1. Michael Cunningham’s novel the Hours is set in three time periods, with each one using Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway as the common thread in their time period. Each character is unhappy in their settings; in the first, the 1920s, Woolf tries to write her novel, despite suffering from a severe mental breakdown. In the second time period, the late 1940s, a housewife reads Woolf’s book and finds herself bored with her life as a housewife, causing her to think about committing suicide before deciding not to take that route. In the final time period, the 1990s, a character meant to embody Mrs. Dalloway plans a party for a friend stricken with AIDS. Her dedication to throwing the party causes her to miss the signs of emotional pain her friend shows over her dedication to taking care of her, causing him to throw himself out of a window.
2. The film version follows the same plot as the novel, with three intercut stories connected by Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway. Very little is changed from the film, if anything at all. The characters in the film are copies of their literary counterparts, and the film retains the same jumping structure as the text does. The film also begins with the suicide of Virginia Woolf, as the book does.
3. The adaptation of the Hours into a film stays faithful to the text it is derived from. Few changes were made to the film version of the book, with the only notable one perhaps the updating of the two later time periods. Just as Clarissa Vaughn is meant to be an embodiment of Mrs. Dalloway in the novel, the versions of the novel’s characters on film are the exact embodiment of their literary counterparts–complete with the unhappy feelings about their lives and circumstances and the contemplation of suicide some of the characters in the book have.
I used this link to answer a part of my critical response question because Cunningham, in an interview with the Guardian, explained the significance of the title of his novel. He got “The Hours” from Woolf, who used it as the working title for “Mrs. Dalloway.” Cunningham said
he chose to use the title because all the events take place in a single, ordinary day, with the times of each day (the hours passing by) giving the book its structure.
The Guardian article, written after the film was nominated for six Academy Awards, posits that the characters in the movie are pinned down by family and social obligations and simply want to break free; in Virginia, Laura, and Richard’s mind, breaking free of those obligations mean death.
This article analyzes the characters in The Hours, talking about the courage each character had; while Laura had the courage to live, Virginia and Richard had the courage to die, with Richard wanting to die on his own terms with dignity rather than letting his condition wither him away.
5. The title of the Hours refers to the hours that pass each character by during the one seemingly ordinary day the book is set in. Cunningham has stated in interviews the book is centered around that minutiae in those characters’ lives, so the title is meant to evoke “The Hours” each character watches pass by. Almost all of the characters in the novel and the film are unhappy in their seemingly happy lives and are unhappy letting those hours draw out–Virginia, despite having a loving husband and being a successful writer, is hampered by her mental state; Laura, who on the surface is in a happy marriage, feels stuck in her suburban housewife setting; and Clarissa, who is so determined to pull off a party for Richard she misses the signs of pain. Eventually, three characters take action to hopefully release them from those hours and their unhappy lives: Virginia commits suicide, releasing her husband from constantly caring for her, Laura leaves her family to make herself happy, and Richard throws himself out Clarissa’s window, releasing her from constantly caring for him.