To The Lighthouse


‘Can we go to the Lighthouse?’ Mrs. Ramsay answered the question of her son, James as ‘Yes, if it is fine’. She was the mother of 8 children; Nancy, Andrew, Prue, Cam, Mildred, Rose, Jasper and James whose utterance was followed Mr. Ramsay’s sentence; ‘It won’t be fine.’ It is easy to read James’s face Mrs. Ramsay thought that how he hated his father and he seemed like dreaming about killing him. He is not alone in that feeling actually; Mr. Ramsay was not liked by the other children either. Mrs. Ramsay was knitting a red item which she was planning to finish for the people staying at the Lighthouse; she seemed like a mother for all including the people in her surroundings. The house she was living is actually helpful about her character having many rooms for the visitors and even there were many people staying at that “home” at that time including Lily Briscoe, Charles Tansley people were mocking on him as a follower of Ramsays, Augustus Carmichael and some visitors such as William Bankes. Mrs. Ramsay always behaved in a protective way that this time she was taking Tansley under her wings telling that he was actually invited. After taking care of the children she asked Tansley to go out for some purpose of hers. When they were at the garden she was asked to give her bag to him, which was the point they both started feeling something strange. It was like sharing her responsibilities with someone, which she was not familiar with due to being the wife of Mr. Ramsay who was a lecturer and writer, a different character who tried to act like a normal human being just to please his wife. He seemed like living in a dream or utopia when he was staying away from the house staring at his old yet beautiful wife who was reading for the youngest children, James. He could stay like that for a long time knowing how lucky he was to have such a wife and a family but he was feeling more than that. He was a lonely man actually with his so called intellectual mind speaking to Hume and his friends.

When William entered the veranda in which Mrs. Ramsay was looking some pictures for James to cut, which was the scene actually be painted by Lily as a purple rectangular in a geometrical way. Lily was a little girl with her little Chinese eyes on whom Mrs. Ramsay felt pity and wanted to arrange a situation in which Lily and William could be alone. Their marriage was the thing she wanted at that time, which made her question about her own marriage actually. Was she happy with that man? What was interrupting all her insights was that the money needed for the roof, which she remembered every single hour over and over again. William was talking about the light and the dark side of the picture in which Lily was painting the mother and the son. Lily was comparing William and Mr. Ramsay at that very moment feeling him as the most sincere, true and lovely man, to whom she seemed feeling more than friendship, maybe she was trying to praise him as much as she could do remembering how he explained heaven. ‘Just think about a kitchen table when you are not there. ‘He was a widower at that time and that was the thing captured Mrs. Ramsay’s mind actually as it was the common empathy she felt with unmarried or widowed people like Lily, William and also Carmichael who was having big troubles with his wife and seeking peace at that home away from his “wife”. When it was the time for the children to play crickets, Mr. Mrs. Ramsay went out to watch them while William and Lily was wondering about the garden full of flowers in which Ramsays were walking afterwards even if they did not share what the other couple seemed to talk about. How Mrs. Ramsay wanted to talk about the beauty of the place and the sunset, however, there was Mr. Ramsay as the escort who was the man of books and the life in them. Even he tried his best talking about the flowers Mrs. Ramsay made the gardener plant.

These two were the real symbols of marriage when they were watching their children play cricket before walking close to each other, Mrs. Ramsay wearing her green shawl thought Lily. Even she saw Mr. Ramsay as an egoist she could not call him as hypocrite as William perfectly did and sought her support. She tried to analyze the character of Mrs. Ramsay thinking about herself laughing over her knees. That seemed sincerity even if she thought something was lacking. Maybe the beauty of hers was the wall surrounding Lily living her alone or she could get how Mrs. Ramsay was trying to get the attention of the people around by helping the poor and the needy. She was thinking about her picture among the insights of her and she decided to move the tree in the picture so that it could be nicer.

Mrs. Ramsay felt like an individual when it was late so that she did not need to take care of the home including the 8 children, which she also felt while looking out of the window, observing the people outside and writing columns to ease her life staying a little bit away from her responsibilities even she was an untrained writer. While knitting her red wool, she thought how gifted her children was and each of them had something special. ‘Prue is the most beautiful one, Andrew is good at Mathematic even praised by Andrew, James is the most sensitive one. Nancy and Roger are quite wild, Rose? Rose has a big mouth but even she is gifted in terms of her hands. Jasper is shooting birds which I do not appreciate but I believe that that is a stage which will be over in a time.’ “Why they grow up that fast?  Do they have to?” she asked to Mr. Ramsay. “Do not be that much pessimist. Do not think life as something gloomy, damn you.” ‘Was she the pessimist one?’ She was thinking about the reality; they would not feel as happy as they were at that time. When she heard that no one made any noise then she could sleep with the relief of everything was all right.

The other day was special for Mrs. Ramsay as William was going to stay for the dinner so she made the detailed orders for the maid. And she was carrying on her knitting work and also thinking about how to make Minta and Paul marry and also she should make Lilly and William come together. She was fond of Minta, the beautiful daughter of the Owl and the Poker. She was brave and easy to be the first when there was something to try…something new. However, she was also the one who was really afraid of the bulls. She was not that much hard thinker and just talked what she wanted to.  Mrs. Ramsay was the person who had the power to persuade people for anything she wanted which actually led Paul propose to Minta when they were walking on the beach. Nancy, Cam and Andrew were behind them and they actually saw the two kissing each other. And after that Minta lost her grandmother’s brooch for which they spent so much time seeking and were all late for the dinner, which was learned by Mrs. Ramsay afterwards when Paul wanted to thank her for her support which triggered Paul to believe that he could do anything he wanted.

When dinner time came closer, Mrs. Ramsay was at her room arranging her clothes and letting Rose choose her jewelers which could match the black dress she wore for the event. 50 years old, grey haired Mrs. Ramsay was yet beautiful to get all the attention, however, Tansley was in trouble seeing how women made civilization impossible with all their charm and silliness. ‘Talk, talk, talk, eat, eat, eat…’He did not have the proper clothe for that evening on the other side. After having a small talk with William about the people they both knew, she was all wondering about Paul and Minta, at that very moment they appeared at the door. Mr. Ramsay was so silent that evening which was spoilt when Carmichael wanted one more plate soup, which made him angry as he hated when people carried on after he finished with his meal. That atmosphere was changed when Minta sat next to him. Since then he started enjoying the evening and quoting beautiful verses, which was rooted in his wife’s mind even he thought that she could not understand anything she read. After the meal, he was reading his book while she was knitting something. She did not seem sad he thought observing every little detail of her face waiting for her telling him how she loved him, which was the thing impossible for his wife, yet she replied his stare with smiles, which was enough for him to know how he was loved. 


The whole day sitting before the canvas, Lily Briscoe was processing her Picture in a strange manner sometimes moving her brush in a fast way and sometimes she seemed forgetting about all she was painting. Why I see that canvas blurry? She asked herself. That salty liquid in her eye hole referred to something sad already happened. Was that sadness all due to Mrs. Ramsay’s death or its outcome? She asked without helping. While she was trying to arrange something to do as to seem busy, Mr. Ramsay was gathering around the staff he was going to use during and after his long voyage. It was around half past seven and he was planning to go to the Lighthouse with his children; James, 16; Cam, around 17. Even if Lily did not focus on what he was doing, her mind seemed busier than her hands when she used them while drying her eyes. Mr. Ramsay, a 71-year-old man was exactly how he used to be she thought with all his finest leathered boots, frayed tie and half-buttoned waistcoat. He was namely well-dressed. He stood there like a perfection seeker who already did what he could do about himself, which did not help Lily to feel sympathy for him till his simple commentary on the styles used while knotting his boots, on which she was able to make a compliment. “If you knot that shoe properly that will never unknot” he said, already practicing his theory by knotting and unknotting her shoe three times. Even if she could not see him as a man or maybe herself as a woman, she accepted inside that she felt sympathy for him, which Ramsay was seeking from any kind of female including his daughter.

While she was singly playing with her brush, there appeared James and Cam. They were ready this time for the voyage which they could not manage the day before due to their poor time management. When there is something alive in the room other then Mr. Carmichael she felt not happy but more relaxed as she would not be the only focus if Mr. Ramsay was around. Carmichael was a green eyed, promising poet with a yellow stain on his beard. He was always reading a book unless he snored and this time he was carrying a French one. Sometimes Lily was foreseeing his future as a famous poet or she was dreaming about it without reading how he generally wrote. Not about love but about death she heard from someone.

Staring at these two still people, Ramsay asked whether they wanted to join him or not.  Therefore there are seven people in the ship, Lily, Carmichael, Ramsay with his children and a fisherman with his son. As an addict or an obsessed, Lily was with her brush and canvas. She seemed tired already even if she was a 44-year-old lady with Chienese eyes which actually helped her observe her surrounding without being captured.

As a day-dreamer, she was with Mrs. Ramsay on the shore now. That time, she was the observer and hearing her laughters as a funny font, Lily and Charles Tansley were playing ducks and drakes. She was choosing a tiny flat black Stone, while Mrs. Ramsay was writing letters the number of which she could not follow exactly. Feeling that blurry vision again, she felt that lack of Mrs. Ramsay in anything including the world of Mr. Ramsay, the children and her. She tried to fill the hollowness inside with her mourning. Even if Mrs. Ramsay was death, Lily seemed carrying on her competitions against her strong, well-organized, positive and strict character. She was sad without reason but also seeing herself as a bachelor, she smiled remembering Mrs. Ramsay’s obsession about marriage, for which she even worked somehow. She was the tie between Paul and Minta which turned out to be a golden ring in the end. What would happen if she could see Paul in coffee houses with a mistress? She asked herself. She was happy with the way she was.

While sailing all among the waves, she noticed that she cannot paint non-stop and without rest. Contemplating and painting simultaneously should be the reason exhausting her. She tried to see the name of the book Mr. Ramsay was holding in his hand. It was a little shiny book; he seemed he was reading with some hesitation just like the way she painted her canvas. When he stopped he seemed like he was clarifying what he was thinking about or maybe he was trying to find a solution for the problems either he faced in the book or in the life. Heading to Mr. Carmichael, who was already reading from his mind with closed-eyes, she could not benefit him other then the lonely but self-sufficient atmosphere he had with his French book between his hand and the surface of the deck. Other then herself the only unoccupied person was Cam in the ship playing with the water putting her fingers in water. James was all responsible for steering the ship till they got to the shore of the Lighthouse. He was even praised by the fisherman not by the father for the good job he did as a sailor, which seemed quite odd and Lily could get the anger in his eyes against his father who was always giving orders doing nothing other than that. He seemed like imagining a way to kill his father, that way could be a knife or a blade, but the place must be his heart she thought. Are they accusing him of killing Mrs. Ramsay? She was disturbed by the question of Mr. Ramsay for the girl about where east and west was. Cam was not good at such staff and that scene seemed a mocking on the girl, which Mr. Ramsay tried to change asking her about her favorite subject. That actually helped in an extent even if it did not seem like. Cam looked at the eyes of James to show how simple and vulnerable their dad was, but she was left alone with her sympathy. That sympathy is the one for which Mr. Ramsay was actually dying when it came either from his daughter or Lily but not from any male such as James. While thinking about all her surrounding or the objects making her remember her past, she was actually carrying on moving her brush. When she moved her head from the canvas she saw Mr. Ramsay as ready to disembark from the ship with a smile on his face. At that very moment she got that she not only finished her picture but also he arrived to the Lighthouse and Mr. Carmichael seemed finished about his book read by half-open eyes. 

Notes about the Changes in the Narration


As a realist try on to the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, I needed to place a vantage point by which I could see everything without being as an omniscient author, which is believed to be a kind of lie and a handicap before the depiction of reality as we see in the Ambassador, which is a famous example of Henry James for realist novel. We all see everything from the eyes of Strether and that way is possible when James includes that man in any event throughout the novel (Aytür 55). That was not easy for the first part because I need to place two characters at the centre; Mrs. Ramsay and Lily. Certainly, the first one is the dominant tough. It was harder than the third part to narrate as there were many characters even some of them were not even talked about and some were just mentioned by their names. I tried to link every single character to marriage as the author must do if she is a realist one because the reality in the book is the marriage and its pros and cons throughout one’s life. (I would certainly write something better than this if I was a married girl, which I really felt in my heart) I also tried to talk about every new point once and avoid retelling even if Woolf does in the original text so as to limit what I was going to write considering the pages we were allowed to write. I used (‘)to show the speech of the minds of the characters but quotations if somebody talks when he/she has an addressee. I did not talk about some events if I think that they would broaden the topic and they would not do anything good for the completeness of the characters.

            For the third part (which I have finished first because I thought that each part was a story in itself) I did not have that much difficulty to place one insight when Mrs. Ramsay was death without my will. But this time there would be some scenes away from the observation of Lily. So I gathered all main characters for the trip to the Lighthouse so as to render a voice but many insights through the eyes of that unique character. I needed to talk about a day here due to time and page management and as a realist way I explained all events in a linear way even if it is hard to remember all details, which actually comprises the reality both modernists and realists believe in. It was also problematic to place the flashbacks of Lily so I just gave one time for her to tell anything she wants, which is given under the cover of a day-dream. Realists are actually aims at depicting the reality, however, that was really hard to do in two page assignment because you actually need to show how common but at the same time how complex the characters are in a complete way. There was no actual plot, which helped a way while turning that text into a realist one and the way I tried is to show the characters as complete as I could do with the physical details I could make the most of and even if everybody seems they finished what they had started already in the end, I tried to cut the story short without trying to find a sensible end, which is also accepted as a way to write in a realist style as life, itself does not have logical items or exciting climaxes every time and it sometimes finishes even without you realize and the life is nothing more than the loneliness and hollowness sometimes.


Aytür, Necla. Amerikan Romanında Gerçekçilik 1870-1900. Ankara Üniversitesi Dil ve Tarih-Coğrafya Fakültesi Yayınları 356.