In the second chapter of “To The Lighthouse”, Virginia Woolf uses the continuous analogy of the decade long decay of the Ramsay house to examine the stark aftermath left by World War I in England and the slow crumble of an empire. The chapter begins with Mr. Bankes simply stating “we must wait for the future to show” which mirrors the terse anticipation with which the British public viewed the coming war.
As the house descends into darkness and rains begins to pour, “nothing, it seemed, could survive the flood” (England is overcome by it’s own anguish). The house lurches, “for she rolled like a ship at sea” and it leers “for her eyes fell on nothing directly… she was witless and she knew it” (the British public are ignorant in their leadership and are awash like a vessel without a Captain). Mrs. Ramsay dies first. Her beauty can no longer be used as a source of comfort to her fearfully anguished husband (loss of beauty in England) or as a catalyst to bring the family together (loss of unity as a nation). Prue dies next in childbirth (loss of fertility as a nation). Then Andrew dies in France (the young men are not coming home). “The house was left, the house was deserted, like a shell on a sandhill” (the nation is fractured, scattered, the people are abandoning one another and there is a collective loss of identity). “For now had come that moment, that hesitation when dawn trembles and night pauses,” (the nation begins to awaken from the nightmare and heal itself) the house may still be in disarray, but someone has begun to fix it. “At last, after days of labour… it was finished” (the nation has rebuilt itself and come out from the fog). “Her eyes opened wide. here she was again… awake.”