Study Guide

To the Lighthouse Part 1, Chapter 16

By Virginia Woolf

Part 1, Chapter 16

  • Jasper and Rose come into Mrs. Ramsay’s room as she’s getting ready for dinner, asking if dinner should be postponed until the missing members return.
  • Mrs. Ramsay, mindful that fifteen will be sitting down to dinner, tells Jasper to tell the cook not to put dinner on hold.
  • Rose receives permission to pick out the jewels her mother will wear at dinner.
  • Mrs. Ramsay is annoyed that the missing four are late, because she wants tonight’s dinner to be especially nice. William Bankes had finally agreed to eat with them, and the cook will be serving a magnificent boeuf en daube. Mrs. Ramsay wants everything to be precise and perfect.
  • Her children (now that Jasper has joined them) offer necklaces to try against her dress.
  • Mrs. Ramsay looks out the window absentmindedly and watches some rooks (birds) trying to decide where to settle down.
  • She has named one of the old birds Joseph.
  • The birds start fighting and then leave.
  • Mrs. Ramsay deliberately lets Rose take her time in choosing the necklace she is to wear.
  • After also choosing a shawl, all the preparations are finally over and Mrs. Ramsay descends to dinner with Jasper and Rose.
  • Jasper is talking to Mrs. Ramsay about the birds when Mrs. Ramsay is distracted by some commotion in the hall.
  • Mrs. Ramsay is eager to find out if Paul and Minta are now engaged, but knows she’ll have to wait.
  • She descends the staircase and is compared to a queen accepting tribute from her people. Yes. She’s apparently that beautiful.
  • Anyway, Mrs. Ramsay smells something burning and worries that it’s the boeuf en daube.
  • The dinner gong sounds (apparently just yelling "dinner!" doesn’t work for these people) and everyone drops what they’re doing and heads to the dinner table.