In this section of our blog, we are going to analyse the paired texts, Mrs Dalloway and The Hours. Let's get into it.
Delving into context and values:
In Mrs Dalloway, the notion of female oppression is seen through the dissatisfaction of
women in their stereotypical roles as housewives due to the lack of development during the
post-war era. Woolf thus critiques the conservatism of the traditional Victorian views of
women and instead explores their changing roles and the struggles for women’s rights and
equalities within the time period.
In a similar manner, The Hours represents a shift in the time period and portrays the values
in similar concepts such as the psychological struggle and restriction of females within a
more contemporary era. Daldry makes it clear in his film that individuals are still trying to
find liberty and autonomy, and even when some do, there are still negative ramifications
which diminish the sense of progression.
It is important to make sure your thesis and argument synthesizes the relationship between
these two texts and contexts and how they are both represented, as this is what the module
is all about. You should include why these composers have written their texts and how they
choose to use characters etc. to show these issues. You must also include how these texts
come together and how despite the shift in contexts, the represented values and attitudes
are still present in similar ways.
Restrictions of the Roles of Women
Woolf’s innovative stream-of- consciousness style challenges female oppression by allowing
readers insight into the restriction women such as Clarissa. She exposes how ‘there was an
emptiness about the heart of life...the sheets were clean, tight stretched...narrower and
narrower would her bed be’, the metaphorical depiction of her life illustrating marriage as
an unfulfilling mechanism for women within the patriarchy. Through this we can see that Woolf is attempting to challenge the societal norm in 1920s England, where the expectation for women was to marry and have children, and thus demonstrates how women are discontent with their confined positions.
Daldry similarly continues the notion of female restriction through the character of Clarissa
Vaughn, who is portrayed with vastly more opportunities and independence. However, she
is placed right back in the kitchen “where women belong”. In the stereotypical housewife,
with costuming of a floral apron and rubber gloves, Clarissa sinks to the floor in a dark
corner, distancing her and Louis - a privileged male. The lingering shot and slow,
imperceptible zoom into Clarissa’s crying face as she remembers Richard saying, ‘Good
morning Mrs Dalloway’ and how ‘Since then [she’s] been stuck with the name’ further
highlights her entrapment in this patriarchal construct. This expands on the loss of female
identity that Woolf initiated in her novel. Despite the shift in contexts, Daldry examines how
similarities in how women feel in their societal positions negates the changes in relationships and marriage over time, enabling the audience to trace the same emotions over time in both texts.
These are just examples as a starting point, expand further with more examples about the
psychological battle that characters face such as Laura Brown and her struggle to be free
from the social restrictions despite escaping home and her motherly role. You could connect
this with Richard’s psychological struggle and the negative ramifications of Laura’s search
for autonomy towards his identity.
*Please note that while this information is a great starting point for these texts, relying solely on the information in this post will not be enough to get a result in the top bands.