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The character Virginia Woolf is closely based on the biography
of the actual Virginia Woolf, a celebrated writer who lived at the
beginning of the twentieth century. Virginia Woolf is best known
for perfecting a stream-of-consciousness style, which imitates on
the page the free, impressionistic flow of human thought. Virginia
Woolf’s struggle with mental illness led her to commit suicide,
which Cunningham depicts in the novel’s prologue. The rest of the
novel is filled with a sense of foreboding, because every scene
is colored by the knowledge that she will ultimately decide to take
her own life.
Virginia struggles with her mental health and is very
conscious of this struggle. She fights to keep the “shadow in the
mirror,” the pounding headaches, and the voices in her head at bay.
Virginia focuses on her writing as a way of channeling her energy
and emotion productively. At the same time, Virginia sees her writing
as something that happens to her rather than as something she has fully
under her control. She is incredibly sensitive to the world around
her and unusually receptive to small details of her environment,
which she believes have incredible significance. Her sensitivity
makes her a great writer, but she also is subject to incredibly strong
emotions that are set off by events that other people might not
even notice. Though she wants to be healthy, she perceives the world
in such a profound way that the feelings of madness haunt her.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Hours!