Mrs Dalloway and the Hours: Themes and Symbols

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The corresponding themes and symbols of an appropriation encourage readers to re-examine the original text. This is evident in the novel Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, and the appropriation The Hours by Michael Cunningham. When someone reads The Hours they recognise the universality of the themes explored in the novel, which persuades them to return to the original work in order to discover how the same themes have been examined in a different context. Likewise, a desire to better understand the use of symbols in the appropriation provokes readers to trace them back to their origins in Mrs Dalloway. Moreover, the simple structure of The Hours makes Michael Cunningham’s novel accessible to a wide audience. This equips more readers with the insight required to approach the challenging style of Virginia’s novel.

Two universal themes explored in the 1990’s novel The Hours are death and love. Death in the novel is overwhelmingly portrayed as an escape from the struggles and trials of life. This is evident in the prologue where Virginia Woolf, an early 20th century English writer, commits suicide. The alliteration “she appears to be flying, a fantastic figure, arms outstretched” demonstrates how death has liberated Mrs Woolf from the destructive cycle of her “terrible disease”. This attitude can also be seen in the contemplative tone of “it might feel so free: to simply go away” which displays Laura’s calm acceptance of death as an escape from the monotony of her domestic duties. The reader perceives the pertinence of death and is provoked to respond to the attitude towards death portrayed in the novel.

The second theme apparent in The Hours is love and in particular sexuality. The novels undisguised exploration of lust and diverse sexual expressions reflects the sexual freedom of the late 20th Century context. The alliteration” Louis the farm-boy fantasy, the living embodiment of lazy-eyed carnality” emphasises the purely physical attraction felt towards...
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