The Hours | Study Guide

Michael Cunningham

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The Hours | Chapter 21 : Mrs. Brown | Summary



Laura is brushing her teeth, getting ready for bed. She knows Dan will probably want sex tonight. Laura finishes brushing her teeth and looks in the mirror. She imagines "some sort of ghost self" standing behind her and watching her. She shrugs off the feeling. As she puts away the toothpaste she notices the bottle of sleeping pills in the medicine cabinet. Laura remembers that "she can't use them ... while she's pregnant."

Laura looks at the pills in the bottle. She thinks, "it would be as simple as checking into a hotel room." She's gladdened by how wonderful it would be "to longer matter ... to no longer struggle or fail." Then she wonders if she could force herself to feel that that evening's dinner was perfect enough. Could she then "decide to want no more?"

Laura goes into the bedroom and asks Dan if he had a nice birthday, which he says he did.

As Dan pulls the sheet back so she can get into bed, Laura "can't seem to feel her body." She feels totally disembodied, like a ghost. Then she gets into bed beside her husband.


Laura wonders if she can embody her social role sufficiently so that it becomes enough to define her life. She thinks she can decide to let her mundane life be enough for her, but her physical dissociation from her body seems to tell her otherwise. She is a ghost of herself, an insubstantial being who watches her ordinary self act out her performance as a perfect wife and housewife. Laura's body is numb when she gets into bed with her husband. Her desire to escape her life is made clear by this disembodied state.

Suicide is clearly on Laura's mind as she contemplates the sleeping pills. They remind her of how easy it would be to end the suffering of a life she clearly feels, at heart, is not worth living. Perhaps it's ironic that remembering her pregnancy causes Laura to replace the pills in the cabinet. It's likely that her relationship with the fetus inside her is akin to her emotionally distant and unnatural relationship with Richie. In any case it seems as if Laura succumbs to self-deception, trying to go through the motions and pretend to care about things she is psychically and emotionally alienated from.

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