Archive for the ‘Michael Cunningham: The Hours’ Category

January 5, 2010

Trailer of “The Hours”:


January 5, 2010

Major issues

In my eyes the story has two main themes, on the one hand the feeling of a “mental illness” and the wish to escape out of the daily routine and on the other hand the acceptance of homosexuality in the society.

Mental illness:

The feeling of emptiness inside and listlessness(=Antriebslosigkeit) is a big and actual problem in our society. For some people is the pressure too big the society puts on them and they search for a conclusion. The conclusion for them is in a few cases suicide, and Cunningham deals in his story with this topic and problem of our society.

Virgina and Richard carry through their considerations of suicide, while Laura opts out in favour of abandoning her family and creating a new life for herself elsewhere.

I think they commit suicide, because they didn’t talk to someone who could help them. A feeling of “mental illness” is a depression, which is a real illness. You have not to be ashamed, search help and you can defeat this illness.


“The hours” concerns three generations of questionably lesbian or bisexual women. It was known, that Virgina Woolf has affairs with women, Laura Brown kisses Kitty in her kitchen and Clarissa Vaughn is in a lesbian relationship with Sally.

The women live in different times and it is not as easy as for Virgina and Laura to express their sexuality freely like Clarissa does. Of course it is difficult to say that Virgina and Laura are lesbians, but it could be argued, that were such characters born at later times in different circumstances they would come out as lesbians. But in these time the both live in it would have been extremely difficult to “come out”. Such a “come out” would have meant extreme consequences for them in societies, which would bar them out of their life as a community, because homosexuality was in many cases “illegal” and not accepted.

I think the book shows in a very good way how our society developed in the last century. The people have become more tolerant and that is a very important step for a peaceful living on the earth.

January 5, 2010

The Plot:

The novel “the hours” from Michael Cunningham tells us the story of one day in the live of three different women, who live in different times. The women (Virgina Woolf, Laura Brown and Clarissa Vaughn) are linked to each other in a very special way and the books jumps between them all the time. Virgina Woolf is an author in 1923 and writes a book called “Mrs. Dalloway”. Laura Brown lives in 1949, she reads this book and is fascinated by it. The last person Clarissa Vaughn lives in 1999 and is some kind of an interpretation of Virgina Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Although the women do not know each other they have a lot of in common…


At the beginning Virgina Woolf writes a farewell letter to her man, Leonard. Then she walks outside in the cold, very determined, straight to the river. It is the 28th March 1941. She takes a big stone and wades into the water.

Virgina Woolf:

One day in the Morning of the year 1923 Virgina Woolf comes out of the bedroom of her house. Her husband Leonard and she live in Richmond, a little suburb of London.  Leonard asks her if she had eaten something for breakfast and as she admits that she only had a cup of coffee he advises her to eat a soup later. She tells him that she wants to start with her new novel and he answers she shouldn’t work too hard. It becomes clear how Leonard cares for her and wants to protect her from overstrain. After long thinking Virigina writes the first sentence of her novel: “Mrs. Dalloway said, she wanted to buy some flowers”.

Virgina Woolf has all the time the fear that the voices and her bad headaches come back. At first she plans that the protagonist Clarissa Dalloway commits suicide, but then she changes her concept, someone other should die. For Virgina it is important that the reader understands that a defeat at the cooker is for Mrs. Dalloway as bad as a defeat for a general in the war.

In the afternoon she expects a visit of her younger sister and their three children from London. Because of that she sends her housekeeper Nelly in the city to buy some Chinese tea. Virgina envy her sister and their life in London and when they leave she can’t stand in the house anymore. Without saying a word to her man she goes for a walk. She notices at the station of Richmond, that the train to London will start in 25 minutes. Virgina buys a ticket and waits for the train. Suddenly her man comes across, he searched her everywhere and was very worried about her. She tells him that she only wanted to go to London for a couple of hours. He believes her and they go back to their house. Later at home she convinces him to remove back to London, where she lived before they moved to Richmond.   

Laura Brown:

Laura Brown lives in 1949 with her honest husband Dan and her devoted son Ritchie, who is three years old. They live in a very pretty house in Los Angeles. Although it is Dan’s birthday she doesn’t want to get up this morning, she rather wants to read a bit in Virgina Woolf’s novel “Mrs. Dalloway”. The family understands her strange behavior these days and months, because she is pregnant.

Almost five years ago everybody thought that Dan was killed in action, near Anzio. Then it becomes clear that this was only a confusion of names. Laura doesn’t understand till today why he married her, the sister of his best friend, after these happening. She always loved to read books all the time and Dan was the first man who wanted to marry her. Finally Laura gets up and goes downstairs. On the table stands a big bunch of flowers. She feels bad, because Dan bought these flowers for himself. However Dan shows comprehension because of the fact she is pregnant and have to slow down a little bit. Dan drives to work and she decides to make a birthday-cake for him. She feels like an artist working on a great piece of art.

Suddenly Laura’s friend Kitty comes across, she lives in the same neighbourhood. She asks Laura if she can feed her dog for a few days, because she has to go to hospital. Dr. Rich will operate her at the uterine. Kitty tries to act very strong and self-confidently, but Laura feels the fear of Kitty. Laura has pity and hugs her. As she feels Kitty’s breasts she kisses her at the mouth. Kitty retrenches immediately.

Now Laura is alone again with Ritchie. The cake doesn’t look good, so she chucks the cake away in the rubbish bin, because it is almost 10.30pm and enough time to make a new cake, a better one.

After that she brings her son to Mrs. Latch, a neighbour, and drives away for a couple of hours, because she can’t stand it at home anymore. Then she arrives at a hotel and checks in. The first thing she does in her room, she lies on the bed and begins to read in “Mrs. Dalloway”. After roundabout three hours she leaves the hotel and drives back to Mrs. Latch to collect Ritchie. It is her plan to greet Dan when he comes from work. Before she goes to bed she looks into the box with the sleeping pills. The box contains at least 30 pills, because she is not allowed to take pills during her pregnancy.

Clarissa Vaughn:

Clarissa Vaughn lives in 1999 in New York City and is 52 years old. She is an editor and on the way to buy some flowers. Today her friend Richard Worthington Brown will get a prize for his work as an author at 20 o’clock. Before the ceremonial act starts she wants to have party in her house for her old friend and former lover.

At the age of 18 she got to know Richard, who calls her as a joke “Mrs. Dalloway”. Richard fell not only in love with Clarissa, he also loved Louis Waters. At this time the relationship broke up between Richard and Louis. Clarissa is in a relationship with Sally, a movie producer, since eighteen years. Her artificial sired daughter Julia has worries, because her mother always wears male shirts and leather boots. She also finds her forty years old friend Mary Krull very unfriendly.

During the prearrangements of the party suddenly Louis Waters knocks on Clarissa’s door. Although he wasn’t there for five years he made no announcement of his visit. He is disappointed, because Richard’s novel is almost about Clarissa and not about him. The 53-years old teacher works at a school for actors in San Francisco. As he tells Clarissa that he fell in love with his pupil Hunter Craydon he have to cry. Before Louis left, Clarissa invites him for the party.

In the afternoon she wants to pick up Richard in his two-room-apartment. As she arrives she wonders about the opened windows. Richard sits at the open window with his bathrobe in the fifth floor, with one leg dangling outdoor. He tells her that he took ‘Xanax’ and ‘Ritalin’ at the same time and wants to have some light. By the way he isn’t able to come to the party and he complains that he is a loser. But now he feels free. He says: “I think that two persons could not have been happier than we were” and he jumps into the death.

As a consequence of his suicide Clarissa informs his 80-years old mother Laura Brown, who takes the first flight to NYC.

At Dan’s birthday 1949 Laura felt like she breaks at the civil idyll, and the effort to care for her husband and her son. At this evening she decided to leave her family after the childbirth of her second child. She never forgives herself for leaving her husband and the two children. After her leaving Dan died because of lung cancer and her daughter was knocked over by a drunken driver. Now Richard top oneself and she is the only survivor of a bust family.

January 4, 2010

About the author:

Michael Cunningham was born in Cincinnati (Ohio) on 6th November 1952. He grew up in La Cañada (California) and lives now in New York City.

He is a very famous American writer and especially known for his novels.

He received his B.A. in English literature from Stanford University and his M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Iowa.

In 1999 he received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award for his novel The Hours, which was filmed in 2002. The stars Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman, and Meryl Streep acted in the following film adaptation of The Hours.

His work has appeared in numerous publications, including The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and The Paris Review. “White Angel,” a short story, was chosen for The Best American Short Stories, 1989, and another story, “Mister Brother,” appeared in the 2000 O. Henry Collection.

Of course, he loves his job as a novelist and said once “I think great poetry is enormously powerful”.

I liked this quote of him, because I have also the opinion that language and poetry is something very beautiful which makes the people happy and the world even better.

The Hours by Michael Cunningham

November 3, 2009