is expected to marry him. In Mrs. Ramsay's mind, Minta's excessive time alone with Paul could damage her reputation.

Mrs. Ramsay's warm feelings toward Paul display her aversion to the "clever men" of her husband's circle, building tension and revealing details about the Ramsays. To Mr. Ramsay, his wife's "pessimistic" views are a source of contention. While Mrs. Ramsay tends to believe life is "sinister," Mr. Ramsay is "more hopeful" and "happy," possibly because of the attention and admiration he forces all to give him.

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