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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
Prue answers her mother that yes she does think Nancy went with Paul and the others.
The events of this very short chapter return us in time to a moment before the scene of the beach--or actually simultaneously with it--to the answer to Mrs. Ramsey's question about where Nancy is.
Mrs. Ramsey is getting dressed for dinner in her bedroom. As she thinks of Nacy being gone, Rose and Jasper knock on her door and come into her room. She decides that Nancy being with the others means they will probably be safe because a "holocaust on such a scale was not probable." She feels once again alone in the presence of her "old antagonist, life." Jasper and Rose bring a message from Mildred, the maid, asking if she should wait dinner. Mrs. Ramsey says, "Not for the Queen of England" and then adds, laughing at Jasper, "Not of the Empress of Mexico," because Jasper shares her habit of exaggerating. While Jasper takes the message, she lets Rose choose her jewelry for the evening. Mrs. Ramsey feels annoyed with Paul and the others for being late since she wants things to be especially nice for Mr. Banks since he had at last consented to dine with them. They are having Mildred's masterpiece, Bòuf en Daube.
Jasper and Rose offer her pieces of jewelry. She answers vaguely and looks at her neck in the mirror while avoiding looking at her face. She looks out the window at a sight which always amuses her. The rooks are trying to decide which tree to settle on. She has named the old rook, Joseph. She calls her children to look at Joseph and Mary fighting. He children keep offering her pieces of jewelry and she tells them to choose. She lets them take their time, even though she is worried about the dinner being served late. Choosing her jewelry every night was what Rose liked best. She wonders what Rose is thinking and remembers in her past "some deep, some buried, some quite speechless feeling that one had for one's mother at Rose's age." She feels sad about it because she thinks what she can give them in return is so inadequate. She knows that what Rose feels was quite out of proportion to what she, Mrs. Ramsey, actually is. She imagines Rose will grow up and suffer.
She goes downstairs and lets Jasper escort her since he is the gentleman and Rose can carry her handkerchief since she was the lady. As she leaves she picks up her green shawl. She looks at the birds once again and asks Jasper does he not think the birds mind having their wings broken. He feels rebuked, but not seriously because he knows she does not understand the fun of shooting birds. Jasper wonders how his mother knows about Mary and Joseph, the birds. Just as he is asking her these questions, like all grown-up people, she stops paying him any attention.
She says, "They've come back!" She wants to know what has happened, but knows she cannot asks them in front of all the people in the dining room. She will have to act like some queen who finds her people gathered in the hall. She suddenly stops, thinking she smells burning, and worries about the Bòuf en Daube. She hears the noise of the gong announce dinner.
Mrs. Ramsey is shown here with her other two children, Rose and Jasper, who are given very little room in the novel as a whole. They are sketched just enough to fill out the scene with their mother. The main function of this chapter is to show Mrs. Ramsey as a mother, her sense of her importance to her children's lives and her sense of time, as made up of so many crystallized moments that form the character of the person in the future. The scene is written as if it were a memory of one of these children. Mrs. Ramsey is the focus of attention, but is seen by her children as somewhat arbitrary in the attention she pays to them. At moments she is focused on them intensely and at moments she is far away in her thoughts. The significance of that reality is that Woolf is able to represent the mother-child relation from both points of view. The child is egocentric and thinks of the mother as only caregiver, not as a person with separate thoughts and needs. In representing the mother's thoughts, Woolf is able to show her as both wonderfully present for her children, and a person in her own right, with her own concerns, fears, and hopes.