To the Lighthouse | Study Guide

Virginia Woolf

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To the Lighthouse | The Window, Chapter 14 | Summary



Nancy Ramsay reluctantly accompanies Minta Doyle on the walk only because she asks her expectedly with "her dumb look." Nancy does not want to be "drawn into it all." On their way Andrew observes Minta; he approves of her sensible clothing and rashness but worries her fearlessness (she is afraid only of bulls) might lead her "to kill herself in some idiotic way." Andrew dislikes Paul Rayley's habit of calling him "old fellow" and "clapping him on the back."

At the beach Andrew goes to the Pope's Nose. Nancy searches for sea anemones in the pools. Paul and Minta—alone—stay on the beach. Nancy broods, rendered motionless by the "intensity" of her "feelings" of "nothingness." When the tide rises, Andrew yells the sea is rising. Andrew and Nancy walk away from the shore, witnessing Paul and Minta in an embrace.

On the cliff top Minta realizes she has lost her grandmother's heirloom brooch. They return to search for it but without luck, Andrew feeling annoyed at having to do this and even more annoyed with Minta's outburst about her fear of the tide and loss of the brooch. During their return Paul comforts Minta, who weeps, and promises to go back at dawn despite the danger. Paul vows to find the brooch or buy her another. Contemplating his and Minta's future together, Paul plans to speak with Mrs. Ramsay, who "made him" propose, made him feel as though he could do anything. As they arrive back at the house, he notices the lights are on. They are late.


Because of the shifting points of view and stream of consciousness, much of the novel's action and conflict are internal. External action is often noted within parentheses or brackets, setting it aside from characters' internal lives. The entire chapter is enclosed in parentheses. Mrs. Ramsay has been worrying about the group and isn't sure where Nancy is; this chapter provides an external explanation.

It seems Nancy and Andrew are invited on Minta and Paul's walks as easygoing, or inattentive, chaperones. Andrew's and Nancy's annoyance with Minta and Paul develops tension. The Ramsay children, uninterested in Minta and Paul's romantic relationship and in each other, go off by themselves individually, but they share in commiseration, thinking they "had not wanted this horrible nuisance to happen." They dislike Minta and Paul all the more.

On the trip there Minta holds and releases Nancy's hand often, and Nancy watches the town from the cliff. Both actions create more distance between them. Andrew's observations of Minta, whose "rashness" is both a strength and fault, reveal her character as foolish and self-centered. Like Mrs. Ramsay, Andrew mentions suicide, believing Minta will "kill herself in some idiotic way," foreshadowing not her death, but his.

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