[A]nd then she came back to Cam…said how lovely it looked now; how the fairies would love it; it was like a bird's nest; it was like a beautiful mountain such as she had seen abroad, with valleys and flowers and bells ringing and birds singing and little goats and antelopes.
This scene appears in Chapter XVIII of The Window as Mrs. Ramsay attempts to soothe Cam and James to sleep. Cam is terrified by the boar’s skull hanging in the room, a reminder of mortality and death. Mrs. Ramsay distracts her daughter from the frightening sight by covering it with her shawl and painting a beautiful story over it. This little drama models the way beauty works as a means of soothing and distracting from dark truths and anxieties throughout the novel.
How satisfying! How restful! All the odds and ends of the day stuck to this magnet; her mind felt swept, felt clean. And then there it was, suddenly entire; she held it in her hands, beautiful and reasonable, clear and complete, here—the sonnet.
Mrs. Ramsay has these thoughts in Chapter XIX of The Window as she winds down with Mr. Ramsay by reading a sonnet. A sonnet is a very rigidly structured type of poetry, often discussing love and beauty, and here the beautiful order and elegance of the poem helps Mrs. Ramsay let go of the chaos of the day. Once again, beauty provides a necessary respite from the difficulties and anxieties of life.
But beauty was not everything. Beauty had this penalty—it came too readily, came too completely. It stilled life—froze it.
Lily has these thoughts in Chapter VI of The Lighthouse as she considers Mrs. Ramsay’s beauty. Although even Lily finds Mrs. Ramsay beautiful throughout The Window, especially because of the beautiful domestic life she portrays, Lily acknowledges here that beauty often hides complexity. Mrs. Ramsay’s marriage was far from perfect, and her caring nature often demanding. Mrs. Ramsay also placed enormous pressure on Lily to marry and pushed Paul and Minta into an unhappy marriage. Just as beauty can be a necessary distraction from the ugliness of life, it also prevents characters from seeing the full truth of things.