Ramsay in To the Lighthouse serve as unifying figures for the other characters in the books. Both of these women provide the gel that holds their respective families together, and each is a constant that others can rely on. Mrs. Wilcox has to contend with the pulls of modern life that threaten to displace Howards End, and the drives of the male members of her family that makes them antagonists to her ideal of life rooted in the English countryside. Mrs. Ramsay must temper the harsh reality that is endorsed by Mr.Ramsay, and supported by Charles Tansley, and serve as a buffer for her eight children.
At the beginning of To the Lighthouse, Mrs. Ramsay sits in the drawingroom window knitting a pair of stockings and overseeing her six-year-old son James as he cuts pictures out of a catalogue. She has just assured him that if the weather is fine he can go to the lighthouse the next day. Mr. Ramsay, who has been walking on the terrace, overhears this promise, and stops at the window to say abruptly that James cannot go because it will rain tomorrow. Mr. Ramsay will not allow for hope, or even wishful thinking. Mr. Ramsay is a disrupting force, a wet blanket; he will rain on any parade that crosses his path.
He was incapable of untruth; never tampered with a fact; never altered a disagreeable word to suit the pleasure or convenience of any mortal being, least of all of his own children, who, sprung from his loins, should be aware from childhood that life is difficult; facts uncompromising; and the passage to that fabled land where our brightest hopes are extinguished, our frail barks founder in darkness (here Mr. Ramsay would straighten his back and narrow his little blue eyes upon the horizon), one that needs, above all, courage, truth, and the power to endure. (Lighthouse p.4).
Mr. Ramsay insists uncompromisingly on the bleak facts of the human condition. For him life is some sort of a dangerous expedition that is not to be taken lightly.