In Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse, Mrs. Ramsay plays the role of a beautiful, dutiful wife and mother. She also is a peacekeeper, who struggles to find unity, even in situations where it seems that none can be found. Through Mrs. Ramsay's attempts to unify conditions, many characters experience an extreme sense of connection with her. Often, like Mrs. Ramsay's successful unifications, these connections are but fleeting ones, lasting only momentarily. Nevertheless, they do exist and are a reoccurring event throughout the course of the novel.
'That's my mother, thought Prue. Yes; Minta should look at her; Paul Rayley should look at her. That is the thing itself, she felt, as if there were only one person in the world; her mother. And, from having been quite grown up, a moment before, talking with the others, she became a child again, and what they had been doing was a game, and would her mother sanction their game, or condemn it, she wondered. And thinking what a chance it was for Minta and Paul and Lily to see her, and feeling what an extraordinary stroke of fortune it was for her to have her, and how she would never grow up and never leave home, she said, like a child, 'We thought of going down to the beach to watch the waves.'
Instantly, for no reason at all, Mrs. Ramsay became like a girl of twenty, full of gaiety. A mood of revelry suddenly took possession of her. Of course they must go; of course they must go, she cried, laughing; and running down the last three or four steps quickly, she began turning from one to the other and laughing and drawing Minta's wrap round her and saying she only wished she could come too, and would they be very late, and...
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... as she moved and took Minta's arm, it changed, it shaped itself differently; it had become, she knew, giving one last look at it over her shoulder, already the past (167-8).
During the dinner party she experiences many different connections with her guests. However, she also recognizes the transitory nature of them, so, she takes the time to enjoy them. This is merely her nature.
Through these temporary connections, Woolf emphasizes the idea that it is important to treasure these moments, no matter how fleeting they may be. This is expressed through a myriad of relationships in the novel, but in the end, they all come to the same conclusion: It is better to appreciate what you have, even if it is only for a short time, because someday, all of it will be lost.
Woolf, Virginia. To the Lighthouse. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: Orlando, 1927.
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