Chapters 11-13 Summary and Analysis
Lily watches the boat sail off. She decides that so much depends upon distance, whether people are near or far away. Lily thinks again of the unreality of the morning and decides that life is more vivid when routine hasn’t quite taken hold. She feels relieved of the burden of making pleasantries with Mrs. Beckworth. The interlude is full to the brim with so many interwoven lives held by some common feeling. It was this feeling that led her to say, a decade before, that she was in love with the place.
Looking out to sea, Lily notices a change in the wind and the placement of the boats. The disproportion disturbs her and she looks at her painting with distress. She’s wasted her morning and has not been able to keep the requisite “razor’s edge of balance” between her painting and Mr. Ramsay. Determined to recapture her vision, Lily realizes that the words and ideas in her head are getting in the way. She wants to get that “very jar on the nerves” which precedes the naming of something. Her urgency, too, gets in the way. How can she paint, if she can’t think or feel?
Lily sits on the grass, thinking that everything today seemed to be happening for the first or the last time. She imagines that Augustus Carmichael, lounging nearby, is sharing her thoughts. He is now a famous poet and no more communicative than he’s ever been. His poetry must be somewhat impersonal, she thinks. She had sensed that he didn’t like Mrs. Ramsay.
Thinking about Mr. Carmichael and Mrs. Ramsay, she realizes that many people must have disliked Mrs. Ramsay. They may have found her too self-assured, or too beautiful. Lily realizes that Mrs. Ramsay’s instinct was to minister to others, “turning her infallibly to the human race, making her nest in its heart.” People like she and Mr. Carmichael, who preferred thought to action, were annoyed by Mrs. Ramsay’s directness.
Lily is reminded of Charles Tansley (who also upset others). She had once heard him giving a lecture, preaching brotherly love. Although she still found him irritating, she had remembered the day on the beach when an old cask had bobbed in the waves and Mrs. Ramsay had searched for her spectacles. Tansley had been amused by Mrs. Ramsay’s exaggerations and had smiled charmingly. Lily thinks that it was only through Mrs. Ramsay’s eyes that she could look without abhorrence at Tansley.
Fifty pairs of eyes are needed to see Mrs. Ramsay, Lily decides. What did Mrs. Ramsay think of the garden, the hedge, the children? She remembers Mrs. Ramsay’s embarrassment when Mr. Ramsay stopped near her. He had stretched his hand out and raised her from her chair. Had she said she would marry him once in this identical pose? Lily feels that despite the confusion of children and guests, there were repetitions, or vibrations that echoed in the air. Yet, their closeness was no “monotony of bliss.” There were scenes, slamming of doors, plates hurled out of windows, and rigid silences. She would become remote and withdrawn. Mr. Ramsay would skulk about, trying to get her attention. After a time, he would call out to her and they would walk off together in the gardens. Later, at dinner, things would return to normal with laughing and joking.
Lily glances at the window and notices a triangular shadow on the steps caused by someone in the drawing room. Her painting mood returns. She wants to hold the scene in a vise, to become one with the objects before her. A stirring in the room moves her to call out to Mrs. Ramsay. Her old horror returns, then quickly subsides. It is as if Mrs. Ramsay has sat down with her knitting. She walks to the edge of the lawn and wonders where Mr. Ramsay is now.
On the boat, Mr. Ramsay has almost finished reading. He looks very old, James decides. As they near the Lighthouse, James sees that it is a stark tower on a bare rock. It satisfies him. He identifies with it and senses that his father does too. He says to himself, “We are driving before a gale—we...
(The entire section is 2,244 words.)