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Day 4

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Part I, Chapters 9-10

May 4, 2023 by Mona Simpson

Chapter 9

Lily and William talk about… The Ramsays.

“Directly, one looked up and saw them, what she called ‘being in love’ flooded them. They became part of that unreal but penetrating and exciting universe which is the world seen through the eyes of love. The sky stuck to them; the birds sang through them. And, what was even more exciting, she felt, too, as she saw Mr. Ramsay bearing down and retreating, and Mrs. Ramsay sitting with James in the window and the cloud moving and the tree bending, how life, from being made up of little separate incidents which one lived one by one, became curled and whole like a wave which bore one up with it and threw one down with it, there, with a dash on the beach.”

Lily sees Mr. Bankes “gazing at Mrs. Ramsay” in a rapture.

“It was love, she thought… but, like the love which mathematicians bear their symbols, or poets their phrases, was meant to be spread over the world and become part of the human gain… The world by all means should have shared it, could Mr. Bankes have said why that woman pleased him so; why the sight of her reading a fairy tale to her boy had upon him precisely the same effect as the solution of a scientific problem, so that he rested in contemplation of it, and felt, as he felt when he had proved something absolute about the digestive system of plants, that barbarity was tamed, the reign of chaos subdued.”

But as they talk about the Ramsays and as they consider their own and each other’s feelings for their hosts, most importantly, William Bankes moves towards Lily’s painting.

“She braced herself to stand the awful trial of some one looking at her picture. One must, she said, one must. And if it must be seen, Mr. Bankes was less alarming than another. But that any other eyes should see the residue of her thirty-three years, the deposit of each day's living mixed with something more secret than she had ever spoken or shown in the course of all those days was an agony. At the same time it was immensely exciting.”

She survives his seeing it. They talk about it. She explains the shapes, the way she sees Mrs. Ramsay with James as a “dome.”

William Bankes has shared with her something profoundly intimate. They have talked about her painting.

Chapter 10

Minta Doyle and Paul Rayley. Another of Mrs. Ramsay’s fixups. People accuse her, she knows, of “interfering” “making people do what she wished.”

She’s a matchmaker.

She thinks that her children are happier now than they will ever be again.

Finally, finally in this chapter, the eight children are characterized.

Mrs. Ramsay holds a secret darkness, a pessimism greater than her husbands.

At the end of the chapter James asks again about going to the Lighthouse and she says, no, not tomorrow and believes he will remember this disappointment all his life.

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