Mrs Dalloway and the Hours

Module A - Comparative Study of Text and Context
Elective 1: Intertextual Connections

The themes and ideas in texts reflect the attitudes that are influenced by the social, cultural and historical context of the composer. A comparative study of Virginia Woolfs’ modernist novel ‘Mrs Dalloway’ (1925) and Stephen Daldrys’ postmodern film ‘The Hours’ (2002), allows an exploration of the intertextual connections, enabling a deeper understanding of the values of the time and subsequently the texts themselves. Both texts demonstrate varying events and reactions using narrative and film techniques to explore the repression of women in a patriarchal society, the perception of and treatment towards mental health, the importance of time and the greater accumulative experience of moments.

‘Mrs Dalloway’ follows the actions and thoughts of Clarissa Dalloway and several other characters associated with her within a single day of her life as she makes preparations for her party in the evening. Clarissa, an upper class housewife, struggles to meet the demands of her own contentedness as she strives to conform with the expectations of society in fear of being unsatisfactory. The suffering and repression of women; denial of personal desire and expectation to conform with the ideals of society in their respective context pervades both ‘Mrs Dalloway’ and ‘The Hours’. The longing of Clarissa’s persona in ‘Mrs Dalloway’ to experience a sense of fulfillment and purpose in her life is repressed by her desires, forbidden by society’s expectations and ideals. ‘Why, after all, did she do these things? Why seek pinnacles and stand drenched in fire? Might it consume her anyhow! Burn her to cinders!’ Clarissa’s reflection on her role as a housewife and hostess leads her to question her motives for hosting parties, symbolising her questioning of the social construct within which women are so constrained. Woolf’s visual imagery of women’s lifetime commitment to meet and exceed the...