In his novel, Michael Cunningham tries to show readers the beauty and profundity of every moment of every day—even the most ordinary of days. The novel explores how a person’s whole life can be examined through the prism of one single day. I think Cunningham has chosen The Hours for the title of the novel partly because one of the book’s most important themes deeply considers the human fascination with mortality. Cunningham’s story follows three women through one day in their lives. The story’s entirety essentially takes place within the confines of ‘hours’. The three main characters, Virginia, Laura, and Clarissa, throughout the novel, are constantly searching for meaning in their lives and consider suicide as a way of escaping the problems they face in their lives. Virginia Woolf’s hours consist of a battle with mental illness which eventually leads to her committing suicide. On the other hand, Clarissa has a wonderful outlook on the world around her and really enjoys the small things in life. Clarissa sometimes harbors doubts about what her life has become. Lastly, Laura Brown enjoys her role as wife and mother. She has a feeling that something is off with her but attempts to ignore the feeling. Laura reads often. I would probably agree that Clarissa is an “ordinary woman” since she is pretty simple and easily entertained. This implies that normality is kind of shallow.
A Universal Feeling of Dislocation
2. Within Cunningham’s The Hours there does seem to be a universal feeling of dislocation among the characters of the novel. Another critical theme of the novel examines thoroughly the constraints of societal roles. Virginia, Laura, and Clarissa all attempt to define their lives within the roles that society has set out for them without sacrificing their own true identities. Laura has the most severe case of conflict between the role in life that she is supposed to play and her true self. I agree that role-playing is an essential part of acting “sanely” in this world. We are often forced to be phony in order to fit into our prescribed societal roles. In the novel The Hours, Laura eventually becomes tired of playing her prescribed role and ultimately refuses to continue playing it. The reader finds out in the final chapters that Laura attempts suicide, leaves her family, and then moves away to Canada.
3. I don’t think the novel’s characters are particularly unusual, although they could be considered to be unusual to some. Although unpleasant, feelings of failure are indeed an essential part of the human condition. I can speak from experience. I think the author definitely highlights this truth and makes it a key theme in his book. In that sense, perhaps the feelings of failure that the characters in the novel experience are slightly exaggerated.
4. In my opinion, the novel implies that sanity is very fragile and the difference between sanity and insanity is a very thin line. It is very possible that insanity could be a pathological sense of heightened self-awareness. Although I wouldn’t classify Richard Brown as totally insane, I wouldn’t classify him as completely sane either. His AIDS complications are definitely causing him to deteriorate both mentally and physically. I think his mental state is worse than Virginia’s or Laura’s as a young wife. Yes, the idea of insanity most certainly seems to be connected in some way to enhanced creativity.