Study Guide

To the Lighthouse

by Virginia Woolf

To the Lighthouse Characters

Characters Discussed (Great Characters in Literature)

Mr. Ramsay

Mr. Ramsay, a professor of philosophy, a metaphysician of high order, an author, and the father of eight. Not really first-rate, as he realized by the time he was sixty, he knew also that his mind was still agile and his ability to abstract strong. Loved by his wife, he is nevertheless offered sympathy and consolation for the things he is not. Lithe, trim, and the very prototype of the philosopher, he attracts many people to him and uses their feelings to buoy him in his weaknesses. He is not truly a father; his gift for the ironic and sardonic arouses fear and hatred rather than respect among his children. Broken by the deaths of his wife and his oldest son, he continues to endure and to sharpen his mind on the fine whetstone of wit.

Mrs. Ramsay

Mrs. Ramsay, a beautiful woman even in her aging; she is warm, compassionate, and devoted to the old-fashioned virtues of hearth, husband, and children. With an aura of graciousness and goodness about her, ineffable but pervasive, Mrs. Ramsay gathers about her guests, students, friends, and family at their summer home on the Isle of Skye. Loving and tender to her children, and polite and pleasant to her guests, she impresses on them all the sanctity of life and marriage, the elemental virtues. Her love and reverence of life have its effect on all of her guests, even an atheistic student of her husband and an aloof poet. Mostly she affects women, especially Lily Briscoe, with the need to throw oneself into life, not to limit life but to live it, especially through motherhood.

James

James, the Ramsays’ youngest son and his mother’s favorite. He is the child most criticized by the professor because the boy robs him of sympathy that he desperately needs. Sensitive and austere, James at six and sixteen suffers most the loss of his mother, taken from him at first by a calculating father’s demands and later by her death. He and his sister Camilla make a pact of war against their father’s tyranny of demands and oversights. Finally, on a trip to the lighthouse, the symbol of what had been denied him by his father, Mr. Ramsay praises his son’s seamanship.

Prue

Prue, who dies in childbirth,

Andrew

Andrew, who is killed in World War I,

Nancy

Nancy,

...

(The entire section is 972 words.)

To the Lighthouse Characters

Several characters come to life in this novel, from Charles Tansley, an unpleasant young academic, to Augustus Carmichael, an elderly friend...

(The entire section is 396 words.)

To the Lighthouse Character Analysis

William Bankes

William Bankes is an old botanist friend of Mr. Ramsay's who has come to stay at the Ramsay home. The years since the two first became...

(The entire section is 196 words.)

Lily Briscoe

Lily is an artist who stays with the Ramsay family in the first section of the novel, and returns with them to their Scottish summerhouse in...

(The entire section is 362 words.)

Cam Ramsay

Cam, the little Ramsay daughter, is a "wild and fierce child" at the beginning of the book who refuses to give William Bankes a flower. When...

(The entire section is 248 words.)

James Ramsay

James Ramsay is the youngest child of Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay. As a little boy he is an extremely sensitive child who idolizes his mother....

(The entire section is 326 words.)

Mr. Ramsay

Mr. Ramsay is the father of the family. He is the most misunderstood character in the book, a man whose children hate him because they think...

(The entire section is 273 words.)

Mrs. Ramsay

A lighthouse along the Shetland coastline in Scotland. Published by Gale Cengage

Mrs. Ramsay is the mother of the Ramsay family who dies during the middle section of the novel. A beautiful, caring woman, she means all...

(The entire section is 409 words.)

Other Characters

Andrew the Just
See Andrew Ramsay.

Cam the Wicked
See Cam Ramsay.

...

(The entire section is 754 words.)