To the Lighthouse

Virginia Woolf
Summary

The Lighthouse: Chapters I–III

Summary The Lighthouse: Chapters I–III

“The Window” establishes a rhythm between chaos and order, which allows us to anticipate the direction that “The Lighthouse” will take. Mr. Ramsay eventually reaches the lighthouse, just as Lily eventually completes her painting. The poignant scene in which Mr. Ramsay bends to knot Lily’s shoe foreshadows the “common feeling” that the two share when Lily’s consciousness becomes tied to her host’s. Before this union can happen, though, the two must be separated. Indeed, Lily’s thoughts toward Mr. Ramsay begin to soften only after he leaves her alone at her easel and sets off for the lighthouse. Only then does the sight of Cam, James, and Mr. Ramsay reveal itself as a potential image of harmony—“a little company bound together and strangely impressive to her.”

Memory is another vital step toward this harmony. Though long dead, Mrs. Ramsay lives in Lily’s consciousness in the final section of the novel, for it was Mrs. Ramsay who taught Lily a valuable lesson about the nature of art. As her hostess once demonstrated on an outing to the beach, art is the ability to take a moment from life and make it “permanent.” With this goal in mind, Lily begins to paint.