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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
Mr. Tansley repeats that James is not going to the lighthouse, but tries to lighten his tone in deference to Mrs. Ramsey. Mrs. Ramsey thinks, "odious little man" and wonders why he has to go on saying that.
Coming right after the scene in which Mrs. Ramsey builds up Mr. Tansley's pride of manhood by making him feel his mastery over her as a woman, her thoughts of him as an odious little man undercuts further the artificiality, the emptiness of her efforts to build him up. She has built him up so he can further assert his mastery of facts in telling her young son, James, that he will not get what he most desires, to go to the lighthouse.
She tells her son that perhaps he will wake to find a perfect day. She can tell that her husband telling him he cannot go has made James very low and she knows that going to the lighthouse is a real passion for James. She sits with him and turns pages in a magazine looking for things for him to cut out, a picture of a refrigerator, a rake, and a mowing-machine. She notices that all the young men who follow her husband parody him, agreeing with everything he says, but adding more to it. If he says it will rain, they say it will be a tornado.
As she sits with James her thoughts wander to the waves she hears on the beach, which "beat a measured and soothing tattoo to her thoughts and seemed confidently to repeat over and over again as she sat with the children the words of some old cradle song, murmured by nature, 'I am guarding you--I am your support." At other times, however, the sound of the waves is not at all consoling, but deadly sounding, as if they are remorselessly beating the measure of life to make her think of the destruction of the island, its engulfment in the sea and warned her of her life slipping by so quickly.
She notices that the others have stopped talking. She realizes "poor Charles Tansley had been shed." She is not bothered by this because she feels that if her husband required sacrifices, she would cheerfully offer up Charles Tansley to him. She suddenly hears her husband cry out "Stormed at with shot and shell." She looks around to see if anyone else heard her husband and is pleased to see it is only Lily Briscoe, "and that did not matter."
Seeing Lily Briscoe standing there, Mrs. Ramsey realizes that she is supposed to keep her head still because Lily is painting her portrait. Mrs. Ramsey smiles at the thought of Lily's picture. She thinks of Lily's unattractive features, little Chinese eyes, a puckered-up face, and decides Lily will never marry. She thinks "one could not take her painting very seriously." Mrs. Ramsey thinks of Lily as an "independent little creature" and likes her for it.
Mrs. Ramsey hears the waves on the beach. The waves are a very important image in Virginia Woolf's writing. She even has a novel titled The Waves. Perhaps they represented for her the ebb and flow of life and death. Sometimes Mrs. Ramsey is soothed by their sound and sometimes they remind her of her impending death and the impending death of every precious moment.
At the end of this chapter, the reader suddenly realizes that Mrs. Ramsey has been the object of another portrait than Woolf's literary one. Lily Briscoe is positioned on the lawn painting Mrs. Ramsey as she sits with James. The two images of Victorian women clash. Mrs. Ramsey, who spends all her mental energy taking care of the feelings of the men around her, cannot understand the effort Lily puts into her art. Lily represents an alien mode of being a woman to that of Mrs. Ramsey's, one that Mrs. Ramsey can admire somewhat, but still finds herself dismissing as trivial. This image of mother and son will take the rest of the novel for Lily to complete.