Parallel Experiences of Three Troubled Women in Cunningham's, The Hours

Parallel Experiences of Three Troubled Women in Cunningham's, The Hours

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Parallel Experiences of Three Troubled Women in Cunningham's, The Hours


According to Chronicles magazine, "Woolf was undeniably a brilliant writer." Woolf's work of Mrs. Dalloway was read by fifteen-year-old Michael Cunningham in order to impress an older girl in school. As he stated, "the book really knocked me out." Once older, Cunningham wanted to write about Mrs. Dalloway, but thought not too many people would want to read a book about reading a book. He then thought he might want to read a book about reading the right book. Hence, The Hours was written. Cunningham would incorporate Mrs. Dalloway into "a book about reading a book." The Hours weaves through three woman's lives. As the novel unfolds, it shows that these three women are related by parallel experiences.

The first narrative is Virginia Woolf, the famous author. She is one of the main women in this complex story. Woolf has a troublesome life. She has multiple thoughts of suicide and death. She is anorexic and caught in a marriage that is doomed. The first chapter by Cunningham tells of Woolf's suicide drowning in 1941. Cunningham tells of the demons within Woolf's head and the consequently her fatal death from listening to these voices. The novel then moves to the stories of two modern American women who are trying to make rewarding lives for themselves.

Laura Brown is a fragile middleclass housewife and mother in 1951. She lives a miserable life trying to play the model suburban housewife. Throughout The Hours, Laura is reading Mrs. Dalloway, which is Virginia's novel. Her obvious mental illness doesn't allow her to always connect and understand her environment. Situations that seem simple to the average person, such as making a cake, are beyond difficu...


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...fter reading the story and watching it, I still have difficulty interrupting it. Yet, by looking at the ambiguities, gaps and strategically placed metaphors I can understand it better. Cunningham does a good job of tying these three stories together into a novel about reading a book. I would highly recommend this book to the advanced reader.


Works Cited

Axemaker, Sean. "Driven to Live." Rev. of The Hours, by Michael Cunningham. Eugene Weekly: 23 Jan. 2003

"Be Afraid of Virginia Woolf." Chronicles: March 2003.

Cunningham, Michael. The Hours. New York: Picador USA, 1998.

Doig, Will. "Man of The Hours: Michael Cunningham's Unlikely Runaway Smash." Metro Weekly 23 Jan. 2003.

Merriam-Webster. Webster's New American Dictionary. New York: Smithmark, 1995.

Sipiora, Phillip. Reading and Writing about Literature. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2002.

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