Department of English

Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University


The Hours



Michael Cunningham

(November 6, 1952 )



77  Rilke's Apollo: See Rainer Maria Rilke's poem ("Archascher Torso Apollos") and English translation ("Torso of an Archaic Apollo").


A Mrs. Dalloway Walk in London 





Study Questions

  • Love: Consider the different loves in the novel (love of a city, a time, a person, an activity, etc.). Who loves what and how does that mark them? 

  • Parallels: Examine parallels in the story--parallels in images, plot lines (ex. the kisses/embraces), language, issues, characters (ex. Is Clarissa Louis's Kitty?), desire for or contemplation of death. What do you think the echoes between the three women's stories serve? Do the parallels emphasize the commonality between the three women or highlight their differences?

  • Identity: What issues of identity are raised and are they resolved? Laura Brown, for example, has frequent moments of "unbeing. There is no other word for it. Standing beside her ticking car, facing Mrs. Latch's garage..., she is no one; she is nothing. It seems, briefly, that by going to the hotel she has slipped out of her life, and this driveway, this garage, are utterly strange to her" (180). How might this be explained by her identity as Laura Zielski? What it mean when Clarissa denies "That isn't me...It's Richard's fantasy about some woman who vaguely resembles me" (129)? Why must one look for "some sort of Richardness" (131)?

    • Doppelganger, multiple selves: cf. "second self" 34; "Laura Brown is trying to lose herself" 37; "One more page, to calm and locate herself" 38; eighteen year old self; "Laura Zielski, the solitary girl, the incessant reader, is gone, and here in her place is Laura Brown" 40; also you might want to consider names and mistaken or shared identity (renamed; "he and some poor boy from Arcadia had had the same name" 39)

  • Knowing, Knowingness: Clarissa is often described as a knowing person (130), yet we see her fretting: "Why does her daughter tell her so little?" (21). Likewise, we see her at a loss with Laura Brown, just as Laura Brown finds Richie inscrutable. How does this web of knowingness inform characters' relationships with each other?

  • Narrative or lack thereof: Do you agree with Clarissa that there are all these "vivid, pointless moments that can't be told as stories" (132)? If narrative disallows the telling of such precious moments, how has The Hours managed to convey them?

  • Details: What is the function of obsessive and seemingly trivial details given throughout the story? Ex. "He taps his foot on the carpet, three times" (133), "He stands and walks to the French doors (seven steps)" (135), "walks down the dim hallway (twenty-three steps)" (138)?

  • Illness: What is the affinity between physical and mental illness in the novel? Are they treated differently? Consider how characters tread the fine line between sanity and insanity. Laura Brown asks herself, "Is this what it's like to go crazy?" (142). How is mental life externalized? How can one be mindful of losing one's mind? 

  • Creation of art: Consider the presence and role of art in the novel. What is involved in the creative process? How does Cunningham portray the act of writing?

  • Time: 

  • Intertextuality, intratextuality: What other media or art is referred to in this novel? What motifs do you find within the novel? How do these recur throughout the text? 

  • Kisses: 

  • The ordinary: 

  • Cities: 

  • Explosions: The modern journal Blast; Wyndham Lewis's temporary but affecting "blast"




Review Sheet


Clarissa Vaughn (10), Mrs. Dalloway (10), Clare 52 years old (10); a publisher ("the good, flagrantly unprofitable books Clarissa insists on publishing alongside the pulpier items that pay her way" 2021; lives on the 5th floor of a building on West Tenth Street in New York City? (10, 11)

Dan Brown husband of Laura Brown; war veteran

Julia Vaughn Clarissa's daughter

Mrs. Latch lives "down the street" from the Browns (141)

Laura Brown (nee Zielski)  

Leonard Woolf husband of Virginia Woolf

Richard Worthington Brown poet ("three volumes of poetry and...single, unreadable novel" 22); son of Laura and Dan Brown

Virginia Woolf (nee Stephen)  




Richmond, June 1923 (29)


Rodmell, East Sussex, March 28, 1941 (3)


Los Angeles, 1949, "well past seven" (37)

New York City, Saturday morning in June, late 1990s (9)
















Virginia Woolf

World War I

World War II



Michael Cunningham




Cunningham, Michael.  The Hours.  London: Fourth Estate, 1998.


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Last updated September 17, 2009