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Free Study Guide-To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf-Free Online Book Notes
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 11

Summary

Mrs. Ramsey thinks again of how it is true that children never forget. That is why she finds to so important to be careful of what she said and why she finds it such a relief when they go to bed. When they do, she can be herself, by herself. She needs to think and be silent and alone. She wants to shrink all the being and doing to "a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others." She thinks that all thing things a person is known by are only apparitions. Underneath it all is dark and "it is all spreading, it is unfathomably deep; but now and again we rise to the surface and that is what you see us by." Inside, she feels her horizons are limitless, taking her as far as a heavy curtain in Rome or the Indian plains. The core of darkness is free to go anywhere because it is invisible and so no one can stop it. It means losing personality. In so doing, "one lost the fret, the hurry, the story." It is a moment when things come together. It is an eternity.


She looks out and sees the third stroke of the lighthouse light. It is her stroke because it happens at her hour of peace and rest. She repeats phrases monotonously in her mind, "Children do not forget, children do not forget" and "It will end, it will end," and "It will come, it will come." Then she suddenly adds, "We are all in the hands of the Lord" and gets annoyed with herself for saying something she does not mean. She looks up and sees the third stroke as if it were an eye meeting her eyes and she feels life purified out of existence. She thinks of how odd it is that when she is alone she feels such an attachment for inanimate objects. She comes back to the insincerity of her phrase about being in the hands of the Lord. She has always thought that there is no reason, order or justice in the world, only suffering and death and the poor. She knows there is no treachery too base for the world to commit and that happiness does not last. She knits as she thinks these thoughts and purses her lips.

Her husband passes by as she does so and thinks she looks very stern. He had just been chuckling to himself about the philosopher Hume who had grown enormously fat and had gotten stuck in a bog. He feels sad that at the heart of his wife's beauty there is this sternness. He is sad to know that he cannot protect her.

Mrs. Ramsey thinks she always helped herself out of solitude by attaching her attention of some small sight or sound. She listens. She looks at the steady light of the lighthouse. She thinks she has known exquisite happiness. "Waves of pure delight raced over the floor of her mind" and she feels that it is enough.

Mr. Ramsey turns and sees her and thinks of how lovely she is and knows that he cannot interrupt her. He wants to speak her now that she is alone, but he cannot do so. Just as he passes her, she gives him what he wants of her own free will. She calls to him and takes her green shawl from the picture frame and goes to him. She knows he wishes to protect her.

Notes

This chapter gives the reader the one time when Mrs. Ramsey is alone in her thoughts rather than interacting with and giving herself to others. She cannot be summed up. She does feel that the world is not governed by a kindly lord, but she also consoles herself that she has known exquisite happiness and feels that that is enough for her. She is not a pessimist or an optimist. Woolf, in this chapter, shows the personality as made up of more than conscious thoughts. Mrs. Ramsey leaves what is called personality behind to let her mind float freely. At that moment, she achieves a oneness with the world. She is no longer a separated, limited, person confined to individuality.

At the end of the chapter, Mrs. Ramsey comes out of her free thoughts and gives Mr. Ramsey what he needs--herself to protect.

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