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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 9

Summary

In brackets: Lily Briscoe thinks that the sea is without a stain on it. It stretches across the bay like silk. She realizes that the power of distance upon her imagination makes her think that Mr. Ramsey and the others have been swallowed up and are gone forever. They seem to have become part of the nature of things. The steamer, which she had seen earlier, is out of sight, but the scroll of smoke it had trailed is still hanging in the air. The scroll of smoke "drooped like a flag mournfully in valediction."

Notes

Lily is pausing in her painting, looking out on the bay and is not able to see the boat. The fact that the bay is smooth as silk clues the reader to the fact that the time of this chapter takes place before the breeze picks up at the end of chapter 8. That means that while James sat in the boat with his murderous thoughts of his father, Lily was standing on shore thinking of how they in the boat seem to be part of the nature of things. The two very contradictory thoughts, Lily's and James's, indicate that "nothing is only one thing."

A valediction is a speech of farewell. Lily sees the smoke from the steamboat as drooping in valediction as if it is sad to be leaving the land behind. Perhaps James is being given an opportunity to leave the land of rivalry with and hatred of his father behind.


CHAPTER 10

Summary

Cam looks at the island and is amazed at how it looks from the sea. She sees it is very small and shaped like a leaf. She lets her fingers drag in the water and she begins to tell herself a story of taking a little boat on an adventure and escaping from a sinking ship. The sea streaming through her fingers makes her lose her concentration in telling herself a story. She wants a sense of escape. She is thinking about her father's anger about her ignorance of directions and James's obstinacy about their compact against their father. She feels like "all has slipped, all had passed, all had streamed away." She wonders what comes next. From her hand held in the sea, she feels spurting up a fountain of joy at the change, the escape, the adventure. She feels glad to be alive and where she is. The drops falling from the fountain fall on the "dark, the slumberous shapes in her mind; shapes of a world not realized but turning in the darkness, catching here and there a spark of light."

She thinks of the small, leaf-shaped island. The waters around it look gold-sprinkled. She realizes the little island has a place in the universe. She knows the old men in the study could have told her of the island's place in the universe. As a child she used to wander in from the garden and find the men in the study, men like Mr. Carmichael and Mr. Banks. They would be sitting in low armchairs reading The Times and they would be all in a muddle about something someone had said about Christ or hearing that a mammoth had been dug up in London or wondering about Napoleon and what he was like. She remembers that the men took all this information in their clean hands and brushed the scraps together. Then they turned the paper, crossed their knees, and said something brief. Cam used to stand by the books and take one down from the shelf and watch her father write, neatly, moving his pen from one side of the page to the other. She used to think while standing there that she could let whatever she thought expand there in the room as if it were a leaf in water. If the thought did well in the room among the old gentlemen, then it was right. As she sits in the boat remembering standing there in the study watching her father, she thinks he does not want to make people pity him and that he is not a vain tyrant. If he saw her standing there with a book, he would ask her gently if he could do anything for her.

In case her thought is wrong about her father, she looks at him as he sits in the boat reading his book. She thinks she is right about him. She wants to tell James to look at their father now, but she sees that James is only looking at the sail and she knows James would say their father is a sarcastic brute and intolerably egotistical, but worse than these, a tyrant. Cam wants to tell her brother to look at their father now reading a small book. She knows that her father has written on the flyleaf what he has spent for dinner, wine, and the waiter's tip. She watches her father engrossed in his reading. When he looks up, it is not to see anything, but to pin down a thought. She thinks he reads as if he were leading something.

Cam goes back to making up a story about escaping from a sinking ship. She feels safe sitting in the boat while her father is there, just as she had felt safe coming in from the garden to his library. She looks back at the island, but it is getting smaller and smaller in the distance. "The sea is more important now than the shore." She is half-asleep with her fingers in the water and she imagines it is right here where a ship had sunk, and "how we perished, each alone."

Notes

Cam gradually loosens up towards her father. She remembers him at times when he was kind to her, not a tyrant. She gets so wrapped up in this image of her father that she cannot even see him as a tyrant in any light. Woolf seems to be illustrating the power of a moment to shape a person's view of another person. Just an hour or so ago, Cam was fuming with hatred against her father. Now she is thinking of him as a protective and kindly man.

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