To the Lighthouse

Virginia Woolf

The Window: Chapter XVII

Summary The Window: Chapter XVII

Despite all the tensions and imperfections evident in the Ramsay household, such as Mr. Ramsay’s sometimes ridiculous vanity and Mrs. Ramsay’s determination to counter the flaws in her own marriage by arranging marriages for her friends, the tone of “The Window” remains primarily bright and optimistic. The pleasant beach, the lively children, and the Ramsays’ generally loving marriage suffuse the novel’s world with a feeling of possibility and potential, and many of the characters have happy prospects. Paul and Minta anticipate their marriage, and Mrs. Ramsay comforts herself with her daughter Prue’s future marriage as well as her son Andrew’s accomplished career as a mathematician. Perhaps most important, Lily has a breakthrough that she thinks will allow her to finish her painting. With this insight comes the determination to live her life as a single woman, regardless of what Mrs. Ramsay thinks. The hope of the novel lies in Lily’s resolve, for it reiterates the common bond that allows Mrs. Ramsay to have one opinion and Lily another. As the chapter closes, however, Mrs. Ramsay’s realization that such harmony is always ephemeral tempers this hope. As Mrs. Ramsay leaves the room and reflects, with a glance over her shoulder, that the experience of the evening has already become part of the past, the tone of the book darkens.