To the Lighthouse

by Virginia Woolf

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Chapters 12 and 13 Summary

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Last Updated May 2, 2023.

Mrs. Ramsay links arms with her husband, and they take a leisurely walk, enjoying the evening air. During their conversation, she expresses her worries about the gardener but once again avoids bringing up the matter of the fifty pounds they must pay to fix the greenhouse. They carry on talking about their children and houseguests, while Mrs. Ramsay frequently returns to her concerns about the upkeep of the garden. When Mrs. Ramsay talks about the gardener, Mr. Ramsay accuses her of overreacting. She defends herself, but he shifts the subject to compliment her appearance. Briefly mollified, Mrs. Ramsay changes the topic to talk about their daughter's attractiveness.

Mr. Ramsay voices his worries about Andrew's drive to succeed academically, but Mrs. Ramsay comes to his defense; despite their disagreement, they each secretly appreciate the other's perspective. She is anxious about the whereabouts of Paul and Minta, worried that they have not returned since they left in the early afternoon. When Mrs. Ramsay voices her fears and worries, Mr. Ramsay reacts poorly, telling his wife that he does not like to see her unhappy. Both parties feel unsettled by the conversation and lapse into an uncomfortable silence. 

After some time, Mr. Ramsay restarts the conversation, telling his wife about the story of Hume, who wound up stuck in a bog and was only freed once he agreed to convert to Christianity. He continues, telling his wife about his own youth when he would roam the countryside with no more than a biscuit in his pocket. Youth, he explains, is a time for mistakes; it is pointless to worry about Andrew. Thinking about his youth leads Mr. Ramsay to reflect on the independence he once had, and he briefly laments that he must consider his children and wife in his decisions. However, he quickly scolds himself for feeling regretful about his children.

When he once again falls silent, Mrs. Ramsay attempts to guess what he was thinking. After she correctly guesses that her husband was feeling unhappy with his life, he denies it, insisting that he has nothing to grumble about. To reassure her, he kisses her hand, and they continue walking. As they walk, Mrs. Ramsay compliments her husband’s youthful appearance; although he is over sixty, she claims, he appears far younger than his years. On the other side of the lawn, Lily and William walk together; watching them, Mrs. Ramsay experiences a spark of intuition, imagining that the two will soon marry. The focus turns to the potential couple as they discuss the idea of travel and the importance of seeing the work of the great masters of painting. When they notice the Ramsays, Lily experiences an odd sense of intuition, certain that both she and Mrs. Ramsay was struck by the prescient awareness that she will marry William.

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Chapters 9-11 Summary

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Chapters 14-16 Summary