Mrs. Ramsay is the loving and hospitable wife of Mr. Ramsay. She is highly domestic, focusing on her roles as mother and wife. She deeply admires her husband, although she cannot tell him that she loves him. She is responsible and strong, but she dies unexpectedly in her fifties.
Mr. Ramsay is dominated by rationality and scientific reason. He is in search of truth and greatness, and he fears that he is rather inadequate for not achieving his aims. Neither affectionate nor sentimental, he nevertheless inspires admiration in his wife, although she becomes irritated with his insensitivity.
A young, unmarried painter friend of the Ramsays. She is extremely fond of Mrs. Ramsay and feels a profound sense of emptiness after she dies. She begins a portrait at the beginning of the novel that she cannot finish until the end, ten years later, when the Ramsays reach the Lighthouse.
The youngest Ramsay child, James is six years old when the book begins. He adores his mother and is violently resentful of his father. He enjoys cutting images out of magazines and wants desperately to go to the Lighthouse when he is young.
A young friend of the Ramsays, visiting them at their summer home, Paul proposes to Minta Doyle on the beach as Mrs. Ramsay wished.
A young woman visiting the Ramsays at their summer home, Minta accepts Paul Rayley's marriage proposal.
An odious athiest whom none of the Ramsays particularly like, Charles is one of Mr. Ramsay's philosophy pupils. He is insulting and chauvinistic, trying to discourage Lily from painting. He is often concerned with the affairs and status of others and is very self-centered. He finds Mrs. Ramsay quite beautiful and is proud to be seen walking with her.
An old friend of the Ramsays visiting their summer home, William is a botanist. He is a gentle man of about 60, and Mrs. Ramsay hopes that he will marry Lily Briscoe--making thinly veiled attempts at getting them together. He and Lily remain close friends, and she trusts him deeply.
An unhappy poet who takes opium and achieves little success until after World War I. Because of his controlling wife, he is not fond of Mrs. Ramsay.
The oldest son of the Ramsays, Andrew accompanies Paul Rayley and Minta Doyle on their engagement walk to the beach. He is a gifted mathematician, but he dies fighting in World War I.
One of the Ramsay sons. He enjoys shooting birds, which disturbs his mother, while Mr. Ramsay thinks that doing so is normal for a boy of his age.
One of the Ramsay sons, Roger is adventurous and most similar to his sister, Nancy.
Prue is the oldest of the Ramsays' daughters, and her mother expects her to be an exceptional beauty when she grows up. Although Prue marries, she dies during the following summer of an illness related to childbirth.
One of the Ramsay daughters, Rose is aesthetically inclined. She enjoys making beautiful arrangements and choosing her mother's jewelry.
One of the Ramsay daughters, Nancy is adventurous and independent, secretly hoping for a life much different from her mother's. She does not seem domestic. She accompanies Paul Rayley and Minta Doyle on their engagement walk to the beach.
Cam is the Ramsays' youngest daughter. She is an energetic and mischievous child, and Mrs. Ramsay laments that she must grow up and suffer. Cam sails with James and Mr. Ramsay to the Lighthouse in the final section of the novel.
The witless and leering housekeeper, Mrs. McNab is asked to enter the Ramsays' home after years of disuse to open the windows and dust the bedrooms.
A fisherman friend who accompanies the Ramsays to the Lighthouse.
The fisherman's son who rows the Ramsays to the Lighthouse.
The Ramsays' toothless dog.
The Ramsays' lazy gardener.
A woman who comes to help Mrs. McNab clean the Ramsays' summer home during the "Time Passes" interlude.
Mrs. Bast's son, who also helps clean the Ramsays' house.
A visitor to the Ramsay house at the Lighthouse.
To the Lighthouse Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for To the Lighthouse is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Many of the women in To the Lighthouse either overtly or silently subvert conventional female gender roles. Lily Briscoe, for example, has no desire to marry, but rather wants only to dedicate herself to her work (much like Mr. Ramsay and Mr....
On the surface, the novel tells the story of the Ramsay family and the guests who come to stay with them at their vacation home on the Hebrides Islands in Scotland. At its heart, however, the novel is a meditation on time and how humans reckon...
Before her death, Virginia published an extraordinary amount of groundbreaking material. She was a renowned member of the Bloomsbury Group and a leading writer of the modernist movement with her use of innovative literary techniques. In contrast...