To the Lighthouse Chapters 9-11 Summary and Analysis
by Virginia Woolf

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Chapters 9-11 Summary and Analysis

Mr. Bankes and Lily Briscoe discuss Mr. Ramsay. Bankes notes his peculiarities; Lily sees his narcissism as endearing, yet dislikes his narrowness. Bankes pushes Lily to see Ramsay as a hypocrite; Lily negates that idea. Then she thinks of the Ramsays “being in love” and is enraptured by the beauty of this idea.

Lily wants to critique Mrs. Ramsay, but refrains when she notices Bankes’ “rapture.” She appreciates his disinterested, “pure” pleasure in her beauty. However, as she turns to her painting, she is overcome with a sense of failure. She thinks again of Tansley’s comment that women can’t paint or write. Lily returns to her criticism of Mrs. Ramsay. Although she is very moved by Mrs. Ramsay’s beauty, she thinks of her willfulness, her ability to ridicule, and her obsession with marrying everyone off, “presiding with immutable calm over destinies which she completely failed to understand.” Still, Lily ponders the “essential spirit” of Mrs. Ramsay. She tries to fathom what it is about Mrs. Ramsay that seems to convey wisdom or knowledge. She remembers sitting at Mrs. Ramsay’s knee, trying to capture her essence.

Mr. Bankes moves to look at Lily’s picture. She flinches with the anxiety of revealing the “residue of her thirty-three years.” Her friend is thoughtful and interested. He asks about the representation of Mrs. Ramsay and James as a triangular purple shape. Nervously, she explains that her purpose is not to depict them realistically, but rather to indicate their essence through line and shape and mass. She is profoundly grateful to share her most intimate vision with another human being. When Cam dashes past Lily, nearly knocking her easel over, Mrs. Ramsay reflects upon the distractedness of her daughter. Then her mind wanders to Minta Doyle and Paul Rayley who have gone off for a walk. She’s anxious to know if Paul will propose.

James urges Mrs. Ramsay to continue with the story she is reading him. Mrs. Ramsay’s thoughts, still on Minta and Paul, remembers her nickname for Minta’s parents, the Owl and the Poker. She recalls private conversations with her husband in which she mimicked them. Her memory then skips to a comment by a woman who had accused her of “robbing her of her daughter’s affection.” Mrs. Ramsay becomes agitated as she recalls accusations that she is dominating and interfering. She thinks that she’s only tyrannical about her social concerns, specifically hospitals and dairies. If she weren’t so busy with her children, she would devote herself to reform in these areas.

Maternal devotion and joy is evident as she thinks of her childrens’ talents and wishes that they’d never grow up. She is ready to dismiss the negative judgments as she revels in her children. Her joy in them is combined with a sadness, that they will never be so happy again. Mr. Ramsay becomes annoyed when she says that. She wonders if she isn’t the more pessimistic of the two. Pondering about her combat with life, she admits that she sees life as terrible and hostile. Once again, Mrs. Ramsay becomes introspective. As she continues her reading to James, the light begins to fall and the darkness brings on a feeling of anxiety, which leads her to wonder again about Paul and Minta and Andrew.

When she finishes the story, James turns his interest to the lighting of the Lighthouse. She worries that he will ask again if they will make the trip the next day. She’s relieved that the maid distracts him, but knows that he will remember that moment for the rest of his life. As she puts away James’ pictures, she feels a sense of enormous relief to be alone. She is released from the strain of being and doing; she feels herself shrink to a “wedge-shaped core of darkness.” Released from her attachments, her mind is free to roam. She experiences a feeling of infinite possibilities and a sense of stability. In this mood of reverie, she sees the third stroke of the Lighthouse which is...

(The entire section is 1,377 words.)