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The Men Who Are Mr. Ramsay

To the Lighthouse is a novel about Mrs. Ramsay her techniques, her wiles, and her lasting impact. Although she dies with half the novel left to read, there is no doubt that, what ever intention Woolf had, Mrs. Ramsay is the main character for she is definitely the protagonist. The role of antagonist, then, falls squarely on the shoulders of her husband, Mr. Ramsay. Mr. Ramsay is not as likeable as his greater half, but he is just as complicated. He may even be a lot more so when examining the actual influences, and the quantity of them, that went into constructing his character.

The novel is largely autobiographical. Woolf’s family is represented, demographically, in a near perfect clone. In the novel, the Ramsay loved ones consists of the parents and eight youngsters (Woolf 14). Woolf’s family members consisted of eight children as effectively, when counting half-brothers and half-sisters (Dalsimer four). Such a reality could be merely trivial, except for how the households diminished in size. For the Ramsays, the mother died, followed by Prue, then Andrew (Woolf 128, 132, 133). Likewise, Woolf’s mother died 1st, when she was 13, then a half-sister, and then her brother Thoby died (Dalsimer xiii).

Woolf was young when her mother died, so it is tough to guess where the character of Mrs. Ramsay and Woolf’s mother find their correlations. She says herself “it is a child’s view of her” (Dalsimer 98). Certainly the Ramsay youngsters favor their mother to their father, and likewise the Stephen (Woolf’s Maiden name) young children considerably preferred their mother’s sense of humor and ability to praise her children. With the novel taking such an autobiographical approach to its plot and that character, one particular may possibly assume that each character is a retelling of Woolf’s childhood. This is not the case as some liberties have been taken to ease the telling of the story. Most notably, the Ramsay parents show no proof of possessing been previously married. In Woolf’s loved ones, her parents have been both widowed, and the result was that she had four half-siblings (Dalsimer 4). By neglecting to consist of this element of the story it was possibly less complicated to show the adore that Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay had for each and every other by advertising the concept that these two could enjoy every single other and only each and every other. In addition, the pre-existing emotional baggage would have changed the reader’s perception of both characters, their children, and the reader.

That is not the only time that Woolf alterations history to produce much better fiction. The character traits of the individual household members differ as properly particularly the variations in between the traits and beliefs of Mr. Ramsay and Woolf’s father, Sir Leslie Stephen. That is not to say that there are no similarities certainly there are numerous. In the novel, Ramsay was renowned for his accomplishments, and there had been these that considered him to be “the greatest metaphysician of his time” (Woolf 37). Stephen was also renowned for his respective accomplishments genuinely, 1 should be very influential to be knighted. Just getting respected, nevertheless, are not grounds to get in touch with Stephen the inspiration for Ramsay.

One must take into account their respective relationships with their households. Ramsay was a tyrant in his home, such that his two youngest, Cam and James, produced a silent pact “to resist [his] tyranny to the death” (Woolf 163). Ramsay was a difficult fellow to live with. He was always “demanding sympathy,” fishing for compliments to ease his thoughts (Woolf 37). He would shout and curse for seemingly inoffensive transgressions, for instance when he cursed his wife for continuing to tell James that the climate would be fine, or when he “lost his temper and banged out of the room” when Nancy had forgotten to order sandwiches (Woolf 145).

At numerous points, the reader is told that James hates his father, and if 1 were to read about Woolf, that person would find that Ramsay is not alone in getting the object of hatred. On a birthday of her late father Woolf writes “he would have been 96 today… certainly could have been 96, like other people one has known: but mercifully was not. His life would have entirely ended mine.” (Rose 159). Woolf could not tolerate her father and “his exasperating domestic tyrannies” (Rose 158). Like Ramsay, Stephen demanded that his wife be “constantly obtainable, consistently supportive, constantly working to order his life” (Rose 158). Like Ramsay, who calls himself a failure, “Stephen’s overbearing exactions of sympathy was his sense of failure” and he also would “exaggerate his self-pity ‘in order to extort from [his wife] some of her scrumptious compliments'” (Gordon 25, 26).

Surely, Stephen inspired some of the personality of Mr. Ramsay, but Ramsay is not a biographical figure. The two had their share of differences, most notably their expert careers. Ramsay is, of course, a metaphysical philosopher concerned with the “the nature of reality” (Woolf 23). Stephen was “a historian of believed, a biographer, a literary critic, and a moral philosopher, in approximately that order of importance” (Rosenbau 338). Philosopher was on his resume, but this is not exactly where he accomplished his notoriety, nor is his ethical philosophy similar to Ramsay’s epistemology.

An added difference appears when examining a central moment, and also the opening scene, of the novel in which a low-important argument about the weather requires place. In the novel, Mr. Ramsay tells his son and wife that the climate will not let them to go to the lighthouse in the morning. Mrs. Ramsay insists that the weather will be fine, but Mr. Ramsay is right, and the household stays property the subsequent day. This argument is based on a true circumstance that took spot in which Woolf’s father and mother have a similar argument, nonetheless the sides are reversed. “It was Mrs. Stephen that remonstrated that it was pouring and argued against their going, even though Mr. Stephen, along with the kids, was eager to go regardless of the weather” (Dalsimer 37). Woolf juxtaposes the roles of the parents in order to reinforce Ramsay’s cruelty. Breaking from the factual, although not something Ramsay is capable of, was some thing that Woolf would gladly do in order to facilitate her writing process.

Woolf’s willingness to stray from the factual traits of her father to construct Ramsay’s familial ties and qualities of his personality, whilst nonetheless adhering to certain realities, begs a new inquiry: where did she locate the inspiration for Ramsay’s professional attributes? The first answer to come to thoughts is Ramsay’s pseudo-namesake, the mathematician Frank Ramsey (hereafter recognized as F. Ramsey, in order to help the reader). There are some very good correlations in between the two, and not just in their names. First, Mr. Ramsay was a young man when he accomplished his notoriety: 25 as Mr. Bankes states (Woolf 23). Similarly, F. Ramsey was 23 years old when he gained notoriety for his 1925 operate entitled The Foundations of Mathematics (O’Connor and Robertson 2003).

There is also a correlation in what the two guys did following their breakthroughs. Mr. Bankes tells Lily “Ramsay is one of these men who do their very best perform before they are forty” and calls Ramsay’s later function “amplification, [and] repetition” (Woolf 23). F. Ramsey met with his greatest accomplishment before he was forty also, becoming a Fellow at Cambridge University indeed it was the only time he had good results, due to the fact his life ended at the age of 27 (Mellor 2004). Like Ramsay, his later works, specifically his philosophy papers, did not meet with the acclaim of his earlier works. This may have lead Woolf to believe that F. Ramsey’s profession, in philosophy at least, would be unsatisfactory, thus she created Mr. Ramsay’s expert struggles. Woolf could not have known that F. Ramsey’s operate would be rediscovered and praised virtually 20 years later (Mellor 2004). With the restrictions that time locations on information, she could have assumed that F. Ramsey would reside to an old age, as her father did, and his career would never ever “reach R,” as Mr. Ramsay place it, simply because of the instant reception of his operates. This could lead a single to believe that F. Ramsey was the primary inspiration for the expert aspect of Mr. Ramsay.

Nonetheless, take into account F. Ramsey’s Truth and Probability, in which he states “actions are brought on not by beliefs alone, but by combinations of beliefs and desires, and any action can be triggered by much more than 1 such combination” (Mellor xvii). “When people say it will almost certainly rain, for instance, at least part of what they imply is that they think that it will rain more strongly than that it won’t rain. But what they do as a result of this belief – for instance, regardless of whether they take umbrellas with them when they go out – depends also on what they want” (Mellor 2004). Right here it is valuable to consider the very first scene, a scene coincidentally involving rain, in which Mr. Ramsay contradicts his wife, his belief getting that the weather will not allow them to go to the lighthouse the next day. His action is to state this, for there is no debate in that regard what is at query is his wish for saying this. James feels it is for “the pleasure of disillusioning his son and ridiculing his wife” (Woolf four). This may not be the case. Mrs. Ramsay’s action was telling her son, repeatedly, that the weather would be fine, in the face of conflicting proof she ignores her belief and takes an action, desiring to make her son content in the quick term. She is only postponing his disillusionment, for he will wake up the following day and not be in a position to go. Mr. Ramsay seems to be attempting to save his son the heartache, and maintain James from becoming distrustful of his mother. This could be his desire. In Mr. Ramsay’s opinion, one particular need to constantly take action that corresponds with belief, and not need. Mrs. Ramsay is his opposite, willing to suspend belief in an work to make other people satisfied.

In this case F. Ramsey and Mr. Ramsay differ. Whereas Ramsay is rapid to contradict his wife, with something he knows to be truth, F. Ramsey would not have accomplished this. He is described as having “almost refrained completely from argumentative controversy… He felt as well clear on his own thoughts, I consider, to want to refute other people” (Richards qtd. In Mellor xvi). Mr.Ramsay appears to pass his time trying to prove other men and women wrong his actions stem from belief. F. Ramsey, even so, was secure sufficient to suspend his belief, for the want of not offending any person we discover on the second web page of the novel that this is not Ramsay’s mentality. Whilst character and philosophy are separate categories, philosophically Ramsay does not believe that desire ought to contradict belief, and for that reason alter actions. Considering that he does not see actions as the “combinations of beliefs and desires,” his philosophy and F. Ramsey’s do not correlate (Mellor xvii).

Also, nevertheless related their careers could be described, there are differences in that regard that show that Mr. Ramsay is not totally based on F. Ramsey. Very first of all, F. Ramsey’s subsequent works were not restatements of his earlier operates, as was the case for Ramsay. F. Ramsey delved into a number of fields: philosophy, mathematics, and economy, and was masterful at them all (Mellor xi). With these disparate fields, it would be difficult to imagine Woolf providing F. Ramsey’s operate the description of “amplification, [and] repetition” (Woolf 23). They were not effectively received, not because of their resemblance to older arguments, but because his “work was difficult to take in… since it was so profound and so original” (Mellor xvi). Additionally, most of F. Ramsey’s philosophical operates, though written prior to Woolf started To the Lighthouse, had been not published till the 1930’s (Sahlin 2001). She could not have been privy to such papers. F. Ramsey might have had some influence on the character of Mr. Ramsay, but it is most probably minor. To uncover the actual philosophical thoughts behind Mr. Ramsay’s, it need to be recognized who would have accomplished such groundbreaking operate with adequate time for Woolf to read it and use it.

In this case, the man under investigation is George Edward Moore. Moore’s work, The Refutation of Idealism, was first published in 1903, enabling ample time for Woolf to read it and mold his opinions to fit her novel. He was well recognized at the time of Woolf’s writing and leant a excellent many traits to Mr. Ramsay, the first being the summary of their careers.

Like Mr. Ramsay, Moore was a young man when he 1st accomplished status with his work Principia Ethica. Ramsay was 25 when he published his 1st main perform, and Moore was 30 (Rosenbau 339). Although it can only be speculation what Woolf thought to be the outcome of F. Ramsey’s profession, she could be far more specific that Moore’s “subsequent career was an anticlimax to some of his friends” (Rosenbau 339). The final element of that sentence is especially like Ramsay, for it is his buddy, Mr. Bankes, who tells Lily “what came after [Ramsay’s first work] was far more or less amplification, repetition” (Woolf 23). Woolf would not have necessary to presume the fate of Moore’s career it was already in a downward spiral by the time she started writing her novel.

In addition, “Moore was also teacher, colleague and conversational partner to the likes of Frank Ramsey” (Schultz 2003). This brings to mind images of Ramsay’s connection with Charles Tanlsey. F. Ramsay is described as a “militant atheist,” and his wife emphasizes that he was not an agnostic (Mellor 2004). Tansley is an atheist as nicely (Woolf five). Additional, F. Ramsey was, initial and foremost, a mathematician. Coincidentally, Tansley is at operate on a preface “to some branch of mathematics” (Woolf 7). However, as is Woolf’s tradition, they are not carbon copies. Ramsey was a man who “refrained nearly completely from argumentative controversy” (Richards qtd. In Mellor xvi). On the contrary, Tansley was the sort who was not satisfied until “he had turned the whole issue round and produced it somehow reflect himself and disparage them” (Woolf eight). They are similar in some regards, and Woolf could not have recognized F. Ramsey’s manners in a individual way, so she could have been speculating at his character. Moore appears likelier to be the inspiration for Mr. Ramsay, if a person is to be judged by the business he keeps.

What of their philosophical beliefs? Moore was famous for refuting Idealism by finding the distinction in between subject and object (Moore 32). He believed that there is an objective reality whether we can notice it objectively or not. This is fairly equivalent to Mr. Ramsay’s operate, which Andrew sums up as “subject and object and the nature of reality” (Woolf 23). Ramsay is a man of logic as he has no willingness to sugarcoat issues for James, he has no time to romanticize issues. When he is standing outside and is pondering “it was his fate…to come out thus on a spit of land which the sea is gradually eating away, and there to stand…alone…facing the dark of human ignorance” (Woolf 44). His description of himself bears striking resemblance to the lighthouse, but he does not mention it straight, as his wife does (Woolf 63). He will not assign unique which means to the lighthouse, for the nature of reality does not depend on him assigning specific which means to it. Even when he seems to, he is not conscious of it. Moore mentions, “if it is accurate that my experience can exist, even when I do not take place to be aware of its existence, we have exactly the exact same explanation for supposing that the table can do so” (Moore 44). Since Ramsay is unaware that he is considering of the lighthouse, it proves that subject and object exist separately, and thereby refutes Idealism. As Woolf says, “had he been in a position to contemplate it fixedly it may have led to something” (Woolf 44). This could refer to his not realizing that he was refuting Idealism, which would have been the breakthrough of the age. Ramsay is unaware that he is refuting Idealism or has the capacity to do so, and this is perfect for Moore’s argument and for their correlation.

This leads to the matter of whether Ramsay’s fame will final. He spends significantly of the 1st section of the novel pondering how extended his fame will final, coming to the conclusion that “his personal tiny light would shine, not quite brightly, for a year or two” (Woolf 35). If Moore is the inspiration for Ramsay’s career, this will not be so. With his one article, Moore closed the door on Idealism and ushered in a new century of philosophical believed. Though he could by no means have reached “Z,” and his later work was “an anticlimax,” he nevertheless influences philosophy.

Likewise, he is, indirectly, immortalized in Woolf’s literature. When Ramsay, on many occasions, repeats the lines from Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” it raises a great point. These guys, who accomplished absolutely nothing who did not change the tides of the Crimean War, are remembered via a poem by means of words passed down. Like them, Ramsay, Stephen, F. Ramsey, and Moore, whose glory could fade speedily, are immortalized in Woolf’s literature. “When can their glory fade” is a query Tennyson could not answer and nevertheless can't be answered.

Numerous believe that To the Lighthouse is a novel for Woolf’s mother. She is portrayed as type, sympathetic, and the preferred parent. Nevertheless, one of the final times the novel focuses on Ramsay is when Cam is remembering his kindness the way he encouraged her thirst for expertise (Woolf 188-9). This moment, too, was primarily based on the actual relationship between Woolf and Stephen (Dalsimer 98). This novel served as an elegy, of sorts, for Woolf’s mother, but it also served to resurrect and preserve the legend of her father: his complexities, his inspirations, and his kindness. All the while, she was most certainly unaware of the encounter.

Operate Cited:

Dalsimer, Katherine. Virginia Woolf: Becoming a Writer. New Haven: Yale U. P. 2001.

Gordon, Lyndall. Virginia Woolf: A Writer’s Life. New York: W.W. Norton. 1984

Mellor, D.H., “Philosophy Cambridge Ramsey Biography”. [on the web]. < RamseyLect.html>. Darwin College (Cambridge University). 2004.

—. “Introduction” from Ramsey, Frank. Philosophical Papers. Ed. D. H. Mellor. Cambridge U.P. 1990.

Moore, George Edward. “The Refutation of Idealism.” From Selected Writings. Ed. Thomas Baldwin. NY: Routledge. 1993. pp 23-44

O’Connor, J.J & Robertson, E. F., “Ramsey.” [on the web]. <>. University of St. Andrews (Scotland) College of Mathematics and Statistics. October 2003.

Rose, Phyllis. A Life of Virginia Woolf. New York: Oxford U.P. 1978.

Rosenbau, S.P. English Literature and British Philosophy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1971. pp 337-46.

Sahlin, Nils-Eric. “Frank Ramsey.” [online]. <>. University of Lund: 2001.

Schultz, Bart. “G.E. Moore” Philosopher of the Month. [on-line]. <> 2003.

Woolf, Virginia. To the Lighthouse. Orlando, Florida: Harcourt. 1981.
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