Literature Study GuidesTo The LighthouseThe Window Chapter 4 Summary

To the Lighthouse | Study Guide

Virginia Woolf

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To the Lighthouse | The Window, Chapter 4 | Summary



As Lily Briscoe paints outdoors on the lawn, she fears someone might look at her work. Mr. Ramsay, running around outdoors, enacting and reciting poetry, almost knocks down her easel and says, "Some one had blundered," glaring at her and William Bankes standing nearby. Mr. Bankes suggests he and Lily take a walk. Lily agrees. As she stores her brushes, she contemplates craft and her frustration with her inability to recreate what she envisions.

Their "usual" route takes them to a view of the bay, where they find excitement in watching the waves. When Bankes gazes at the distant sand dunes, he thinks of Mr. Ramsay and is sad they grew apart after Mr. Ramsay married.

Returning to the house, Mr. Bankes speaks of his envy of the Ramsays, and Lily asks him to consider Mr. Ramsay's work. He appreciates her advice and admits he thinks of Mr. Ramsay's success often. Although the metaphysician's career peaked before 40, Mr. Bankes admits making a contribution is rare. Overwhelmed by her feelings for Mr. Bankes—thinking he is the "finest human being" she knows—Lily is, simultaneously, discouraged by his flaws, someone who "knows nothing about trifles." Mr. Ramsay shouts again, "Some one had blundered," then slams the door in their faces.


Lily Briscoe interacts with Mr. Ramsay and Mr. Bankes with different results. She is relieved when Mr. Ramsay, whom she considers "ridiculous" and "alarming," ignores her painting. Yet, as William Bankes approaches, she is glad to see him, feeling no impulse to hide her work. That William Bankes is the only person who would not cause her to "turn her canvas upon the grass" shows their level of comfort with one another. Her struggle with painting, recreating her vision, develops the theme of reality versus the ideal, as she cannot achieve the essence she has in mind.

Through the closeness and interactions between Lily Briscoe and William Bankes, Woolf explores the theme of love and loss. On their walk, Mr. Bankes talks through his lost platonic love, Mr. Ramsay. As childless widower, Mr. Bankes also represents lost romantic love. Lily, an artist, admits to being "in love with them all, in love with this world." Lily suffers knowing the limitations of a class-based and gender-based society. She is aware of how others see her ("her own inadequacy, her insignificance, keeping house for her father off the Brompton Road"); her past and present draw attention to her future—will she marry? will she paint?—as she opposes Charles Tansley, who believes women cannot create art, and Mrs. Ramsay, who thinks marriage and children are a woman's highest honor. As Mr. Bankes confides in Lily, she gushes over his "goodness," but believes "praise would be an insult" to him. Thus, displaying quiet longing. Lily fails to connect with even her closest, nonjudgmental friend as he confides in her.

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