The Hours

The Hours

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The Hours


The Hours is a novel that deals with the various cultural aspects of life. Michael Cunningham's writing reflects the various nuclear families, the different economic conditions, and the social issues involving the three women in the novel.

The Hours begins with Virginia Woolf who is married to Leonard. They do not have any children of their own. Woolf lives in London in 1923 battling mental illness and struggling to write a book, Mrs. Dalloway. She struggled and finished the book according to Tony Peregrin "at the age of 43". Woolf is financially stable due to her husband was a publisher. She had a cook, Nelly, and a housekeeper Lottie. By 1941, The Second World War was going on and Virginia Woolf had committed suicide.

The second protagonist in the novel is Laura Brown, a housewife who is living in Los Angeles in 1949. Her traditional family consists of her husband Dan who is a war hero of sorts, works in an office, provides for the family while Laura statys at home and cares for the family. She has one child, Richie, and is expecting another child. The Browns live in a nice home with manicured lawns, nice Cheveorlet in the driveway, in Los Angeles. Laura smokes, reads Mrs. Dalloway, and is infaturated with Virginia Woolf and her suicide. She desires to commit suicide but opts out to leave her family and move to Canada instead. Life and death will bring the mother and son together. Laura may not have the nerve to kill herself, but her son Richard, fell to his death from a fall from the window while suffereing from AIDS.

The third protagonist, Clarissa Vaughan, who was given the name Mrs. Dalloway by Richard. He was a one time lover of hers. The period is 2001. Clarissa is financially stable and independent while living in the upscale Greenwich Village area with her live in lover, Sally of 10 years. Clarissa has a daughter, Julia who was conceived by artificial insemination by an unknown donor. Julia has a gay friend, Mary who Clarissa is not very fond of.

Although Woolf, Brown, Vaughan are women that are struggling with their own internal issues of restlessness in the place of where she lives, contemplating suicide, unhappiness in a marriage, living with mental illnes, and feelings of failure. Yet, each of these women had secret sexual feelings for other women.( Woolf for sister Vanessa, Brown for neighbor Kitty, and Vaughan for Sally).

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The time periods for Woolf and Brown to express their same sex feelings was taboo. But in 2001, Vaughan, Sally, and Richard can freely express their sexual preference .

Ironically, Michael Cunningham's life experiences are similar to the protagonists in the novel. Cunningham is gay, as Clarissa and Richard. He lives with his lover of 16 year, Ken Corbett. He works in as studio in the Greenwich Village in New York such as Clarissa lives. Cunningham was introduced to Virginia Woolf in highs chool in the 1950's such as Laura Brown is infatuated with Woolf back in the 1950's. Cunningham grew up in the fifties such as Richie with the lifestyle of the family in the 1950's with the mom at home caring for the family while dad works and provides for the family.

The writer's forestructure is an influence as well in his writing of The Hours. The three protagonists along with Cunningham have the same connections in one form or another whether it may be the various economic status, the social issues, and the make up of the nuclear family is present in the novel. Cunningham said it best in his interview, "everybody writes about what they know, obviously"(Coffee 53).

Work Cited

Coffee, Michael. "Michael Cunningham: New Family Outings". Publisher Weekly 245 (1998): 53-54.
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