Thursday, April 18, 2013

“Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.”: The Hours, Internal Conflict and Controlling One’s Fate

It was hard to narrow in on one topic after watching The Hours since the whole film felt like a culmination of the Woolf pieces we’ve read this semester.  However, I felt that the concepts of internal conflict and control over one's fate were major themes in the film as well as in most of Woolf’s novels. The first line of Mrs. Dalloway is Clarissa declaring that she will buy flowers herself, an assertion of control. In The Hours, I think Julianne Moore’s character Laura had the most difficulty with falling apart and having to constantly hide it. When she almost committed suicide, I viewed that as her discovering she finally had control over something.  Whether she did or did not kill herself, she was the only one who could make that choice. Laura’s difficulties in her life were very much internalized. One moment that stood out to me was when she cries in the bathroom while talking to her husband who, despite being only a room over, remains completely ignorant of her sadness. Her life forced her to constantly hide her unhappiness, something that drove her to eventually leave her family. Although this act was a betrayal to her family, it was one way that she could gain control over her own life.
            This control that Laura initially lacks, but eventually finds is mirrored in Nicole Kidman’s Virginia Woolf. Virginia feels like she is suffocating in the suburbs at the insistance of a doctor who could not possibly comprehend what troubles her mind. During a heated argument with Leonard, Virginia tries to make him understand that he cannot understand.  She says, “If I were thinking clearly, Leonard, I would tell you that I wrestle alone in the dark, in the deep dark, and that only I can know.”  This notion of solitude in thought seems to be most prominent in the Virginia and Laura characters, both tormented by their isolation within themselves, and plagued by thoughts of suicide. In the end, they both achieve the control they want; Laura chose to leave her family behind, and Virginia saw suicide as her only option for an escape from a life she did not wish to live.

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