She can feel the nearness of the old devil (what else to call it?), and she knows she will be utterly alone if and when the devil chooses to appear again. The devil is a headache; the devil is a voice inside a wall; the devil is a fin breaking through dark waves. The devil is a brief, twittering nothing that is a thrush’s life. The devil sucks all the beauty from the world, all the hope, and what remains when the devil has finished is a realm of the living dead—joyless, suffocating.

Virginia has deep sensitivity to the world around her, and while this allows her to experience moments of profound joy, she also feels the struggles with her mental illness more intensely. She cannot be like Clarissa, clinging tightly to life, because she fears that there are outside forces conspiring against her. The “devil” that she describes is her own depression, which feels like an alien and frightening force. Mental illness takes an individual’s personality and distorts it, and Virginia loses control over her actions and emotions when she feels the devil creeping back.

At this point, Virginia has learned to fear the “devil,” and when he “chooses to appear,” she feels completely at his mercy. At the same time, in the face of this devil, her depression, she falls back on her mastery over writing to describe it and keep it at bay. Her thought process about her horrifying experience sounds beautiful, and there is a contrast between the lyricism of the words and their darker meaning. Virginia has a troubled relationship with her demons, and she ultimately loses her battle with mental illness. She fights to control her pain through her force of will and by channeling her energy into writing, but in the end she chooses to take her own life. Though The Hours describes one of Virginia’s better days, this passage hints at the demons she battles every day and finally loses to when she commits suicide.