This is part of a sentence in Woolf's To the lighthouse. Minta is in a different state of mind from her husband, she's back at 3am after a party while he went to bed early and sternly:

There was Minta, wreathed, tinted, garish on the stairs about three o'clock in the morning. Paul came out in his pyjamas carrying a poker in case of burglars. Minta was eating a sandwich, standing half-way up by a window, in the cadaverous early morning light, and the carpet had a hole in it.

Obviously, the first two adjectives are used in a figurative sense which is not recorded in the dictionaries I could check—and I suspect this sense is very special to Woolf. As a non-native speaker, I'd like to have your "feeling" about them: is "wreathed" used as a way of being in high-spirits or could it rather refer to some physical appearance (clothes or motion?), could "tinted" allude to some tipsiness (although this is probably French only, some may "tint" water with some wine, hence my supposition) or again to spirits...?

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    All of this will be primarily opinion based. My take: at three in the morning, coming in without her husband, perhaps wreathed and tinted by the cadaverous light of the window (most likely; or rebellion/vapors of alcohol, tinted, either by hand -as in made-up- or flushed by drink)? It doesn't say. In any case, it's not attractive to the person remembering it. Jun 30, 2014 at 7:29
  • @medica: 'tinted' can be associated with light, but 'wreathed'...? Dictionary meanings would be "Encircled", by what? Or "twisted" like some smoke rising?...
    – Joce
    Jun 30, 2014 at 9:55

1 Answer 1


I don't think this is as complicated as you're making it.


She is still dressed up in her party clothes. Literally wreathed would mean she has a ring of flowers around her. Her clothing is as fancy (and useless and out of place) as a wreath of flowers.


She is wearing make-up. Tinted means colored. It is a dehumanizing way to describe it.


The dictionary definition suffices here:

obtrusively bright and showy; lurid

excessively or disturbingly vivid

"Garish" just drives home the other two words and leaves no question in the reader's mind that the narrator is pointing out just how awkward and out-of-place she appears.

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