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Integration of Life and Death - Mrs. Dalloway and The Hours

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Lisa E. Crain Professor Fesmire Humanities 107W 3 February 2005 Integration of Life and Death Mrs. Dalloway and The Hours show that life and death are dependent on each other. It is a person's life experiences that define their thoughts and feelings on death and death can define their life experiences. Cunningham, the author of The Hours, explains it best: We live our lives, do whatever we do and then we sleep - its as simple and ordinary as that. A few jump out of windows or drown themselves or take pills; more die by accident; and most of us, the vast majority, are slowly devoured by some disease or, if we're very fortunate, by time itself. There's just this for consolation: and hour here or there when our lives seem against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we've ever imagined, though everyone but children (and perhaps even they) knows these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult. Still, we cherish the city, the morning; we hope, more than anything, for more. (Cunningham 225) Both authors use different characters' perspectives to show different vantage points of life and death and how one affects the other. Woolf uses Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Smith, from Mrs. Dalloway, to illustrate her view on life and death. ...read more.


At the time of his death, Septimus was having a breakthrough in his illness. He and his wife were enjoying some time together in between moments of insanity. When he heard the doctors approaching, Septimus realized that his insanity would return. "It was their idea of tragedy, not his or Rezia's (for she was with him)...But would he wait till the very last moment. He did not want to die. Life was good. The sun hot" (Woolf 149). By throwing himself out the window, he relieved himself and Rezia while preserving the good memories they had created together. Laura Brown, a main character in The Hours had a similar role in society as Clarissa, but different views on how to live her life. She is a housewife in the late 1940's, and like Clarissa, Laura doesn't have a job outside of being a mother and a wife. Also similar to Clarissa, she married her husband for really no reason except that it was the socially acceptable thing to do. "What could she say but yes? How could she deny a handsome, good-hearted boy, practically a member of the family, who had come back from the dead?" (Cunningham 40). Laura spent her time taking care of her son Richie, while secretly wishing she could spend her time reading novels. Motherly intuitions never came naturally to her, which made her feel uncomfortable around her own family. ...read more.


Richard describes it the best when talking about a vision he had of the ceremony. "'Being proud and brave in front of everyone. I recall it vividly. There I am, a sick, crazy wreck reaching out with trembling hands to receive his little trophy'" (Cunningham 62). It is clear through these novels that life and death affect each other. Life and death have become almost identical. Living without passion, such in Clarissa and Laura's case, can be viewed as its own form of death even though they are fully alive. How the women react to that realization is how they would react to death. Richard and Septimus are both lovers of life; therefore they use their suicides as a form of preservation to their life. So, even in death, their life is upheld. Their suicides then tie back into Clarissa and Laura who use them as an awakening to how they have been living their lives. Life and death are integrated so tightly throughout these novels that the reader understands the significance of both. Life dictates death and death affects how life is lived. A line from Shakespeare's Cymbeline, "Fear no more the heat o' the sun / Nor the furious winter rages," sums up the message conveyed by Virginia Woolf and Michael Cunningham. Since life and death are so closely related, death is not something to fear and life should be lived to the fullest. ...read more.

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