The struggle between the universe’s dominant male and feminine forces is a major theme in ‘To the Lighthouse’. The reader experiences the world through Mrs. Ramsay’s eyes in the first section as she oversees her kids and a group of visitors when they are on vacation during the summer. By recounting the modifications made to the vacation home over a decade, Woolf emphasizes the passage of time in the novel’s second section. The final segment describes the now-adult Ramsay children’s homecoming as well as that of painter and family friend Lily Briscoe.
The wife of Mr. Ramsay. At the family’s summer house on the Isle of Skye, Mrs. Ramsay, a lovely and loving woman, is a fantastic hostess who takes care of creating unforgettable experiences for visitors. She gives her male guests extra attention since she wholeheartedly supports conventional gender norms and feels that men have fragile egos and need constant encouragement and compassion.
She is a devoted and kind wife, but she frequently battles with her husband’s challenging moods and selfishness. She consistently overcomes these challenges, though, and exhibits the ability to create something meaningful and long-lasting out of even fleeting circumstances, like a dinner party.
Husband of Mrs. Ramsay and a well-known philosopher. Despite his devotion to his family, Mr. Ramsay frequently behaves oppressively. Due to his ongoing personal and professional fears, he frequently acts selfishly and harshly. More than anything else, he worries that future generations won’t remember him and that his effort is unimportant in the larger scheme of things. Although he is well aware of how fortunate he is to have such a lovely family, he nevertheless tends to punish his wife, kids, and visitors by expecting them to constantly be sympathetic, supportive, and caring.
The youngest son of the Ramsays. James has a fierce love for his mother and a violent hatred for his father, who he must compete with for Mrs. Ramsay’s love and attention. Mr. Ramsay declines James’ request to visit the lighthouse at the beginning of the book, claiming that the weather won’t allow it and will be bad. Ten years later, James finally makes the trip with his father and his sister Cam. By this time, he has developed into a spoiled, sullen young man who shares many traits with his hated father.
On the Isle of Skye, a young, unmarried painter makes friends with the Ramsays. Like Mr. Ramsay, Lily struggles with doubts about the quality of her work. At the start of the book, she starts painting a portrait of Mrs. Ramsay but struggles to complete it. She is at risk of losing confidence due to the beliefs of males like Charles Tansley, who maintain that women are unable to paint or write.
Because of her youth, beauty, and Mr. Ramsay’s interest, Minta Doyle, a captivating tomboy, makes Mrs. Ramsay feel envious. Minta, who lacks fear, leaps into situations without considering the repercussions—accepting Paul Rayley’s proposal, wearing a priceless antique to the beach. These hasty decisions hurt her (she sobs over the brooch) and jeopardize other people’s peace.
At Mrs. Ramsay’s urging, and after spending a lot of time with Minta Doyle, Paul Rayley makes a marriage proposal to her. To Mrs. Ramsay’s delight, Paul is an interesting substitute for academics, which she considers tedious. When Lily, who believes she is in love with Paul, requests to go with him to seek Minta’s brooch, he teases her, which hurts Lily’s feelings.
Cam is disobedient and won’t pay attention to her mother or nursemaid. She is autonomous, like Lily Briscoe, but her independence has not yet fully manifested because she is young. Her neutrality generates strife between the siblings as she backs down from her resolution against their father, seeing him at his most endearing, as a result of a subsequent agreement with James to resist their father’s dominance. When Mr. Ramsay eventually commends James for his sailing, she understands and shares his joy.
William is a strict childless widower Botanist William Bankes is secretly in love with Mrs. Ramsay and is friends with both Lily Briscoe and Mr. Ramsay. He is also an estranged friend of Mr. Ramsay.
The only visitor who doesn’t seem to be influenced by Mrs. Ramsay is the elderly, opium-smoking poet Augustus Carmichael. Devastated by Andrew Ramsay’s passing, Carmichael produces war poetry that makes him famous.
Mrs. Carmichael, whose name is not given, is the wife of Augustus Carmichael, who drives him out and, in the judgment of Mrs. Ramsay, turns her husband against her.
Limited in thinking, harsh, and sexist. Because of the attention Mrs. Ramsay offers Charles Tansley and her representation of womanhood, Charles Tansley grows to respect Mr. Ramsay and Mr. Ramsay; his comments that women cannot create art enrage Lily.
Andrew Ramsay, the family’s oldest son, and a gifted mathematician, is instantly killed in combat.
The Ramsays’ daughter, Nancy Ramsay, goes with Paul Rayley and Minta Doyle when he pops the question but later forgets to order lunches for the lighthouse excursion.
Prue, the eldest and most beautiful daughter of the Ramsays, passes away soon after giving birth.
The Ramsays’ daughter, Rose, enjoys picking out jewelry for her mother to wear.
A son of the Ramsays. Like his sister Nancy, Roger has a wild and adventurous nature.
What is the major difference between Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay in ‘To the Lighthouse’?
In many ways, Mr. Ramsay is Mrs. Ramsay’s antithesis. He tends to be impatient, egotistical, and harsh, whereas she is kind, patient, and diplomatic with others. He is appropriately described as “lean as a knife, narrow as the blade of one” by Woolf, which evokes both his physical presence and the aggression (and sharpness) of his personality.
Who is James Ramsay in ‘To the Lighthouse’?
James, a sensitive youngster, is consumed by a love for his mother that rivals his hatred for his father in intensity and depth. He is filled with a deadly fury toward Mr. Ramsay, whom he believes takes great pleasure in telling him there would be no excursion to the lighthouse.
What causes Lily Briscoe’s anxiety in ‘To the Lighthouse’?
Lily is anxious about her place in history. She frets about what will become of her creations and worries that they will end up under couches or hung in attics. Her concern is heightened by the repeated image of Charles Tansley saying that women are unable to paint or write. She paints Mrs. Ramsay at the start of the book with these self-doubts in mind; it is a portrait full of issues that she is unable to fix.