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To the Lighthouse
by Virginia Woolf
To the Lighthouse Part 3, Chapter 4 Summary
Mr. Ramsay sits in the middle of the boat and pouts. (Figuratively. The pouting, we mean, not the sitting.) James and Cam are nervous and also a bit ticked off that their dad essentially forced them on this trip. Mr. Ramsay tells the Macalister boy and Macalister, who are in the boat with the Ramsays, to start rowing. James and Cam simultaneously wish that their dad’s desires were denied in every way. They make an unspoken pact to be as quietly uncooperative as possible. The good, old silent treatment. Old Macalister tells amusing stories and Cam almost breaks the pact. They’re having a nice sail. It’s a nice day. James is steering the boat. The Macalister boy is fishing. Mr. Ramsay points out their house. He imagines himself receiving lots of sympathy, then begins softly reciting a Cowper poem. The words of the poem make Cam angry. Mr. Ramsay asks them all to look at the island they are sailing towards. Cam could see nothing. Her patronizing father begins to tease her about points of the compass – doesn’t she know them? Mr. Ramsay thinks a disparaging comment about women generally, but he decides he will try to make Cam smile at him. He asks her questions about a puppy. James, hand on the tiller, knows that Cam will yield and he will be left alone to fight tyranny. Cam surprises James. She doesn’t answer her father’s question about the puppy’s name. James thinks briefly of his mother surrendering to his father. The Macalister boy catches a mackerel. Although Cam doesn’t surrender, she secretly sends her dad good vibes. She wants to yield, but she remembers that her dad’s tyranny has poisoned her childhood and stays silent.
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