Lily seems to become a substitute for Mrs. Ramsay. Are women implicitly interchangeable for Mr. Ramsay? He needs pity, sympathy – for the grief that saturated his soul - upon returning to the house, which seemed to embody Mrs. Ramsay’s “reign” as queen o’er (and care for) her kingdom of family – and friends – and thus (expects/demands?) it from Lily: “Mr. Ramsay sighed to the full. He waited. Was she not going to say anything? Did she not see what he wanted from her? … He sighed profoundly. He sighed significantly” (226).

And Lily appears tormented by the gendered expectations to which she refuses (although a bit self-deprecatingly) to succumb: “His immense self-pity, his demand for sympathy poured and spread itself in pools at her feet, and all she did, miserable sinner that she was, was to draw her skirts a little closer round her ankles, lest she should get wet” (228).

“She was ashamed of herself. To praise his boots when he asked her to solace his soul; when he had shown her his bleeding hands, his lacerated heart, and asked her to pity them, then to say cheerfully, “Ah, but what beautiful boots you wear!” deserved, she knew, and she looked up expecting to get it, in one of his sudden roars of ill-temper, complete annihilation” (229).

I felt myself a bit of a “miserable sinner” to have laughed aloud at this sardonic description of “peace” found: “They had reached, she felt, a sunny island where peace dwelt, sanity reigned and the sun forever shone, the blessed island of good boots” (230).

And yet, “[t]he gate banged” (a tenuous “peace” disrupted?) after Mr. Ramsay’s “extraordinary face!” … “shed worries and ambitions, and the hope of sympathy and the desire for praise” [as he leads] “that little procession out of [Lily’s] range” (233). Hmmm … waves of conflicting emotions roiling within Lily’s mind, as she “felt a sudden emptiness; a frustration … snubbed” (231).

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In "The Window," we had Lily Briscoe thinking about how an object might contain Mrs. Ramsay's essence: "What was the spirit in her, the essential thing, by which, had you found a crumpled glove in the corner of a sofa, you would have known it, from its twisted finger, hers indisputably?"

In "The Lighthouse," we have Lily thinking similar thoughts about Mr. Ramsay and objects, even using the same adverb ("indisputably"): "Remarkable boots they were too, Lily thought, looking down at them: sculptured; colossal; like everything that Mr. Ramsay wore, from his frayed tie to his half-buttoned waistcoat, his own indisputably."

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What a curious reunion. So different with people missing from the earlier dinner. Are there others missing that may have changed the dynamic? Is Mrs. Beckworth(?) the teens handler? So just the 4 in London. And Nancy, I forgot her age.

The primeval gust of a groan seemed so odd. I’m sure the women readers may have a different reaction. Was there a verbal component of stroking his ego by Lily or is that too big a vacuum left by Mrs. Ramsay?

Sounds like the man needs to go rub one out and go to his happy place thinking of Hume in the bog.

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Is it mean to kind of laugh at Mr Ramsay? I'm sorry to say that I did, inwardly. I wish Lily would laugh at him. He is absurd.

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"What beautiful boots," she exclaimed. What a Woolf moment. First of all, it is funny (Lily is here saying something that slips out in a moment of desperation and then thinking, as many of us do in such moments, what an idiot she is). And then Mr. Ramsay holds "his foot up for her to look at." (what a moment to picture) and carries on a discourse about boots to rival his imaginings of kitchen tables before once again lifting first one foot, then another so that Lily can take notice of their shape and leather. They thus bend toward each other, in a moment both comical and yet beautifully realized as touching, both of them landing on the subject of boots with a great sense of relief, a meeting place found in such a surprising place! (I picture him once again lifting the right foot, then the left). And then Mr. Ramsay instructs Lily in properly tying a knot, the most intimate gesture he has made toward her, (again, picture this lesson in typing and untying knots, bend over the boots) and she finds herself filled with the sympathy she was previously unwilling to feel. This is one of my favorite moments in all of Woolf. What beautiful boots indeed.

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We return to where we left off before time passes. Mr Ramsey, Cam, Nancy and James contemplating a trip to the lighthouse, Lili Briscoe, feeling “cut off from other people and able only to go on watching, asking, wondering. The house, the place, the morning all seemed strangers to her.” As she contemplated finishing her painting and wondered how to treat Mr Ramsey, she understands that it was Mrs Ramsey who kept everything together. Lily decides to try to pay attention to Mr R and fill this missing role. I doubt she will be successful.

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For me there is definitely an observation of the “awkwardness between people” and “the isolated feelings of misery, of inadequacy” that Mrs. Ramsey was able to keep hidden from them when they couldn’t appreciate her, when the children even looked down on her.

“She is dead” and Lily’s question that opens Part II, “What does it mean?” and the nothing, nothing, nothing, she repeats seems telling. Is there a bit of existential or absurdist philosophy entering in the prose at this point? I’m not sure. Because the nothing also seems to be everything. 

And there is also the lighthouse. So many symbols can be drawn to the lighthouse, but in the context of this book, I’m still thinking of Mrs. Ramsey’s saying/thinking in Part I that she identifies herself as that “long stroke” of light. And in Part II, as the house sits empty and waiting, the light from the lighthouse that seeps into the windows:

"When darkness fell, the stroke of the Lighthouse, which had laid itself with such authority upon the carpet in the darkness, tracing its pattern, came now in the softer light of spring mixed with moonlight gliding gently as if it laid its caress and lingered stealthily and looked and came lovingly again. But in the very lull of this loving caress, as the long stroke leant upon the bed, the rock was rent asunder; another fold of the shawl loosened; there it hung, and swayed."

And now in Part III, they are finally going toward that light, Mr. Ramsey and Cam and James, begrudgingly, as Lily watches, frustrated with the young people who do not give their father something that means something to him. (Yes, Mr. R can be annoying, but I couldn’t help feeling the sympathy he was demanding, especially when he was so flattered by the talk of his boots.) I still wonder if Lily is VW herself, asking what does it mean? If she was drawing from her own sense of grief and regret about the loss of her parents. This brings an even deeper undercurrent for me.

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The kids’ reactions to their father at dinner are telling: James sullen and Cam fidgeting with her handkerchief. They seem to have had enough of his tyrannical need for attention and sympathy. Their mother is gone and their older brother and sister, who might have played an intermediary role between him and them after her death, are also gone. They are left with only Nancy (do I have this right?) to mother them, and she seems too nervous and distracted to be very good at it. I am forcing myself not to jump ahead, but overall it seems that things can’t possibly go well for anyone from here on out except, possibly, Mr. Carmichael and, I am almost sure, Lily.

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Part III starts out with immense sadness. Mr. Ramsay, described as “a figure of infinite pathos”, with “enormous self pity” and a “demand for sympathy”, continues to be cantankerous. Lily Briscoe hears Mr. Ramsay say, “Alone … perished”. He also appeared to be alone before Mrs. R., Andrew and Prue perished, but may now first realize what he missed when they were alive and when his home was bustling and vibrant with activity. The presence of Lily Briscoe and Mr. Carmichael may be sad reminders of that time. Mr. Ramsay is alone despite the presence of two of his children and evokes both pity and sadness as he meanders about.

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Mrs. Ramsey thought: "What have i done with my life?" And now Lily thinks: "What is it all for?" Meanwhile, Mr. Ramsey is so very needy and needs the answers to these very questions, though he is supposedly the philosopher around here. Earlier in the book, Andrew tells Lily to think of the kitchen table "when you're not there" as explanation for his father's work. And now, here is the kitchen table right in front of her and Mr. Ramsey, and Lily thinks that he has his doubts about his life's work, "whether it was worth the time he gave to it; whether he was able after all to find it." It's very sad, really. Mr. Ramsey, though needy and therefore somewhat pathetic, is still very, very human. He wants to go deep (he is a philosopher, after all), but he cannot--his ego gets in the way. He brightens when he can show Lily how to tie a shoelace! Oh, that was painful to read. I don't laugh at Mr. Ramsey. I feel very sorry for him. His life's work--explaining the world to others--is a mystery to him. His life was Mrs. Ramsey, she is what gave his life meaning and now she is gone. Again, i am rambling with my thoughts and hope they make sense to others.

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Looks like I may have to miss the discussion on Monday. Will it be recorded and accessible later?

Hope so. I'm loving this book. High time I got around to reading it. Thank you.

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"For really, what did she feel, come back after all these years and Mrs Ramsay dead? Nothing, nothing- nothing that she could express at all". What I love about this book is that what it expresses brings forth stuff that I can't express, but nonetheless experience deeply.

For me, music does this more than any other art form. I listened to Richter's Three Worlds: Music from Woolf Works. The accompanying notes and excerpts from VW's writings are moving and a valuable addition; most interesting is the profound attraction and appreciation Richter has for VW.

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I love that Lily didn't finish the painting from ten years ago and is now returning to it, spurred on by the memory of sitting at the dinner party and looking at the tablecloth. These created objects that didn't get finished—the stocking, the painting.

When I went back to the dinner party scene to remember what she saw in the tablecloth, I came across this line, that I had forgotten: "'You're not planning to go to the Lighthouse, are you, Lily,'" said Mrs. Ramsay." It's not a question, it's a statement. And here we are, ten years later, and Lily is still not going to the Lighthouse. Mrs. Ramsay knows.

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From "The Angel in the House," a Victorian poem by Coventry Patmore:

The Wife's Tragedy

Man must be pleased; but him to please

Is woman's pleasure; down the gulf

Of his condoled necessities

She casts her best, she flings herself.

How often flings for nought! and yokes

Her heart to an icicle or whim,

Whose each impatient word provokes

Another, not from her, but him;

While she, too gentle even to force

His penitence by kind replies,

Waits by, expecting his remorse,

With pardon in her pitying eyes;

— Part I, Book I, Canto IX: I.1–I.12

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I'm quite captivated by the idea of "the blessed island of good boots."

As many have noted, Mr R being needy and Lily fretting over her indifference is a compelling scene, and one that mixes the funny and sad.

I'm reminded of how much I hate Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree, with a little boy who takes and takes from a tree till it's a mere stump and then he rests his butt on it. To me it's a tale of how a woman/mother is expected to give and give until she is dead, and even beyond. I was very much in mind of it as I read today's chapters.

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It's a bit of a shock to be back in the real world after the Time Passes section.. not only the real world but the Ramsays' dining room, with coffee cups and long table. But Lily feels "nothing," that is, nothing of what she evidently thinks she should be feeling, back after Mrs. R's death .. all seems "unreal" to her. It is her desire to have time to herself and her artistic imagination that brings her to a sense of purpose and order - she remembers her painting, that she never finished it. She will do it now. Now!

"A brush, the one dependable thing in a world of strife, ruin chaos."

Grabs her paints, a chair, sets up her easel on the lawn .. but, here is Mr. R., "bearing down on her" and stops the process, not the impulse but the carrying out of it.

What does he want? Sympathy only. Only that.

Of course he has no idea what that means for the woman, it has to be a woman, he demands it from. So there are two horrible things. He preys on women for sympathy, and has no sense of them or what he is asking of them, what it might cost them, the inconvenience, burden. It is outrageous of him, and he is just the latest example in a long, long line .. meanwhile Lily dodges and berates herself for dodging - one of the sad consequences - if only she didn't berate herself -

Ch. 2 VW delectably details this impossible situation for us, how emotionally fraught and confusing it is for Lily, who crucially, is not even related to Mr. R. but an outsider looking in. She is able to see the look on his children's faces that he can't or won't see. In Ch 1 she had already thought, "this was tragedy - not palls, dust, the shroud; but children coerced, their spirits subdued."

Like everything else it is an act of imagination that turns the tide .. Lily sees Mr. R's boots in a kind of cartoon in her mind, "walking to his room of their own accord." They have his "charm." It is like a key turning a lock .. and it opens in Lily an access to the feeling of sympathy she had to, out of self-protection, withhold from him before, and releases her from the burden as well. "There was no helping Mr. Ramsay on the journey he was going." But still, being the effed up thing it is, she feels bad for having the feeling "too late" and, seeing he no longer needs her, she feels "snubbed." Ah, VW just follows it out to the very end of the thing .. the very end. It's like the twisted finger of the glove, all over again.

Not only that - not only that - but Mr. R. appears now, to Lily, beautiful, and she is susceptible to his beauty, as she now is able to see it, apart from her, distinguished by his lonely endeavors, "worn" "ascetic." Ay ay ay. What are we to do with this?

Do we just have to accept the two-in one-quality of Mr. R? Do we, as Mrs. R. did, accept it all, and even love it?

Or do we hate him, as James does? As Cam does?

"An extraordinary face! The gate banged."

Sob. Good riddance!


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