Sample Letter 1

July 12, 1994           645 words

Dear Elizabeth,

I struggle to write this letter. What can I say to Elizabeth—who has been my acquaintance for only four days—that she will find interesting or significant? What can I offer, I who am so new to the Lighthouse.

First I must consider my audience. What do I know of you? How wonderfully you described yourself that first class day: "I am an actress." Then you spread your hands and looked, eyes widened like a deer’s caught in the headlights. "I am an actress--and I love Virginia Woolf." I am reminded of a passage: "There was nobody whom she reverenced as she reverenced [her]." How did you come to such reverence, I asked myself. That night I began, for the first time, To the Lighthouse. I met Mrs. Ramsay.

Does Mrs. Ramsay speak to you as she spoke to me that night? In her I see a sympathetic woman caught in the eternal paradox of womanhood, or indeed, humanity. She sees her husband, all his quirks and shortcomings, yet she reverences him. How can this be? He is such a brute, we first think. Yet isn’t this the essence of marriage? Don’t we live with our partner’s quirks and flaws, as well as his moments of glory, just as he lives with ours? I am reminded of the Little Prince who left his planet because he believed his rose did not love him because she pouted and demanded. On his journey to various planets, and particularly to Earth, he learned the secret of relationships. The rose is unique because it is my rose, he learned. When one tames another, he or she is then responsible for that individual. Love, or friendship, means to establish ties. Finally, one must look with the heart—not with the eyes—to discover the essential things of life.

This seems, to me, to sum up the relationship of the Ramsays. First, they have made a commitment to each other, each giving the other a unique position in his or her life yet recognizing, at the same time, the other’s shortcomings. As Mrs. Ramsay observes, " . . . it was painful to be reminded of the inadequacy of human relationships, that the most perfect was flawed and could not bear the examination which, loving her husband with her instinct for truth, she turned upon it; when it was painful to feel herself convicted of unworthiness . . ." (40). Obviously, the Ramsays have "tamed" one another. As she further observes, "For he wished, she knew, to protect her" (60) while she was equally protective of him: "But indeed she was not jealous. . . . She was grateful to them for laughing at him . . . till he seemed a young man; a man very attractive to women, not burdened, not weighed down . . ." (90). Mrs. Ramsay recognizes the importance and joy of this facet of marriage: "She knew quite well that he did not admire them, or even realize that they [the flowers] were there. It was only to please her. . . . Ah, but was that not Lily Briscoe strolling along with William Banks? . . . They must marry!" (123). Finally, each understands their relationship in the heart: "He wanted something—wanted the thing she had always found so difficult to give him; wanted her to tell him that she loved him" (123) and yet she could not do that "For she had triumphed again. She had not said it: yet he knew" (124).

This is not the letter I had planned to write to you. I had planned to talk about passages involving the shawl as a possibility for a dramatic presentation. As I began to write, however, my pen took on life of its own. Perhaps as Lily, "I have had my vision."


Updated July 1, 1997
Created July 1, 1997

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