The Hours by Michael Cunningham

When reading this book I was thinking about ‘the Housewife’ image and the process of writing.

The characters were created to explore the idea of the meaning of life. More specifically they show and explore the meaning of the everyday. The character of Laura Brown for example shows the image of ‘the Housewife’. Her life is made up of ‘sleep’ and ‘obligation’.[1]

dalloway
Laura Brown, she represents ‘the reader’ while Clarissa Dalloway is the ‘fictional character’ and Virginia Woolf is ‘the writer’

The obligation she undertakes everyday is her ‘devotion to her son, her husband, her home and duties’ (pg.79). This creates for her a sense of detachment. Laura Brown faces a crisis of identity from her original identity and the conformed identity of ‘the Housewife’. This is shown in the quote below…

She loves her husband, and is glad to be married. It seems possible (it does not seem impossible) that she’s slipped across an invisible line, the line that has always separated her from what she would prefer to feel, who she would prefer to be. It does not seem impossible that she has undergone a subtle but profound transformation, here in this kitchen, at this most ordinary of moments: She has caught up with herself. She has worked so long, so hard, in such good faith, and now she’s gotten the knack of living happily, as herself, the way a child learns at a particular moment to balance on a two-wheel bicycle. It seems she will be fine. She will not lose hope. She will not mourn her lost possibilities, her unexplored talents (what is she has no talents, after all?). She will remain devoted to her son, her husband, her home and duties, all her gifts. She will want this second child. P.79.

laura_thehours
Showing her ‘obligations’ and duties as a housewife

This quote shows her acceptance into the Housewife role. What is implied is that a housewife needs no talent and she must remove any aspirations that she has previously held. She can be a housewife simply by being a woman. It shows a gender stereotype that Laura Brown thinks she must conform to. She demonstrates women deluded into thinking that they can be happy once they become ‘the Housewife’. Cunningham describes the happiness as specifically a ‘knack of living happily.’ (pg.79).

housework
The myth of the happy housewife

Megan Behrent explains that during the 1950s in America there was the ‘myth of the domestic bliss of the happy housewife.’[2] This myth is shown with Laura as she tries to persuade herself that she wants to be this housewife. Laura represents the reader. Reading acts as a ‘visible way to negotiate the transit from sleep to obligation’ (pg. 38). It becomes a place where she can escape from her obligations.

 

That is all for now. I may write another blog as there is so much more I could write about this book and develop this idea of ‘the Housewife’ in ‘The Hours’

 

 

 

[1] Michael Cunningham, The Hours (London: Harper Collins, 1999), p. 39.

[2] Megan Behrent, ‘The Personal and the Political: Literature and Feminism’, International Socialist Review [online], 92 (2014)

 

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