The Hours | Study Guide

Michael Cunningham

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The Hours | Chapter Summaries

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Timeline of Events

  • Spring 1923, morning

    Virginia Woolf finds the perfect opening for her novel; Mrs. Dalloway will go out to buy flowers.

    Chapter 2
  • Later that morning

    Virginia writes more than 200 words of her new novel; she decides Mrs. Dalloway will kill herself.

    Chapter 5
  • That afternoon

    Vanessa Bell and her children visit Virginia. Angelica and Virginia put roses at a bird's grave.

    Chapter 10
  • That evening

    Virginia walks to town and buys a ticket to London; Leonard Woolf finds her and brings her home.

    Chapter 15
  • Late that evening

    Leonard and Virginia decide to move to London. City life will help Virginia write and live deeply.

    Chapter 20
  • March 28, 1941

    Virginia Woolf commits suicide by drowning herself in a river.

    Epigraphs and Prologue
  • June 1949, morning

    Laura Brown reads in bed but plans to buy flowers and bake a perfect birthday cake for her husband.

    Chapter 3
  • Later that morning

    Laura and her son, Richie, begin preparing the birthday cake.

    Chapter 6
  • Later that day

    Kitty visits Laura and says she may be gravely ill. Laura kisses her on the lips.

    Chapter 9
  • That afternoon

    Laura leaves home, goes to a hotel, and thinks how easy it would be to die and escape her life.

    Chapter 12
  • Early that evening

    Laura picks up Richie. She tries to act natural with him, but he's crying and afraid of her.

    Chapter 17
  • That evening

    At dinner Laura feels first angry and then content, but she's still distant with Richie.

    Chapter 19
  • Summer 1965

    Clarissa Vaughn and Richard Brown vacation with Louis Waters; Clarissa and Richard have an affair.

    Chapter 8
  • June, late 1980s

    Clarissa shops for flowers for the party she's throwing for Richard.

    Chapter 1
  • That same day

    Clarissa visits Richard in his apartment; she urges him to attend her party, but he feels too ill.

    Chapter 4
  • Later that day

    Louis visits Clarissa. He resents her past with Richard and weeps because he has no one to love.

    Chapter 11
  • That afternoon

    Clarissa's daughter, Julia, brings Mary Krull home; Mary critiques Clarissa's conformity.

    Chapter 14
  • Late afternoon

    Richard commits suicide while Clarissa is visiting him.

    Chapter 18
  • Midnight

    Laura comes to Clarissa's apartment after Richard's suicide.

    Chapter 22

Chapter Summaries Chart

Chapter Summary
Epigraphs and Prologue The novel's first epigraph is by Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986), the renowned Argentinian author of fiction, essays, and ... Read More
Chapter 1 It is the late 1980s or early 1990s, and Clarissa Vaughn, a 52-year-old publisher who lives in New York City with her pa... Read More
Chapter 2 Virginia Woolf awakens in Hogarth House, her home in the English borough of Richmond, in 1923. She tries to recapture wh... Read More
Chapter 3 Laura Brown lives in Los Angeles. It is June 1949. She is sitting up in bed reading the Virginia Woolf novel Mrs. Dallow... Read More
Chapter 4 Clarissa has bought her flowers for the party. As she walks down the street she decides to stop in at Richard's apartmen... Read More
Chapter 5 Virginia Woolf is at her desk writing the beginning of her novel. So far, "parts seem very good indeed." She has high ex... Read More
Chapter 6 Laura Brown is in her kitchen preparing to bake her husband's birthday cake. She's using all the bowls and utensils any ... Read More
Chapter 7 On her walk, Virginia Woolf plans the events she'll include in her novel. She decides that in her youth, Mrs. Dalloway w... Read More
Chapter 8 Clarissa returns home where her partner, Sally, greets her in the hallway of the building. Sally is about to leave for h... Read More
Chapter 9 Laura Brown's cake "is less than she'd hoped it would be. She tries not to mind." The flower decorations and the writing... Read More
Chapter 10 Virginia's sister, Vanessa, has arrived at the Woolf house more than an hour early, along with her children: Julian, Que... Read More
Chapter 11 Clarissa puts the yellow roses she bought into a vase. She understands the party may seem trivial, but she's determined ... Read More
Chapter 12 Laura is driving and feels as if she's in a dream. She feels trapped "like a butterfly [pinned] to a board." Richie is w... Read More
Chapter 13 Virginia and Vanessa sit in the kitchen at Hogarth House, chatting. Vanessa talks about shopping for her children. Virgi... Read More
Chapter 14 Julia sighs about "poor Louis," but Clarissa thinks at that moment that she wants to be Louis, "the strange person ... u... Read More
Chapter 15 Vanessa and her children have left. Virginia looks at her novel in progress. She has high hopes for its success but fear... Read More
Chapter 16 Sally, Oliver St. Ives, and Walter Hardy are finishing lunch. Both Oliver and Walter urge Sally to be part of a movie, a... Read More
Chapter 17 Laura is only slightly late driving home from the hotel. Images from the novel Mrs. Dalloway drift through her mind. Lau... Read More
Chapter 18 Clarissa has come to Richard's apartment to help him get ready for her party. Unusually, all the shades are up and the w... Read More
Chapter 19 Laura and Richie are at the dinner table celebrating Dan's birthday. Laura feels a rush of anger at her "coarse ... stup... Read More
Chapter 20 Leonard and Virginia have decided to move back to London. Virginia anticipates engaging in the cultural life of the city... Read More
Chapter 21 Laura is brushing her teeth, getting ready for bed. She knows Dan will probably want sex tonight. Laura finishes brushin... Read More
Chapter 22 It's past midnight, and Laura Brown is in Clarissa's apartment. It is about 50 years after the events in the Mrs. Brown ... Read More
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