To the Lighthouse

Virginia Woolf

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Quote 4

[S]he could not say it. . . . [A}s she looked at him she began to smile, for though she had not said a word, he knew, of course he knew, that she loved him. He could not deny it. And smiling she looked out of the window and said (thinking to herself, Nothing on earth can equal this happiness)—
“Yes, you were right. It’s going to be wet tomorrow. You won’t be able to go.” And she looked at him smiling. For she had triumphed again. She had not said it: yet he knew.

This passage, taken from Chapter XIX of “The Window,” is a lyrical demonstration of how disjointed people and their fragmented emotions can come together. Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay represent opposite approaches to life. Possessed of a stolidly rational and scientific mind, Mr. Ramsay relies on what can be studied, proven, and spoken. Hence, at the end of “The Window,” he wants to hear Mrs. Ramsay declare her love for him. Mrs. Ramsay, however, navigates life on a less predictable course. She is led by her emotions rather than her mind. This approach provides her a greater range and freedom of expression. For instance, she can express her affection for her guests by orchestrating a lovely and memorable evening rather than forcing herself to articulate (or, like Mr. Ramsay, punish herself for not being able to articulate) these feelings. In Woolf’s estimation, these traits are gender-specific. She argues that men are most often satisfied by direct declarations, as when, in the novel’s final pages, James is mollified only by his father’s praise of his sailing skills. Women, on the other hand, often convey their meaning by what they choose not to say. Like Mrs. Ramsay in her triumph at the end of “The Window,” Lily is able to convey her sympathy for Mr. Ramsay without pronouncing it: she lets him tie her shoe.