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To the Lighthouse

To the Lighthouse


by Virginia Woolf

Mr. Ramsay Timeline and Summary

  • Mr. Ramsay tells James that the weather will be awful tomorrow, and James will not be able to visit the Lighthouse.
  • Mr. Ramsay (we don’t know this when we read it) comes out of the house shouting lines from Lord Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade, and almost upsets Lily Briscoe’s easel.
  • Mr. Ramsay walks over to his wife and son. He’s distraught, but doesn’t say anything.
  • He and his wife chat about Charles Tansley and the possibility of going to the Lighthouse tomorrow. Mrs. Ramsay thinks still it’s possible, while Mr. Ramsay does not. He’s irritated that his wife disagrees.
  • Mr. Ramsay thinks that female minds are irrational.
  • After Mrs. Ramsay bends her head, Mr. Ramsay feels bad. He promises to ask the Coastguards about the weather.
  • Mr. Ramsay leaves, murmuring "someone had blundered" under his breath.
  • Mr. Ramsay walks up and down around the garden, and thinks for a long time about how to take over the world. OK, we’re kidding. He’s thinking about his contributions to society, and wondering how long they’re going to last.
  • Mr. Ramsay goes over to his wife and kids again and declares that he’s a total failure.
  • Mrs. Ramsay strokes his ego until he finally leaves to watch the kids play cricket.
  • Mr. Ramsay stops, looks at his wife reading a fairy tale to James, nods approvingly, and continues walking.
  • As he walks, he thinks. What is he thinking about? In a sentence: he wonders what would happen if Shakespeare had never existed, and somehow concludes that the greatest good of society requires a class of slaves.
  • Mr. Ramsay walks to a piece of land which he can’t seem to avoid. The sea is eating it away.
  • Mr. Ramsay always needs praise.
  • Mr. Ramsay walks back to the house, stopping once to look back at the sea.
  • Mrs. Ramsay takes a green shawl and goes to her husband, knowing that he wants to protect her.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay walk past the greenhouse, which is beginning to get repaired.
  • Mrs. Ramsay brings up Jasper’s fondness for shooting defenseless creatures and Mr. Ramsay says that it’s natural, and for her not to worry about it.
  • They chat some more about Charles Tansley, Prue (Mr. Ramsay doesn’t see her beauty), the garden, etc.
  • Mr. Ramsay brings up Andrew, saying that if the boy doesn’t work harder, he’ll lose a scholarship. Mr. Ramsay will be proud if Andrew gets a scholarship; Mrs. Ramsay will be proud either way. They like this balance in each other.
  • Then there’s a paragraph about what the two of them can’t say to each other.
  • Mrs. Ramsay expresses worry that some of the kids aren’t back yet, but Mr. Ramsay glosses over her fears.
  • The two of them reach a place where the Lighthouse can be seen again.
  • Mr. Ramsay looks around at everything and murmurs to himself, "poor little universe."
  • Mrs. Ramsay brings up the idea that Mr. Ramsay would have written better books had he not married her.
  • He says that he’s not complaining, and then kisses her hand passionately. Hot.
  • Mr. Ramsay shouts at a woman named Mrs. Giddings.
  • Mr. Ramsay makes some comment about the flowers to please his wife.
  • At dinner later on, Mrs. Ramsay looks down the table at her husband, expecting him to be magnificently holding forth about fishermen and their wages, but he is instead looking very angry that Augustus Carmichael has asked for another bowl of soup.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay, sitting at opposite ends of the table, have a mental argument.
  • Mr. Ramsay teases Minta, telling her it was foolish to take jewelry to the beach. That’s what their relationship is like – Minta giggles and flirts and Mr. Ramsay calls her a fool.
  • Dinner finishes, but Mr. Ramsay is telling Minta some absurd story.
  • Mr. Ramsay and some of the other guests start reciting poetry.
  • Mr. Ramsay reads in his study.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay make awkward conversation.
  • Mr. Ramsay continues to look at Mrs. Ramsay, but Mrs. Ramsay feels the look change. He wants her to tell him "I love you." She cops out by telling him he was right about tomorrow’s weather.
  • After time passes and Mrs. Ramsay dies, Mr. Ramsay finally gets back to the summer house with his kids.
  • The next morning, he’s in a bad mood because James and Cam aren’t ready for their expedition to see the Lighthouse.
  • Mr. Ramsay goes outside and stalks Lily as she paints. Without saying anything, he demands her sympathy.
  • Mr. Ramsay looks at Lily and notes that she has shriveled, that Mrs. Ramsay liked Lily, that he, too, likes Lily, and that Lily has not married Mr. Bankes.
  • Mr. Ramsay is having a moment. In this moment, he becomes hell bent on making the nearest woman give him something that he really, really needs. Don’t get too excited, he just wants some sympathy.
  • Mr. Ramsay keeps making desperate plays to get Lily’s sympathy, but Lily seems incapable of giving it.
  • Finally Lily says something. She tells Mr. Ramsay that he has beautiful boots. This is not what Mr. Ramsay wanted, but he smiles.
  • Mr. Ramsay goes off on the awesomeness of his boots, and then disses Lily’s method of shoelace tying. He shows her his method of shoelace tying, which is far superior.
  • James and Cam interrupt the shoelace tying party, looking serious. Mr. Ramsay joins them for their expedition across the bay to the Lighthouse.
  • Mr. Ramsay sits in the middle of the boat and pouts. (Figuratively. The pouting, we mean, not the sitting.)
  • Mr. Ramsay tells the Macalister boy and Macalister to start rowing.
  • Mr. Ramsay points up their house. He imagines himself receiving lots of sympathy, then begins softly reciting a Cowper poem.
  • Mr. Ramsay asks them all to look at the island they are sailing towards.
  • Cam could see nothing. Her father begins to tease her about points of the compass – doesn’t she know them?
  • Mr. Ramsay thinks a disparaging comment about women, but he decides he will try to make Cam smile at him.
  • He asks her questions about a puppy.
  • Mr. Ramsay is reading like he wants sympathy.
  • Mr. Ramsay is almost finished with his book. He is reading quickly, as if eager to finish.
  • They’re almost at the Lighthouse.
  • Mr. Ramsay closes his book and tells his children that it’s time for lunch.
  • Mr. Ramsay hands out sandwiches.
  • Macalister and Mr. Ramsay compare stories, since they are 75 and 71 years old, respectively.
  • Mr. Ramsay praises James’s sailing.
  • Two men stand waiting at the Lighthouse for them. Mr. Ramsay takes out the parcel Nancy prepared.
  • Mr. Ramsay tells his children to bring the parcels for the Lighthouse men and then springs up onto the rock like a young man.