Ramsay’s wife. A beautiful and loving woman, Mrs. Ramsay is a wonderful
hostess who takes pride in making memorable experiences for the
guests at the family’s summer home on the Isle of Skye. Affirming traditional
gender roles wholeheartedly, she lavishes particular attention on
her male guests, who she believes have delicate egos and need constant
support and sympathy. She is a dutiful and loving wife but often struggles
with her husband’s difficult moods and selfishness. Without fail,
however, she triumphs through these difficult times and demonstrates
an ability to make something significant and lasting from the most
ephemeral of circumstances, such as a dinner party.
in-depth analysis of Mrs. Ramsay.
Ramsay’s husband, and a prominent metaphysical philosopher. Mr.
Ramsay loves his family but often acts like something of a tyrant.
He tends to be selfish and harsh due to his persistent personal
and professional anxieties. He fears, more than anything, that his
work is insignificant in the grand scheme of things and that he
will not be remembered by future generations. Well aware of how
blessed he is to have such a wonderful family, he nevertheless tends
to punish his wife, children, and guests by demanding their constant
sympathy, attention, and support.
in-depth analysis of Mr. Ramsay.
young, single painter who befriends the Ramsays on the Isle of Skye.
Like Mr. Ramsay, Lily is plagued by fears that her work lacks worth.
She begins a portrait of Mrs. Ramsay at the beginning of the novel
but has trouble finishing it. The opinions of men like Charles Tansley,
who insists that women cannot paint or write, threaten to undermine
in-depth analysis of Lily Briscoe.
Ramsays’ youngest son. James loves his mother deeply and feels a
murderous antipathy toward his father, with whom he must compete
for Mrs. Ramsay’s love and affection. At the beginning of the novel,
Mr. Ramsay refuses the six-year-old James’s request to go to the
lighthouse, saying that the weather will be foul and not permit
it; ten years later, James finally makes the journey with his father
and his sister Cam. By this time, he has grown into a willful and moody
young man who has much in common with his father, whom he detests.
in-depth analysis of James Ramsay.
young friend of the Ramsays who visits them on the Isle of Skye.
Paul is a kind, impressionable young man who follows Mrs. Ramsay’s
wishes in marrying Minta Doyle.
flighty young woman who visits the Ramsays on the Isle of Skye.
Minta marries Paul Rayley at Mrs. Ramsay’s wishes.
- A young philosopher and pupil of Mr. Ramsay who
stays with the Ramsays on the Isle of Skye. Tansley is a prickly
and unpleasant man who harbors deep insecurities regarding his humble
background. He often insults other people, particularly women such
as Lily, whose talent and accomplishments he constantly calls into
question. His bad behavior, like Mr. Ramsay’s, is motivated by his
need for reassurance.
botanist and old friend of the Ramsays who stays on the Isle of
Skye. Bankes is a kind and mellow man whom Mrs. Ramsay hopes will
marry Lily Briscoe. Although he never marries her, Bankes and Lily
remain close friends.
- An opium-using poet who visits the Ramsays on the
Isle of Skye. Carmichael languishes in literary obscurity until
his verse becomes popular during the war.
oldest of the Ramsays’ sons. Andrew is a competent, independent
young man, and he looks forward to a career as a mathematician.
of the Ramsays’ sons. Jasper, to his mother’s chagrin, enjoys shooting
of the Ramsays’ sons. Roger is wild and adventurous, like his sister
oldest Ramsay girl, a beautiful young woman. Mrs. Ramsay delights
in contemplating Prue’s marriage, which she believes will be blissful.
of the Ramsays’ daughters. Rose has a talent for making things beautiful.
She arranges the fruit for her mother’s dinner party and picks out
her mother’s jewelry.
of the Ramsays’ daughters. Nancy accompanies Paul Rayley and Minta
Doyle on their trip to the beach. Like her brother Roger, she is
a wild adventurer.
of the Ramsays’ daughters. As a young girl, Cam is mischievous.
She sails with James and Mr. Ramsay to the lighthouse in the novel’s
elderly woman who takes care of the Ramsays’ house on the Isle of
Skye, restoring it after ten years of abandonment during and after
World War I.
fisherman who accompanies the Ramsays to the lighthouse. Macalister
relates stories of shipwreck and maritime adventure to Mr. Ramsay
and compliments James on his handling of the boat while James lands
it at the lighthouse.
- The fisherman’s boy. He rows James, Cam, and Mr.
Ramsay to the lighthouse.