Literature Study GuidesTo The LighthouseTime Passes Chapter 9 Summary

To the Lighthouse | Study Guide

Virginia Woolf

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To the Lighthouse | Time Passes, Chapter 9 | Summary



The house sits deserted and in continued disrepair. As it is about to disappear into the "sands of oblivion," Mrs. McNab receives a letter asking her to prepare the house. She and Mrs. Bast arrive with cleaning supplies. George, Mrs. McNab's son, cuts the lawn and traps animals. They employ contractors to repair the house. "Slowly and painfully" the house is restored. Mrs. McNab recounts happier times in the house, recalling once again Mildred the cook. One September evening Lily Briscoe and Augustus Carmichael arrive.


Other than wild things (toads, swallows, butterflies, and thistle), the lighthouse beam is the only thing that enters the house. The lighthouse, representing inaccessibility and the multiple nature of things, illustrates the house's descent into ruin. Mrs. McNab and the people she hires save the deteriorating house despite the "pool of Time that was fast closing over them." The narrator's lyrical descriptions—"some rusty laborious birth seemed to be taking place"—represent the rebirth of life, the revitalization of the house.

The treatment of time is reflected in this chapter as it is in the 10 chapters of this section of the book, in contrast to the first and third sections. The repairs that occur over months are condensed into a few sentences, whereas part of a day is extended to 19 chapters.

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