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Death In The Hours by Michael Cunningham

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The men and women of "The Hours" view death as an escape from an ordinary lifestyle which lacks anything truly extraordinary or exhilarating. Laura Brown considers death as an alternative to the constraints of her role as a mother and a wife. Both Richard Brown and Virginia Woolf ultimately commit suicide in order to escape their illnesses and their failures to live up to society's expectations. Though Laura does not end her life, she does die symbolically to her family.

Over the period of a day, Laura Brown gradually succumbs to her overwhelming desire to liberate herself from her mundane life. Her life has taken a very different direction from what she ever thought it would, and she finds herself completing commonplace household chores she does not want to do; she feels that she has no control over her own existence. Her whole life seems like a failure to her, and neither her husband nor her child can fill the void of true meaning present in it. At first, Laura views the possibility of suicide to abscond from her troubles as a farfetched idea reserved only for those who lack the sanity to stay alive; all the while, she deceives herself into believing that she is sane. As her day unfolds, she loses herself in her desperation to free herself from the fetters of family life and society's lack of understanding of her tenuous condition. Suicide then becomes a more seductive option: "She could decide to die. It is an abstract, shimmering notion, not particularly morbid . . . . It could, she thinks, be deeply comforting; it might feel so free: to simply go away" (Cunningham 151). She no longer views suicide as some extravagant act of temporarily inflamed passions, but rather as a basic, and possibly very satisfying choic...

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...al for her novel, eagerly anticipating that in its writing, she can integrate herself to a degree back into the life of the thriving society of London. Thus, she chooses to use Clarissa Dalloway to represent the life she aspires to have, and chooses that Septimus instead be the misunderstood genius who sacrifices his life. Ironically, both characters represent her inner conflict, and unable to resolve that conflict, she does indeed commit suicide to relieve both herself and her husband.

Laura, Clarissa, and Richard each struggle in some way to cope with their mundane existences. Death, both in a literal and metaphorical sense, becomes their method for liberating themselves from such a life. They hope that this death will either bring new life to them or to the people they love most dearly.

Works Cited

Cunningham Michael. The Hours. New York: Farrar, 1998.