Friday, July 22, 2011

To the Lighthouse Read-a-long Week 3

We are almost finished with To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, a read-a-long hosted by

This week the reading was, if possible, even more dreamlike to me than before.  We started off the reading back at the dinner table with Mrs Ramsay's  neurosis.  Her anxiety has extended to even the fruit bowl, which she's "jealously" guarding, hoping no one would ruin it by taking a piece of fruit from it.  Although, if I remember correctly, she is hoping the composition won't be ruined because Rose has arranged. In fact, she glances at Rose "in sympathy".
Her gaze alights on Prue, whom she telepathically promises will one day be happier than the newly engaged Minta.  And why will Prue be happier? Because she is Mrs Ramsay's child.  Oddly, I don't think this is an example of Mrs Ramsay being full of herself.  She is always thinking of her children. At one point, early on in the book she says she wishes she could always have a baby in her arms.  Another time, she thinks sadly how she wishes they could stay the way they are because they will never be as happy as they are. While Mr Ramsay may at times consider what his writing career would have been like had he not had such a large family, Mrs Ramsay strikes me as completely the opposite.  She is very attached to her children.  When she goes to check on James and Cam and finds them still awake, she soothes them with stories and gently coaxes them to sleep.  She hopes that Charles Tansley, who is staying in the room above Cam and James, won't awaken them by dropping some book.  She is so obsessed by this idea that he is the clumsy type that would drop a book, that later she can't recall if he's actually done it or not.

The second part of this reading takes place after 10 years have passed.  This is a dreamlike sequence for me.  An elderly woman is cleaning up the neglected house and getting ready for the Ramseys return.  Only this time Mrs Ramsay is absent, and so is Andrew, who has died in the war, and so is Prue, Prue, who was supposed to be happier than Minta, has died in childbirth.  But Lily Briscoe is back, and she takes up painting out on the lawn, just as she did 10 years before.  Lily's description of creating and painting on pages 158-159 must surely be Ms. Woolf's own thoughts and frustrations with her art.

Lingering questions in my mind:

Was Mr Ramsay looking for more than sympathy from Lily? And was he a little flirtatious with Minta at dinner?
Mrs. Ramsay died suddenly. I wonder how.

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