In "To the Lighthouse" Mrs Ramsay is generally considered a positive character, but what are some of her negative traits?I'm more interested in how her negative aspects affect the other characters.

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drjrjherbert eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mrs Ramsay might be argued to have characteristics which she believes to be positive but others believe to be constraining or negative characteristics. Chief amongst these, one might consider her domestic role. The Edwardian context of the novel saw women often defined by the roles as mothers and wives. The opening of the novel sees Mrs Ramsay in this context as a mother looking after Paul who clearly resents his father (he dreams of harming him) while venerating his mother. However, while one might view this role of protective and nurturing matriach positively, in her essay 'Professions for Women' (published in 'The Death of the Moth' and other essays) writes of how it is the job of the artist to 'kill the angel of the house' as this ideal of feminine domesticity is called. Mrs Ramsay might be considered to be constraint by her domestic role and is unambitious in her attempts to express herself, unlike Lilly Briscoe, for example, who might be taken as a modern woman who seeks throughout the novel to articulate her own vision of the world through her painting. In 'Professions for Women' Woolf certainly espouses the idea that the modern woman should be a good deal more like Lily Briscoe than like Mrs Ramsay who sacrifices her own intellectual life in order to fulfil the needs of her husband while he intellectually strives to make advances in philosophy. This subservience and lack of personal intellectual drive seem to be two of her more obvious negative characteristics. 

qandnotu | Student

Mrs. Ramsay is generally considered a positive character and the final judgement of her in the novel is one that is positive however, she too, as anyone, has her faults. Mrs. Ramsay is a old fashioned Victorian mother whose relies on the neediness of others. When she is not "needed", as in the case of Mr. Carmichael, she is unsure of how to act or connect with him, as she does with everyone else. Being a Victorian mother living in the Edwardian age, she is socially confined in her ideas of women and their place in the world. She believes a women's role is as a wife and mother and that professions, economics, government and the arts are not necessarily a place for a woman. This is not her fault, she was raised to assume those duties and question little else, but the new generation of women see her confined conventions of womenhood as restricting and dated.

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To the Lighthouse

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