Mr. Ramsay, a professor of philosophy, a metaphysician of high order, an author, and the father of eight. Not really first-rate, as he realized by the time he was sixty, he knew also that his mind was still agile and his ability to abstract strong. Loved by his wife, he is nevertheless offered sympathy and consolation for the things he is not. Lithe, trim, and the very prototype of the philosopher, he attracts many people to him and uses their feelings to buoy him in his weaknesses. He is not truly a father; his gift for the ironic and sardonic arouses fear and hatred rather than respect among his children. Broken by the deaths of his wife and his oldest son, he continues to endure and to sharpen his mind on the fine whetstone of wit.
Mrs. Ramsay, a beautiful woman even in her aging; she is warm, compassionate, and devoted to the old-fashioned virtues of hearth, husband, and children. With an aura of graciousness and goodness about her, ineffable but pervasive, Mrs. Ramsay gathers about her guests, students, friends, and family at their summer home on the Isle of Skye. Loving and tender to her children, and polite and pleasant to her guests, she impresses on them all the sanctity of life and marriage, the elemental virtues. Her love and reverence of life have its effect on all of her guests, even an atheistic student of her husband and an aloof poet. Mostly she affects women, especially Lily Briscoe, with the need to throw oneself into life, not to limit life but to live it, especially through motherhood.
James, the Ramsays’ youngest son and his mother’s favorite. He is the child most criticized by the professor because the boy robs him of sympathy that he desperately needs. Sensitive and austere, James at six and sixteen suffers most the loss of his mother, taken from him at first by a calculating father’s demands and later by her death. He and his sister Camilla make a pact of war against their father’s tyranny of demands and oversights. Finally, on a trip to the lighthouse, the symbol of what had been denied him by his father, Mr. Ramsay praises his son’s seamanship.
Prue, who dies in childbirth,
Andrew, who is killed in World War I,
(The entire section is 972 words.)