Literature Study GuidesTo The LighthouseThe Window Chapter 12 Summary

To the Lighthouse | Study Guide

Virginia Woolf

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To the Lighthouse | The Window, Chapter 12 | Summary

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Summary

Outside Mrs. Ramsay talks about how handsome their gardener Kennedy is. Seeing the ladder against the greenhouse, she decides against bringing up the repair cost. Mrs. Ramsay is concerned about Jasper Ramsay shooting birds, but her husband insists he will grow out of it. The two discuss Charles Tansley and his objectionable attributes and hope he does not pursue Prue. Mr. Ramsay, whom Tansley worships, says he (Tansley) is "not a polished specimen." They disagree on Andrew Ramsay. Mr. Ramsay wishes Andrew would apply himself, but Mrs. Ramsay is happy whether he does or does not. Mr. Ramsay tells his wife not to worry about Minta Doyle and Paul Rayley, still not back from their walk. When she asks him what he wanted to tell her—hoping for an apology following their earlier disagreement—he confesses he hates seeing her "sad." Uncomfortable about her husband witnessing this emotion, the dutiful wife avoids eye contact. He wants to return to his thoughts, alone.

Missing long walks in the sand dunes, he says if the weather permits he might go for a walk. Although doubting him, she acknowledges his wish. He looks at the sea, the erosion, and moans, "Poor little place," annoying Mrs. Ramsay.

He kisses her hand. She sees a star and wants to show him but stops because he is not an observer of such things. He pretends to look at the flowers, and she knows he is pretending. When Mrs. Ramsay sees William Bankes and Lily Briscoe walking, she thinks they should marry.

Analysis

Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay's conversation builds tension as their differences and disagreements become more apparent. Mr. Ramsay accuses Mrs. Ramsay of their daughters' embellishing stories, saying they learn it from her. They disagree over scholarships for Andrew. Yet the couple develops the theme of love and loss by showing one another little graces. For example, on the verge of saying Charles Tansley is the only person who likes his book, Mr. Ramsay stops himself. Mrs. Ramsay decides against telling Mr. Ramsay the cost of the greenhouse repairs. Even though they are annoyed with their differences, their disagreements do "not matter." For the most part, they seem to appreciate their differences; she enjoys his enthusiasm about scholarships, and he likes her to be "proud of Andrew whatever he did."

In response to Mr. Ramsay's "phrase-making," Mrs. Ramsay thinks about suicide. Supposing she said "half" the things her husband said, she thinks "she would have blown her brains out by now." This statement alludes to mental health issues, deepening the conflict because Mr. Ramsay is concerned and Mrs. Ramsay is self-conscious about her sadness. The reference foreshadows her death.

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