To The Lighthouse

A sorely needed re-read of the hypnotic, dreamy words of VW, although I kept referring to it Mrs. Dalloway in my head. It’s not Mrs. Dalloway, it’s Mrs. Ramsey, it’s Mr. Ramsey and their eight children, it’s Lily Briscoe, it’s boring Charles Tanley (“Women can’t write, women can’t paint”), it’s Paul and Minta and Mr. Carmichael and Mr. Bankes. It’s the Isle of Skye, off the coast of Scotland, at the ramshackle house the Ramseys overflow with guests all summer-long. It’s the magical light beam of the lighthouse mystifying young James Ramsey with the desire to sail out to the lighthouse but his father cruelly dashes all hopes when he predicts rain the next day. Mrs. Ramsey (we’re never on first name basis with this great beauty) dies suddenly and the magical effect she has on knitting her family together dissipates, the island house begins to decay and is neglected through the first World War. Ten years pass, the house is cleaned and fixed and the family flows in again, minus Mrs., daughter Prue (due to complications with childbirth), son Andrew (killed in war). Lily Briscoe and Mr. Carmichael are invited as guests. Lily attempts to finally paint the painting she’s had knocking about in her head for the last decade, withholds sympathy from Mr. Ramsey (he’s so needy!), and comes to grips with her sadness about Mrs. Ramsey’s passing. James (son) & Cam (daughter) morosely follow their father into the boat to finally go to the lighthouse. Has anyone turned this into a 3 act play yet? So much silence, broken by random phrases barked out “Some one had blundered” and “But I beneath a rougher sea.”
Mr. Bankes feeling obligated to stay for dinner at Mrs. Ramsey’s insistence:

Looking at his hand he thought that if he had been alone dinner would have been almost over now; he would have been free to work. Yes, he thought, it is a terrible waste of time… How trifling it all is, how boring it all is, compared with the other thing – work… Yet, he thought, she is one of my oldest friends. I am by way of being devoted to her. Yet now, at this moment her presence meant absolutely nothing to him: her beauty meant nothing to him;… nothing, nothing. He wished only to be alone and to take up that book.

Lily Briscoe’s thoughts on Tanley:

He was really.. the most uncharming human being she had ever met. Then why did she mind what he said? Women can’t write, women can’t paint – what did that matter coming from him, since clearly it was not true to him but for some reason helpful to him, and that was why he said it?
There’s the spring on the table-cloth; there’s my painting; I must move the tree to the middle; that matters – nothing else. Could she not hold fast to that, she asked herself, and not lose her temper, and not argue; and if she wanted revenge take it by laughing at him?

VW’s excellent portrayal of Mrs. McNab, the cleaning woman:

As she lurched (for she rolled like a ship in the sea) and leered (for her eyes fell on nothing directly, but with a sidelong glance that deprecated the scorn and anger of the world- she was witless, she knew it), as she clutched the bannisters and hauled herself upstairs and rolled from room to room, she sang. Rubbing the glass of the long looking-glass and leering sideways at her swinging figure as sound issued from her lips – something that had been gay twenty years before on the stage perhaps, had been hummed and danced to, but now, coming from the toothless, bonneted, care-taking woman, was robbed of meaning, was like the voice of witlessness, humor, persistency itself, trodden down but springing up again, so that as she lurched, dusting, wiping, she seemed to say how it was one long sorrow and trouble…

Lily, on being unable to make the first mark on her painting:

She looked blankly at the canvas, with its uncompromising white stare; from the canvas to the garden. There was something… something she remembered in the relations of those lines cutting across, slicing down, and in the mass of the hedge with its green cave of blues and browns, which had stayed in her mind; which had tied a knot in her mind so that at odds and ends of time, involuntarily, as she walked along the Brompton road, as she brushed her hair, she found herself painting the picture, passing her eye over it, and untying the knot in the imagination. But there was all the difference in the world between this planning airily away from the canvas, and actually taking her brush and making the first mark.

Lily, wanting to wake up Mr. Carmichael and tell him everything:

But one only woke people if one knew what one wanted to say to them. And she wanted to say not one thing, but everything… no, one could say nothing to nobody. The urgency of the moment always missed its mark. Words fluttered sideways and struck the object inches too low. Then one gave it up; then the idea sunk back again; then one became like most middle-aged people, cautious, furtive, with wrinkles between the eyes and a look of perptual apprehension.