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In what ways has Cunningham illuminated 'Mrs. Dalloway' in "The Hours"?

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Introduction

In what ways has Cunningham illuminated 'Mrs. Dalloway'? "We are creatures who repeat ourselves, we are humans, and if we refuse to embrace repetition - if we balk at art that seeks to praise its textures and rhythms, its endlessly subtle variations - we ignore much of what is meant by life itself." This was Michael Cunningham's view on life and indeed, it is a perspective that seeps into 'The Hours' which can be seen as a repetition of 'Mrs. Dalloway.' People are creatures who very often repeat themselves - in their behaviour and in their thoughts and beliefs. Cunningham shows this to us by making his characters mirror Virginia Woolf's characters in 'Mrs. Dalloway'. Repetition is a natural action, which humans carry out sometimes to clarify their thoughts and illuminate the thoughts and ideas of others. This is manifested in 'The Hours' through the Woolfian characters like Clarissa Vaughn and Richard, who repeat the patterns of behaviours such as exploring relationships with the same sex and the patterns of thoughts such as regrets - of those characters in 'Mrs. Dalloway'. In 'The Hours', Cunningham presents to us three separate yet interdependent stories about three women: Virginia Woolf, Laura Brown, and Clarissa Vaughn. Each woman has her own story within her section of the book. Taking into account the presence of the Laura section of the novel, the main function of which is to illuminate the Clarissa Vaughn story in 'The Hours' because the Laura story and the Clarissa Vaughn story are the only two that actually come together at the end of the novel, this essay looks closely upon the Virginia Woolf and Clarissa sections of the book only. The Clarissa Vaughn story in 'The Hours' serves to illuminate the character of Clarissa Dalloway in Woolf's novel 'Mrs. Dalloway' in terms of the choices she made in life - she chose the right partner Sally she longed to be with in 'Mrs. ...read more.

Middle

'Mrs. Dalloway' can certainly be seen as a template for Cunningham's novel. One of the driving forces behind Cunningham's novel is the improvisational use of every aspect of 'Mrs. Dalloway'- its themes and ideas as well as Virginia Woolf's life story: - "The voices are here, the headache is coming, and if she restores herself to the care of Leonard and Vanessa they won't let her go again, will they?" Cunningham uses 'Mrs. Dalloway' as a model - he takes certain characters from the novel and extends them by developing their inner selves, something that Woolf was perhaps unable to do: He uses Clarissa Dalloway and turns her into a freer, more independent, happier Clarissa Vaughn. Cunningham is enabled to do this through the cultural context in which he writes that context of a more liberated and modern society. The central themes of Cunningham's novel, such as Homosexuality, solutions to suicide, regrets, the love and the hate of life that were present in 1923 with Virginia and Clarissa were exposed in the Laura story in 1949 as well as in the contemporary Clarissa story in 1999. It can be argued that as a modern day writer, Cunningham exploits aspects of the novel 'Mrs. Dalloway' such as its homosexuality sub-plot, as a means of liberation both for himself as a homosexual writer and for Virginia Woolf who was forced to live as a heterosexual woman. Indeed one reason why Cunningham has chosen to 'pick up' from where Virginia Woolf has left off was in sympathy of her plight as a repressed homosexual as well as to satisfy the readers of 'Mrs. Dalloway' by showing them how it could have turned out for Clarissa if she were to take a different path in her life. It is quite evident that Woolf herself would not have felt free to openly write a novel about homosexuality and regrets, so perhaps Cunningham decided to put it right and use her central themes to exhibit the fact that even if people take alternative paths to their lives, some things never change. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is also, about why the characters such as Laura Brown continue to hold on to their existence despite the pain that has been caused - her regrets about what she lost in life by getting married and the pain our life is sure to cause us. 'The Hours' is also about particular things we need to say but we do not say because they do not fit into words: for example, what Richard feels when he is about to commit suicide. In 'Mrs. Dalloway', Woolf does play around the idea of those short-lived and unforgettable small moments - her kiss with Sally, which she remembered and dwelled upon for the rest of her life. Cunningham too employs this idea of the love for the precious unforgettable moments and hating the dragging of the time. He illuminates this idea of time showing how short-lived any kind of pleasure can be, nonetheless, this is paradoxical - the shortness of pleasure is tragic, yet its intensity, even in one, quick, unexpected moment is uplifting. A central idea animating 'Mrs. Dalloway' and embodied in its stream of consciousness language is that experiencing the same external events connects people, who never meet, like Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Warren Smith. Cunningham's idea resounds - "we are creatures who repeat ourselves" no matter how displaced we may be, we all form part of a community and a common struggle. The centrality of this idea to the two novels illuminates itself. Vanessa Thorpe, in The Observer on Sunday explained that: - 'The Hours' extends this idea through the decades to celebrate the timelessness of great literature by placing the author, her fictional alter ego, and two of her latter-day readers in the same sphere of consciousness." Cunningham has reaffirmed that Woolf is of lasting significance, that the questions she asked about life remain urgent, and that, in spite of sorrow, pain, and the promise of death, the simplest things like walking out the door on a lovely morning, setting a vase of roses on a table - can be, for one shining moment, enough. Sandra Bogacheva Virginia Woolf/Cunningham English Essay ...read more.

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