Life tortures men in all means: it batters the poor physically and corrupts the wealthy mentally. Ordinary ones, gaining an innocent but not-that-high salary from their decent job, having a kind yet not-that-beautiful spouse, as well, never escape. It is, however, the third one that is ignored by most people, and it is these people that are suffering, though unaware.
The book The Hours discusses the theme of the mundane life. How far can it possibly drive a man to? How do people react to it? Does the reaction, in different ages, ever change? It takes Mrs. Dalloway, a masterpiece of Virginia Woolf’s, as the base and depicts three stories of three women, in different eras. Nothing in same, though it may looks, they all have, in a way, related to Mrs. Dalloway. Virginia Woolf is the one who creates the woman; Mrs. Brown is its reader and also deeply influenced; Clarissa is a Mrs. Dalloway in modern times.
The first story is about Virginia Woolf. It is a flashback: at the very beginning, she walked into a stream and drowned herself. It was an uneventful day. The author wrote with great detachment, as if her death was not worthy to be talked of. “Here they are, on a day early in the Second World War: the boy and his mother on the bridge, the stick floating over the water’s surface, and Virginia’s body at the river’s bottom.” It is as if the body was no other than a stick. The world would not be interrupted by a woman’s death: children still admired soldiers, soldiers still went to the battlefield, and the battlefield would still bear dead bodies. They all did their routine, no one found she dead.
In the late days of her life, she suffered from psychoauditory and moved to Richmond, a town at the outskirt of London, for better recuperation. Meanwhile she was writing Mrs. Dalloway. Although she was an adult already, inside she was still a kid that never grew up. She was afraid of the housemaid, and was to some degree shared the same thought with her sister’s youngest daughter. She was paradoxical: the bustle in London aroused the voices inside her (the psychoauditory); but the still-existing voices drove her back to London. Luckily she had a perfect husband, Leonard, who would do anything for her good. He stopped to be a publisher when they moved to Richmond, and he also agreed to go back to London when Virginia came up with the idea, which meant throwing away his career again. At last, when Virginia realized that whatever she did, wherever she lived, she may not get rid of these voices forever, she became desperate. She killed herself.
Writers are one of the least who could bear the mundane life. Writers, especially good writers, need a sensitive heart to discover the most subtle feelings and minuscule details in life. Thus, they are more prone to perceive sadness. For Virginia, a woman with an unmentionable childhood, now well-protected by her husband, burying herself in writing, is ever more typical.
It may successfully escape from the readers’ eye what happened when Virginia’s sister, Vanessa and her three children paid a visit. The children found a dying bird and the youngest, Angelica, decided to bury it. “’Right.’ Virginia answers. She almost protests that the bird should be laid down first, the roses arranged around its body. That is clearly how it should be done. You would, she thinks, argue with a five-year-old girl about such things. You would, if Vanessa and the boys weren’t watching.” The odd thing is that during Vanessa’s visit, Virginia spent most time with the youngest child Angelica, rather than Vanessa, and this detail reveals that she was, in her nature, almost as innocent and naïve as five. She judged and did things from the view of a five-year-old. How could a child manage to endure the morbidity? So she died.
The second one is about Laura Brown, a housewife in Los Angeles, 1949. It was a time when soldiers survived from the war went back home with distinguished honor, the world was recovering from the war. Laura married a soldier, gave birth to a boy, and was pregnant again. It seemed perfect: a loving husband, a cute son, no heavy work except some house tasks. What more could you expect? As for Laura, however, it was not satisfactory.
People have different expectations for life; some need material, some desire spiritual comfort; some greedy for everything, others willing to devote as much as they can. Thus, everyone should live in a way that fits them, and if it doesn’t, however glamorous it may seem, he will never be happy. Such was the case of Laura Brown.
Her life was peace, yes, undoubtedly, but tedious too. “It seems he is always making a wish, every moment, and that he wishes, like his father’s, having mainly to do with continuance. Like his father, what he wants most ardently is more of what he’s already got (though, of course, if asked about the nature of his wishes, he would immediately rattle off a long list of toys, both actual and imaginary).” A life with no novelty was obviously intolerable to her.
Laura was never a housewife type. She loved reading, and reading meant spare time, and freedom. She was so average a woman of few chasers that it could be regarded as an honor to be proposed by Dan, her husband. However, she failed to adapt herself in the role as a wife. Anyhow, she did housework, though she forced herself to. “She will do all that’s required, and more.” She was not supposed to be a wife, at least a housewife like this. A woman like her wouldn’t survive in such a life. She had long realized the mistake of marrying Dan; the only way out was ever so clear: to run away.
Yes, the idea had occurred to her, and she did try once. On Dan’s birthday- as a matter of fact, all this happened in this day- she dropped her son at the babysitter’s and went to a hotel, stayed in a room for two hours. She neither killed herself nor escaped. She only read Mrs. Dalloway.
Even when she was away from home, when there was no housework to do and no worry of attending to the kid, she never shook off the shackles. “ For an hour or two, she can go wherever she likes. After that, the alarms will start up. By five o’clock or so, Mrs. Latch will begin to worry, and by six at the latest she’ll start making calls. If it gets that late Laura will have explaining to do, but right now and for at least another two hours, really, she is free.” The mundane chains always existed, though invisible. Laura realized this on that day; however, she had no one to tell.
She had friends, and Kitty just paid her a visit when she baked a cake for Dan, but she didn’t mention a word about her miserable situation to Kitty. They passed the time of day for so long, though neither readers nor themselves were likely to catch the point of what they were talking. Actually, they were hardly friends. Laura didn’t seem to trust or treasure this friend, they got in touch only because they were lonely. They needed to convince others that they lived well.
Laura’s story is, as it were, a variation of Mrs. Dalloway. Superficially, nothing particular happened, however, it was this day that she made up her mind to evade. She was determined that she would leave the family after she gave birth to the second child. A woman trapped in daily trivialities, even didn’t care much about her family. She was so lonely and inverted that she had to hide her true self even when she was with her husband and son.
The third woman is Clarissa, a modern Mrs. Dalloway, and it was exactly what Richard, her friend and former lover, called her. Her day is almost the same with the book Mrs. Dalloway. Richard had won a small literature prize and she decided to throw a party for him. She went out in the morning to buy flowers and went to his apartment to tell him to come. Richard was a writer who wrote a book with an interminable length, was not well-known. Tormented by HIV, he was already desperate. Clarissa, after taking care of Richard for twenty years, had no idea if she still loved him; what kept her doing so was the sweet memory of the days of youth when they were together. She thought she could help him, which she actually couldn’t; however she couldn’t even help herself: she had a daughter, but she didn’t know the father; she was not married at the age of fifty and lived with a lesbian. Richard, at last, chose to commit suicide. And the one who failed to kill herself, Laura Brown, turned out to be his mother. She, as what had been resolved, abandoned her family after the second child’s birth, which casted heavy shadow among Richard. In his novel, he even killed the character that was distinctly originated from Laura.
What vexed Clarissa was how slight a mundane person would be. When she went out to buy flowers, she happened to saw Meryl Streep shooting on the street. Thoughts began to sprawl. People talked about them of everything, from tiny to large. They were always the topic, and they would remain to be talked about even after they died. But what about the ordinary ones? If no one would remember them ,why bother living that hard?
It is better to say that Richard is a part of Clarissa’s character. Clarissa held the party for Richard because she didn’t want him to be forgotten quickly, especially when his condition was getting increasingly worse. She, not a celebrity as well, was also afraid of being forgotten. The party was for Richard, and it was for Clarissa herself too.
There were some particular narrations after Richard died. “ The food feels pristine, untouchable; it could be a display of relics. It seems, briefly, to Clarissa, that the food- that most perishable of entities- will remain here after she and the others have disappeared; after all of them , even Julia, have died. Clarissa imagines the food still here, still fresh somehow, untouched, as she and the others leave these rooms one by one, forever.” The remaining food of the party symbolized Richard’s achievement, which Clarissa hoped to be preserved forever.
Later that day, Clarissa started to worry about herself. “ soon Clarissa will sleep, soon everyone who knew him will be asleep, and they’ll all wake up tomorrow morning to find that he’s joined the realm of the dead. She wonders if tomorrow morning will mark not only the end of Richard’s earthly life but the beginning of the end of his poetry, too. There are, after all, so many books.” A mediocre book will soon fade, just as an average person will never be memorized.
Everyone prefers fame; few are willing to reconcile to the mundane life. Is it possible to transcend it? Maybe one day we have to accept that mundanity is the truth for most of us. Will you still love life when that day comes?
因為某些原因有些地方寫得特傻逼 比如標題。。又懶得改了 大家保護好自己的狗眼吧