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The Hours

Michael Cunningham

Mrs. Woolf/Mrs. Brown/Mrs. Woolf

Mrs. Dalloway

Mrs. Woolf/Mrs. Brown/Mrs. Woolf, page 2

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Summary: Mrs. Woolf

Virginia sits at her writing table, pleased with the work she has completed in two hours. Although she likes the central idea of her novel, she wonders if a novel that describes a single day in the life of one woman will work. She decides that Clarissa Dalloway will die, and she considers having her character commit suicide. As she stops writing, she thinks that she’d like to continue writing. Writing allows her to fend off the relapses of her struggles with mental illness. Virginia considers how the headaches are so strong that they seem to have an independent life of their own—they seem to take her mind over completely. The headaches have been dormant lately, and Virginia thinks that if she feels better and acts healthy around Leonard he will let them move back to London.

Virginia returns to the printing room to visit Leonard, where he and his assistant Ralph are reading page proofs. She comes in to find Leonard scolding Ralph for making errors and attempts to smooth over the situation by assuring everybody that it will be okay. Though Ralph shows his gratitude, Virginia becomes irritated, as she only wanted to make peace, not side with Ralph.

Summary: Mrs. Brown

Laura makes a birthday cake for Dan, sifting flour into a blue bowl. Richie helps her measure four cups. He knows how many four is, and for a moment Laura feels incredibly proud and loves her son so much that she finds herself satisfied with her life. When finished, the cake will be a work of art as accomplished as the book Mrs. Dalloway. As Richie transfers a cup of flour, he spills and becomes upset. Feeling Richie’s distress, Laura gets upset too, and she wants to run away quickly and be free. She reassures Richie that everything is okay and nothing is ruined. The comfort Richie finds from her reassurances makes her think she could be happy with her role as a mother and housewife.

Summary: Mrs. Woolf

As Virginia takes a walk, she thinks about her character Clarissa. She decides that Clarissa will have been in love with a woman in her youth but will later marry a man. When a woman passes Virginia and ignores her, Virginia realizes that she has been talking out loud to herself. Everyone around her has a superior attitude, and this attitude makes Virginia hate her suburban life in Richmond. She feels exposed, as if she were an author writing a story about an insane woman for all those around her to read. As her thoughts drift back to her own writing, she thinks Clarissa will kill herself over a domestic failure.

When she returns home, Virginia goes to the kitchen to discuss lunch. The conversation does not go well, and Nelly seems to punish Virginia for not having articulated her needs about what to eat earlier that day. Virginia reminds Nelly that her sister Vanessa is bringing her children for tea at four and asks her to get ginger and China tea for the occasion. Nelly becomes annoyed because she will have to go to London to get them. Virginia orders her to go anyway and imagines that Nelly will be murderously angry with her. Although she feels it should be much easier for her to deal with her servants, she just can’t do it. She decides that Clarissa Dalloway will be wonderful with her servants.


Virginia’s nature is split between the productive writer and the terrified invalid. She runs away from the illness that incapacitates her. Her fear of the headaches—and her frightening description of their severity—demonstrates the severity of her mental illness, even though she is relatively healthy in this chapter.

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