Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 939
Minta Doyle: emotional young woman; impulsive, outspoken
Writing an essay?
Get a custom outline
Our Essay Lab can help you tackle any essay assignment within seconds, whether you’re studying Macbeth or the American Revolution. Try it today!
Paul Rayley: earnest young man; timid
Nancy Ramsay: pensive; prefers solitude
Andrew Ramsay: interest in collecting marine life; somewhat aloof
All of Chapter XIV is written within parentheses. Minta, Paul, Andrew, and Nancy take an afternoon’s excursion. Minta coerced Nancy into joining them. Nancy would have preferred retreating to the attic. She feels pressured by the demands of socializing.
Andrew observes that Minta is a good walker, dressed in a short skirt and black knickerbockers. He likes her rashness, but believes it will get her into trouble. Andrew notes that Minta doesn’t seem to mind what she says or does. Minta pitches down on the edge of a cliff and starts singing, “Damn your eyes, damn your eyes.” Andrew wants to reach the good hunting grounds, before the tide comes in. Paul reads from a guidebook about the islands being celebrated for their marine curiosities. They all slide down the cliff. On the beach, they separate. Andrew takes his shoes and socks off and goes to the Pope’s Nose. Nancy wades out to some rocks and pools. She broods over the pools, listening to the waves, and is struck by the vastness of the world and the tininess of the pool. Andrew shouts that the sea is coming up. He and Nancy, running to the shore, come upon Minta and Paul in each other’s arms. Brother and sister are deeply embarassed.
When they reach the top of the cliff, Minta cries out that she’s lost her grandmother’s brooch. She weeps dramatically and they all go back and look for the brooch. As the tide comes in, Minta suddenly shrieks in terror, “We shall be cut off!”. Andrew is annoyed that she has no control of her emotions. Paul reassures her that he will get up at daybreak and search for the brooch.
They walk up the hill. When the lights of the town come out beneath them, Paul sees the lights as all the things in the future that will happen to him: his marriage, his children, his house. He feels overwhelmed by the day. He is anxious to tell Mrs. Ramsay that he has asked Minta to marry him. As he sees the house all lit up, he is giddy with excitement. However, he subdues these feelings, not wanting to make a fool of himself.
Mrs. Ramsay, sitting at her dressing table, worries again about the excursion. Could they have drowned? She feels alone in the presence of her old, antagonist life. Jasper and Rose come into her room, wanting to know if Mildred should hold dinner. “Not for the Queen of England,” she responds, aware of her tendency to exaggerate. She has Rose pick out which jewels she should wear to dinner. Worrying about the dinner, she reflects that the Bœuf en Daube is Mildred’s masterpiece and must be served on time. As Mrs. Ramsay considers Jasper’s choice of the opal necklace and Rose’s choice of the gold, she glances out of the window and sees with amusement the rooks trying to decide which branch to settle on. She calls the father rook, old Joseph, and the mother Mary. She loves the movement of the wings, beating out.
The mother urges the children to choose her jewels. She lets Rose clasp her choice against her black dress. She thinks how important this ritual is for Rose. How at this point in her life, the child feels such a deep feeling for her mother. Mrs. Ramsay feels sad, that it was so out of proportion to anything she was. She asks Jasper to take her arm, and Rose to carry her handkerchief. She thinks, as she asks Rose to choose her a shawl, that Rose, being female, will suffer so. They stop by the window on the landing and look at Joseph. Mrs. Ramsay asks Jasper if he doesn’t think the birds suffer, having their wings broken. He thinks that birds don’t feel, but he likes her stories of Joseph and Mary.
Mrs. Ramsay hears the travelers. She is annoyed with them now, but descends the stairs like a queen who accepts the tribute of her people gathered in the hall. She notices the smell of burning and worries about the dinner. The dinner gong calls everyone in the house to let go of their private activities and assemble for dinner.
In the excursion to the beach, we see the children and Minta and Paul away from the confines of the house. We feel the presence of the ocean, the cliffs, the climbing rocks, and the small pools. We also see both the influence of the parents on the children and their uniqueness. Andrew’s reaction to Minta, and to all women, is much like his father’s. Nancy, though more naturally reclusive than her mother, shares her mother’s ability to project onto nature moods, feelings, and meanings.
Mrs. Ramsay’s strong influence is felt as Paul’s insecurities about “taking the plunge” surface. If it weren’t for her, he might never have had the courage to propose. The maternal insight of Mrs. Ramsay is nowhere clearer than when she encourages Rose to choose her jewels. Without any narcissism, she knows that at this stage, her daughter’s feelings for her are very deep. She allows room for that and only feels saddened by the discrepancy between what Rose feels and how life will treat her. Mrs. Ramsay’s sense of humor, rarely seen, is suggested by her fantasy about Joseph and Mary.