Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
*Hebrides Islands (HEH-brah-dees). Island group off the northwest coast of Scotland on which the summerhouse stands. Woolf probably chose this as her novel’s setting because of its sense of wilderness and its proximity to an untrammeled sea that suggests the mysterious and the primal. The sea here is associated with danger and disorder and, after Mrs. Ramsay dies, with an existential meaninglessness.
Lighthouse. Coastal edifice near the summerhouse and a constant presence in this novel, beginning with its opening scene, in which the Ramsays debate the idea of making a picnic outing to the lighthouse. Mrs. Ramsay, the wife and mother who presides over the summerhouse and its various guests and children, and who is sure the weather will be fine enough for the trip, has a special connection to the lighthouse. When she sits at her parlor window looking out at the lighthouse while knitting, her spiritual communion with the lighthouse occasions a flood of strong feelings. Later, as she presides over dinner, she still feels the lighthouse’s presence, which for her represents a transcendental sense of security and well-being.
Six or seven years after Mrs. Ramsay’s sudden death, Mr. Ramsay and his two youngest children return to the summerhouse and finally make the long-awaited trip to the lighthouse. Although all three are lonely and still feel the loss of Mrs. Ramsay, things miraculously begin to go well. The outing to the lighthouse becomes an occasion during which the rift between Mr. Ramsay and his children begins to be healed. Lily Briscoe, a family friend of the Ramsay’s, also seems to encounter the lighthouse through a picture she is painting from the shore. As she places a straight, lighthouselike line in her picture, she feels at last a sense of peace and completion similar to that of Mrs. Ramsay before she died.