It was him—his point of view. When they talked about something interesting, people, music, history, anything…then what they complained of about Charles Tansley was that until he had turned the whole thing round and made it somehow reflect himself and disparage them.
According to Mrs. Ramsay in Chapter I of The Window, these thoughts are how her children view Charles Tansley. They dislike the way he pulls the gravity of a conversation to center back around him. Later in this scene, Mrs. Ramsay remembers her daughter Rose telling her that once while at an art gallery, Charles Tansley tried to bring attention to his tie. His way of warping interactions to center on him echoes Mr. Ramsay’s later behavior when Augustus Carmichael prolongs the soup course at dinner. Both men, in their insecurity, require their emotional needs constantly met.
Nor he was not going to talk the sort of rot these condescended to by these silly women. He had been reading in his room, and now he came down and it all seemed to him silly, superficial, flimsy. Why did they dress? He had come down in his ordinary clothes. He had not got any dress clothes.
Charles Tansley has these thoughts in Chapter XVII of The Window as the dinner party commences. His misogyny is in full force here as he blames women for the existence of dinner parties and dress codes because of their supposed dominion over the domestic realm. His comment that he doesn’t have dress clothes provides the key to understanding Charles Tansley’s real issue. He is the only guest who comes from a working-class background. He resents the dinner party because he knows his clothing will draw attention to the class disparity. However, Charles Tansley lacks the self-awareness to understand his anger.
Out in that one sentence lay compact, like gunpowder, that his grandfather was a fisherman; his father a chemist; that he had worked his way up entirely himself; that he was proud of it; that he was Charles Tansley—a fact that nobody there seemed to realize; but one of these days every single person would know it.
Charles Tansley’s anger swells throughout the dinner in Chapter XVII of The Window as no one actively draws him into the conversation. His rage is almost tangibly felt by those who notice it, like Mrs. Ramsay and Lily Briscoe. His rage appears as an assertion of identity, of the superiority of that identity, but also laced with hints of the insecurity he feels over his social class. The rage and self-assertion that comes with the insecurity of male characters like Charles Tansley contrasts sharply with that of Lily Briscoe, who appears unmoored and less sure of herself whenever she’s challenged.