The Hours

1. Analysis of the book

Through the novel the theme of death is most prevalent as Clarissa contemplates the death of Septimus during a party she throws. As the plot progresses the idea of perspectives and stream of consciousness also appears in relation to life and death as Clarissa jumps back and forth through different times of her life and experiences during the war which culminates in Septimus’ suicide and lead her down the road of deeper thought on the subjects. The ability to define life and death and to contemplate each ones meaning is most prevalent in the novel as Clarissa and Septimus each show their life and the way their experiences lead them to different believes on death, culminating in Clarissa’s admiration of Septimus’ suicide.


2. Analysis of the movie

The branching out of perspectives through following three different women on their experiences and reconciliation with death adds to the contemplation of the meaning of life and death which occurs in Mrs. Dalloway. Though the three women may distract from a deeper understanding of one person’s interpretation of death it stays true to the novel in that it shows different people’s way of dealing with death and how their life experiences influence their life and their understanding. The movie also includes references to Mrs. Dalloway mention of World War II through Laura which can be linked to the experiences of Septimus in Mrs. Dalloway, though they are not the same, as well as Laura taking out a copy of Mrs. Dalloway before she intends to commit suicide.


3. Analysis of the adaptation

The movie version of Mrs. Dalloway takes on the obstacle of understanding and dealing with life and death through the different perspectives of three women who all experience and wrestle with death in different ways. Just as in Mrs. Dalloway the theme of death is prevalent and through these three women, Laura, Clarissa, and Virginia Woolf herself the movie is able to span different time periods just as the novel did, though the movie takes makes the time differences greater as Virginia lived in 1920s England, Laura lived in 1950s California, and Clarissa lives in 2001 New York. The time differences allows the director to look at the female perspective during drastically different time periods and show the obstacles that women faced in that time and that place while the novel was only able to show the experiences within a few years as it followed Clarissa’s life, Septimus’ life and the span of the war. Through this time differences the theme of death and dealing with its presence allowed for a greater understanding of how different people reconciled with death, though it was not able to delve as deeply into one persons idea of it as the novel was able to through its different focuses and inability to follow stream of consciousness as closely as the novel was able to with Clarissa. The movie does attempt to connect with the novel in more direct ways than just theme, especially with Laura as her husband fought in a war just as Spetimus had and in that she was reading Mrs. Dalloway as she contemplated suicide.



4. Research

The differences between the two makes of the story, Mrs. Dalloway and The Hours, is the modern setting and the different stories intertwined with the original story of Mrs. Dalloway according to this source.

This source talks about the director of The Hours, Michael Cunningham, and how he interpreted Virginia Woolf’s novel through the adaptation of the characters into modern day settings, perspective and through his own style.

This source talks about how Mrs. Dalloway addressed a very sensitive topic during the time which the novel was written – the war. It speaks to how men who fought returned with horrible hallucinations and post traumatic stress disorder.

This is a blog from Marymount University which focuses on the relationship between the Mrs. Dalloway novel and the film the hours. It shares that the through time frame of one day both works accomplish an understanding of life and death that is complex and easy to relate to at the same time.

This source is a blog entry which deals with how the film and the novel are both feminist sources as the women over come major difficulties in their life, and find reasons to live. It discussed how Mrs. Dalloway was an unconventional auto-biography of Virginia Woolf and due to her tribulations involving sexual abuse, suicide attempts, and mental disorders, her success becomes a tribute to feminism. Due to this being an auto-biographical text Clarissa becomes a stand-in for Virginia and her successes over hardships are mapped onto Clarissa. This creates Clarissa as a feminist model as she survives dealing with the death of Septimus with and responds with the positive message that his death was a way to keep life intact without watching it disintegrate and degenerate too far. 



5. Critical Response

As the novel Mrs. Dalloway and the film The Hours both focus on female protagonists dealing with life and death, the message conveyed to the audience becomes a feminist message and while it is more applicable to all people, the death of Septimus in the novel and Richard in the film creates the atmosphere of feminine power. In the novel Clarissa is portrayed, through the popular belief of scholars, as a stand-in for Virginia Woolf herself, who underwent multiple hardships over the course of her life from suicide attempts to sexual abuse. The three women in The Hours become splits of the story of Mrs. Dalloway through Laura Brown as a woman trapped as a housewife, Virginia Woolf who struggles with the story of Mrs. Dalloway, and Clarissa Brown and her party. Through the use of the novel Mrs. Dalloway and the symbol of the flowers, feminism emerges from both the movie and the novel since flowers are a traditionally feminine object that women bring into the house instead of men. The act of each character reading a portion of the novel in the film, specifically “Mrs. Dalloway said she would but the flowers herself” retakes the feminine flowers and transforms them into a way that each women will take control of their own lives as shown in the line where Mrs. Dalloway wants flowers and will go out and get them herself. Laura reads the line in the novel, Clarissa speaks the line to Sally, and Virginia writes the line, which connects each woman with each other and the novel in the film. In addition to the symbol of the flowers which also show themselves again through each character wearing an article of clothing with a flower to unite them with each other and this theme, both Richard and Septimus succumb to death through their choice to commit suicide, while the women choose to live, in particular Clarissa who sees Septimus’ death as a way to retain the beauty of life and Laura who contemplates suicide though this idea is complicated through Virginia Woolf’s actual suicide. Combined with the symbolism of the flower and the suicides of the lead male roles in the novel and the film, the women regain control of their own lives and outlive the men in the novel and film who succumb to death.

One comment

  1. Good analysis and online research (though you should know you only need to find three sources). The critical argument paragraph has some really interesting insights, but it rambles, due in part to a thesis statement that is too long and rambles. You write:

    As the novel Mrs. Dalloway and the film The Hours both focus on female protagonists dealing with life and death, the message conveyed to the audience becomes a feminist message and while it is more applicable to all people, the death of Septimus in the novel and Richard in the film creates the atmosphere of feminine power.

    How about something like:

    Ironically, the film version of The Hours, and Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway, are most feminist when they dramatize the weakness and death of male characters,

    Do you see how that’s an improvement, and something that would help you focus your argument?

    10/10. Joseph Byrne. ENGL329B.

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