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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 19

Summary

As Mrs. Ramsey comes into the room, she thinks she is looking for something. First, she decides to sit down in a particular chair under a particular lamp. However, she knows she wants something more and is not sure what it is. She looks at her husband as she picks up the stocking and begins to knit. She can tell he does not want to be interrupted. He is reading something that moves him very much. He is acting it out in his mind. It is Sir Walter Scott, whom the others at the dinner table had said nobody reads any more. Mrs. Ramsey remembers the conversation and she had worried that he would begin to think that his own work would soon be outdated. She recognizes that is why he went off and got down one of Sir Walter Scot's books, to prove to himself that Scot is still a good read.

She wishes he were not so concerned about what people think about his books. She does not like to think of him as so self- absorbed. She thinks it does not matter. She does not know anything about it. She thinks of how she had considered him at supper, that he was completely trustworthy. She keeps thinking, as she sits there, that there is something she wants. As she knits, the words they had said at dinner wash "from side to side of her mind rhythmically." She repeats them, "the China rose is all abloom and buzzing with the honey bee." She picks up a book on the table beside her. She reads the lines of poetry, "And all the lives were ever lived And all the lives to be, Are full of trees and changing leaves." She reads through the book at random. Her husband slaps his thigh and their eyes meet for a second. They do not have anything to say, but something goes "from him to her." He seems to say to her not to interrupt him but to go on sitting there.


He feels like now it did not matter at all who reached the letter Z. Somebody would reach it. The characters in Scot's fiction make him feel vigorous and relieved of something. Tears come to his eyes. He raises the book to hide the tears and lets them fall. He forgets himself completely. As he finishes the chapter he says, "Well let them improve upon that." He feels as though he has been in an argument and has gotten the better of his opponent. He looks at his wife peacefully reading. He likes to think he is alone with her.

Mrs. Ramsey raises her head and seems to say to him that if he wants her she will rouse herself, but that she would much rather go on sleeping. She reads, "Now praise the deep vermilion in the rose," and as she reads, she feels as though she is ascending to the top of a summit. She feels all the odds and ends of the day stick to a magnet and her mind feels swept clean. She feels the sonnet she is reading is "the essence sucked out of life and held rounded."

Mrs. Ramsey is becoming conscious of her husband looking at her, smiling. He even wonders if she is reading. He exaggerates her ignorance because he likes to think of her simplicity. He likes to think she is not clever or book-learned. He wonders if she understands what she is reading and decides she probably does not. He thinks she is astonishingly beautiful. She finishes and says, "Well?" She takes up her knitting again. She goes back over the elements of the evening in her mind and tries to think of what to tell him about. She tells him Minta and Paul are engaged. She wonders why she wants people to marry. She wants her husband to say something. He says she will not finish that stocking tonight. She is happy with what he has said. He has in some way rebuked her for feeling pessimistic. She agrees that she will not finish it. She can tell he is looking at her wanting something from her that she has so much trouble giving him. He wants her to tell him she loves him. She can never say what she feels. She tries to get up and do things for him. She knows he is thinking she is beautiful and she feels beautiful. She smiles as she looks at him because she knows that even though she has not said anything to him, he knows she loves him. She looks out the window and thinks that nothing can equal this happiness. She says, "Yes, you were right. It's going to be wet tomorrow. You won't be able to go." She looks at him smiling because she has triumphed again. She has not said that she loves him and yet he knows.

Notes

The last chapter of section one shows the reader Mrs. Ramsey for the last time. She is enjoying her good relations with her husband. They communicate without words.

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