To the Lighthouse

by: Virginia Woolf

Important Quotations Explained

1
Who shall blame him? Who will not secretly rejoice when the hero puts his armour off, and halts by the window and gazes at his wife and son, who, very distant at first, gradually come closer and closer, till lips and book and head are clearly before him, though still lovely and unfamiliar from the intensity of his isolation and the waste of ages and the perishing of the stars, and finally putting his pipe in his pocket and bending his magnificent head before her—who will blame him if he does homage to the beauty of the world?

As Mr. Ramsay strolls across the lawn in Chapter VI of “The Window,” he catches sight of Mrs. Ramsay and James in the window. His reaction comes as something of a surprise given the troubled ruminations of his mind described just pages before. He, like nearly every character in the novel, is keenly aware of the inevitability of death and the likelihood of its casting his existence into absolute oblivion. Mr. Ramsay knows that few men achieve intellectual immortality. The above passage testifies to his knowledge that all things, from the stars in the sky to the fruits of his career, are doomed to perish. Here, rather than cave in to the anxieties brought on by that knowledge, punish James for dreaming of the lighthouse, or demand that Mrs. Ramsay or Lily lavish him with sympathy, Mr. Ramsay satisfies himself by appreciating the beauty that surrounds him. The tableau of his wife and child cannot last—after all, they will eventually move and break the pose—but it has the power, nevertheless, to assuage his troubled mind. These moments integrate the random fragments of experience and interaction in the world. As Mr. Ramsay brings his wife and son visually “closer and closer,” the distance among the three shortens, buoying Mr. Ramsay up from the depths of despair.