Cunningham's The Hours: A Story about Life and Death Essay

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Cunningham's The Hours: A Story about Life and Death

"The Hours" by Michael Cunningham is a complicated story that explores life and death. Cunningham attempts to distinguish his writings from author Virginia Woolf's by characterizing sanity and insanity while each protagonist contemplates their own life and suicide. Each woman in The Hours wrestles tension and confusion throughout the novel giving a sense that these issues transcend time. By introducing issues of homosexuality, infidelity, and suicide the reader is invited to think of life's experiences within the context of daily life.

Cunningham makes extensive use of intertexts to parallel author Virginia Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway" which originally was titled "The Hours". The
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Woolf rises, fighting to face another day, fearing the devil or the headaches that have lead to several nervous breakdowns. Likewise, Virginia Woolf lived life in this manner, fearing the recurrent breakdowns that occurred at intervals throughout her life. Cunningham's central intertext Mrs. Dalloway is the basis for the novel, the plot, structure and characterizations mimic Dalloway. "She is fifty-two, just fifty two..." (2456) referencing Clarissa in Woolf's novella "Mrs. Dalloway in Bond St." likewise Cunningham writes she is fifty two years old (10). The naming of Mrs. Dalloway is interesting and yet confusing: "The name Mrs. Dalloway had been Richard's idea-a conceit tossed off one drunken dormitory night as he assured her that Vaughan was not a proper name for her. She should, he'd said, be named after a great figure in literature....She was destined to charm, to prosper" (10).

Cunningham, or the fictitious author Richard takes the mimic one step further saying to Clarissa, "It's always wonderful to see you, Mrs. Dalloway" (67) which parodies Clarissa in Mrs. Dalloway when she writes to Peter Walsh, "how heavenly it was to see him"(170) and later at the party says to every guest, "How delightful to see you!"(184).

Laura Brown is woman who could be a modern day Virginia Woolf. Like Virginia, she is trapped in an unhappy marriage despite having a kind and

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