Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Mrs. Ramsey’s Presence in “Time Passes” ~ An Unexpected Frieda

“Time Passes” begins the journey into memories and the changes that have accrued since the day, long past, that began Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse; when the children were young, and Mrs. Ramsey kept everything just so, and visitors sat down to dinner; when Mr. Ramsey had his fits, and the trip to the lighthouse was not a probability. Nature had made its way into the house, taken over, now, where Mrs. Ramsey would never before have let it. Mrs. Ramsey’s world, the world she had created for everyone who had been a part of the household, was no longer in tact. Only faint reminisces remained, which were “too much work for one woman” (p.137) to fix, as (now very old) Mrs. McNab puts it.


It is through this trying to fix things up for what may be the family’s final gathering that the memories begin to peek through, and show themselves in bits of old handkerchiefs, tea cups, the old grey cloak that had been worn by Mrs. Ramsey when she was gardening, “(‘Mrs. McNab fingered it’)”(p. 136), bringing it, and in turn it’s pervious owner, one may say, to life so many years later; just as she does while she dusts and straightens “over the bedroom wall, up the dressing-table…”(p.136).


Different from “The Window”, where people and moments are looked at as though through a window, in “Time Passes” those people and moments are looked at telescopically, as if trying to look closely at something that is far away. The eye of this telescope fits, in this section, over Mrs. McNab’s eye, and as she daydreams of Mrs. Ramsey, Mrs. McNab delights that “She could see her now, stooping over her flowers; and faint and flickering, like a yellow beam or the circle at the end of a telescope, a lady in a grey cloak, stooping over her flowers, went wandering over the bedroom wall, up the dressing-table, across the wash-stand, as Mrs. McNab hobbled and ambled, dusting, straightening”(p.136).


Even the physical and present beam from the lighthouse is not spoken of in this way, described instead as entering “the rooms for a moment … its sudden stare over bed and wall in the darkness of winter, looked with equanimity…”(p.138). Nature, and the present, offer dinginess and chaos to a once perfect world. Butterflies and poppies and the sun are no longer so lovely. It is the mental memories of Mrs. Ramsey’s pleasantries and habits of times past, even when dressed in grey, that slowly wash over the home and offer the glimpses of when her own life fed life into the world they all once new.

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