Part I, Chapters 11-12
I love this passage so much. Sums up so much. It could be a standalone poem for the ages. Yes, I have a weakness for beautiful weirdness:
"She saw the light again. With some irony in her interrogation, for when one woke at all, one’s relations changed, she looked at the steady light, the pitiless, the remorseless, which was so much her, yet so little her, which had her at its beck and call (she woke in the night and saw it bent across their bed, stroking stroking the floor), but for all that she thought, watching it with fascination, hypnotised, as if it were stroking with its silver fingers some sealed vessel in her brain whose bursting would flood her with delight, she had known happiness, exquisite happiness, intense happiness, and it silvered the rough waves a little more brightly, as daylight faded, and the blue went out of the sea and it rolled in waves of pure lemon which curved and swelled and broke upon the beach and the ecstasy burst in her eyes and waves of pure delight raced over the floor of her mind and she felt, It is enough! It is enough!"
My favorite passage thus far also appeared in today’s reading. The first couple pages of chapter 11. Mrs. Ramsay’s intense relief at the children going to bed, permitting her to let everyone fall away, being left with the “wedge of darkness” that is herself. The relief of solitude. One of those exquisite moments when a writer expresses perfectly something I have also felt, and I feel un-alone.
Also, this is a lovely sentence: “The lights were rippling and running as if they were drops of silver water held firm in a wind.”
Reading this section of Mrs. Ramsay’s quiet thinking was both beautiful and revealing. Also fascinating to see both Mr. Ramsay’s not wanting to disturb her but wanting to protect her from an inside view and her perception of him view from his outside manner and speaking.
Looking at the stroke of the lighthouse--her stroke--Mrs. Ramsay feels "as if it were stroking with its silver fingers some sealed vessel in her brain whose bursting would flood her with delight."
Those bursting "waves of pure delight," here felt in isolation, when Mrs. Ramsay can "be herself, by herself," echo similar language in "Mrs. Dalloway," where Clarissa thinks of the ecstatic experience she sometimes feels when with other women: "It was a sudden revelation, a tinge like a blush which one tried to check and then, as it spread, one yielded to its expansion, and rushed to the farthest verge and there quivered and felt the world come closer, swollen with some astonishing significance, some pressure of rapture, which split its thin skin and gushed and poured with an extraordinary alleviation over the cracks and sores!"
I too like my fellow readers respond to these words with devotion to Mrs Ramsey who rejoices in this brief reprieve from life and my favorite line is “there was freedom, there was peace, there was most welcome of all, a summoning together, a resting on a platform of stability”. Striking, ten pages later the harshness of her words “all this phrase making was a game, she thought, for if she said half what he said, she would have blown her brains out by now”.
Mrs. Ramsey attaching herself to the third, long stroke from the lighthouse feels like the way I attach myself to the sound of the train whistle in the early morning. I love that.
Found myself considering Mrs. R and how VW lets us know she is comfortably sexual: “Marriage needed--oh, all sorts of qualities ... ; one--the thing she had with her husband. Had [Minta and Paul] that?” So that is primary and helps explain the 8 kids given that contraception was unreliable then. In a previous paragraph, though, I was curious about “her own transaction, she had had experiences which need not happen to every one (she did not name them to herself).” What were they, I wonder.
I love the way a long marriage is defined here: "They disagreed always about this, but it did not matter. She liked him to believe in scholarships, and he liked her to be proud of Andrew whatever he did." The familiarity and, again, the repetition.
I was a bit taken aback by this, though: "All this phrase-making was a game, she thought, for if she had said half of what he said, she would have blown her brains out by now." It's curious to me that it's the saying out loud that's emphasized here. It's a game for him—for she doesn't believe he truly means what he says—but she seems to have these melancholy thoughts, too, and yet doesn't share them with him. And somehow not saying them out loud has kept her from going over the edge.
It all seems so fragile, the continuation/construction of a day, held in moments that VW stretches and stretches -- the things she uses to stretch and hold or hold up, as in suspend, time, like Mrs. R's reading of the fairy tale in earlier chapters, and her knitting needles in Ch. 11 --to have Mr. R. pass by AGAIN (isn't it dark outside by now? How can he see into the hedge? Has he spent the entire day and now night walking around talking to himself?) is a bit of a stretch too far, it might seem - however it holds together with a bit of writerly glue ..
In Ch. 12 we learn that it's "only just past seven," Mr. R's watch has been "flicked ... carelessly open."
How interesting! An actual time piece! But - "he would have written better books if he had not married." The tension is there, underlying the whole enterprise - holding it, holding it up?
Mrs. R. with her "short-sighted eyes" - looking at the lights of the faraway town in what is now surely darkness, she thinks "all the poverty, all the suffering had turned to that" that is, to something lovely, yet Mr. R. can see the colors of the flowers, red and brown, and "some creature was ruining her Evening Primroses." She searches for mole hills in the darkness .. we see the Ramsays side by side, alone together, overlapping and uncommunicating, distinct but united ..
It's very interesting to me that Mrs Ramsay specifically calls out herself, Lily, and Augustus Carmichael when she expresses they, "...must feel, our apparitions, the things you know us by, are simply childish. Beneath it is all dark, it is all spreading, it is unfathomably deep; but now and again we rise to the surface and that is what you see us by." I'm struck by the self-knowledge of her own "core of darkness" and the empathy to perceive it, this depth of feeling, this dark core, in others.
And then this other beautiful passage in Ch. XI — "It was odd, she thought, how if one was alone, one leant to inanimate things; trees, streams, flowers; felt they expressed one; felt they became one; felt they knew one, in a sense were one; felt an irrational tenderness thus (she looked at that long steady light) as for oneself." Yes, absolutely yes.
We are one with Mrs R as she knits the brown stockings (will they ever be finished) and watches the lighthouse light flash across the dying day. How clearly I saw her sitting there. Mr R is nonplussed.
Love the back and forth between Mr. and Mrs. R on their evening walk in ch 12. Some of it said, some thought, some said, some thought. . . like life.
And “When he was Andrew’s age, he used to walk about the country all day long . . .” Does every generation feel that the next is filled with helicopter parents and overprotected children?
A passionately devoted mother of eight and a somewhat admiring wife, with a somewhat disengaged, and certainly “irritable“ husband (“blind, deaf, and dumb, to the ordinary things, but to the extraordinary things, with an eye, like an eagle’s.“), a house full of guests, and a longing for more, expressing appreciation for her temporary solitude: “It was a relief when they went to bed. For now, she need not think about anybody. She could be herself, by herself.“
I was struck in the beginning of ch 11, in Mrs Ramsay, that wedge shaped core of darkness. And later…Beneath it is all dark, it is all spreading, it is unfathomably deep….and on the next page she thinks, This core of darkness could go anywhere…..and again, she thinks of that wedge of darkness. Woolf has packed so much into these first pages—haunting, beautiful, sad, ominous, inspired.
Her solitude, what a huge emotional region.