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Laura speeds along the freeway after dropping her son,
Richie, with Mrs. Hatch, a babysitter. Earlier that afternoon, she
put Richie down for a nap and tried to read but fixated on Richie,
the cake, and the kiss with Kitty. She felt as if she might be going
crazy, so she decided to leave the house for a few hours. As she
prepared dinner for the evening and made a second cake, she thought
about the kiss with Kitty. Laura feels confused about whether she
wants Kitty herself or just wants to be close to her dynamic personality.
She muses that she and Kitty may kiss again someday, then thinks
about her frustrated efforts with the cake. The birthday cake was
supposed to make everyone happy, and she knows that it can’t.
Since a restaurant or a shop would feel too public, Laura
checks into a hotel to get total privacy. Her pain feels easier
to bear in private. Laura imagines her dark double, a twin that
feels finally satisfied by resting quietly in the secluded hotel.
She scans the turquoise walls before lying down on the bed to read Mrs.
Dalloway. As she reads a section about the immortality
of the soul, Laura starts to think about suicide and the possibility
of death. She feels that she may have the capacity to kill herself
and understands why people choose to kill themselves in the sterile
environments of hotel rooms. The idea of giving up on constantly
adjusting to her life seems like a comforting and beautiful prospect.
Laura quickly realizes she could never go through with it—because
of Dan, Richie, and her unborn child—but she is glad to think that
she could take her own life if she wanted.
Virginia sits with Vanessa in the kitchen drinking tea.
Vanessa talks about a coat that she wanted to buy for her daughter,
Angelica, at Harrod’s. As she listens to Vanessa talk, Virginia
has a revelation about her character Clarissa: Clarissa will not
kill herself, because she won’t be able to bear the thought of leaving
life. Instead, someone else will commit suicide, someone sad and
smart enough to want to the leave behind the little things in life,
like coats and cups of tea. Nelly returns from London with the tea
and the ginger. While Nelly busies herself at the counter, Virginia
leans in and kisses Vanessa on the lips.
Laura seeks freedom from her obligations by checking into
a hotel room to read, which causes her to ponder the idea of suicide.
Laura feels ambivalent about her role as a wife and mother and desires
a temporary respite from her responsibilities. Her desire for freedom echoes
the sense of release Louis felt went leaving Richard at the train
station and Clarissa’s consideration of leaving her domestic life
with Sally. Unlike these characters, Laura has nobody to talk to. Though
she wants to discuss her feelings of dislocation with Kitty, she
keeps her thoughts to herself. Her desire for validation of her feelings
is repeatedly frustrated. She feels angry at herself for resenting
her family life and chooses to withdraw to a neutral space to think
her feelings through. Mrs. Dalloway becomes a source
of inspiration and comfort toLaura. The book allows Laura to safely consider
the drastic choice of suicide, which she ultimately realizes will
cost her too much. However, her discussion of her dark twin is reminiscent
of Virginia Woolf’s fear of the dark shadow in the mirror. Like
Virginia, Laura battles demons that she cannot face alone.
While taking tea with Vanessa, Virginia realizes that
a person must be a mad genius to reject the simple pleasures of
life and commit suicide. She feels content drinking tea with her
sister and chatting about inconsequential matters. In this moment,
she realizes that her character Clarissa cannot kill herself because
she loves the daily details of life too much. Virginia herself has
the same sense of wonder in small pleasures and realizes that someone
must reject those pleasures to commit suicide. She reasons that
a person must have a kind of “genius” to reject the world by killing
themselves. This moment leads to the creation of the character of
the shell-shocked soldier Septimus in Mrs. Dalloway and
also foreshadows Virginia’s own suicide.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Hours!