Michael Cunningham – The Hours (quotes & excerpts from book & film)

‘Take me with you. I want a doomed love.
I want streets at night, wind and rain no one wondering where I am.’


Is this what it’s like to go crazy? She’d never imagined it like this – when she’d thought of someone (a woman like herself) losing her mind, she’d imagined shrieks and wails, hallucinations; but at that moment it had seemed clear that there was another way, far quieter; a way that was numb and hopeless, flat, so much so that an emotion as strong as sorrow would have been a relief.


We live our lives, do whatever we do, and then we sleep. It’s as simple and ordinary as that. A few jump out windows, or drown themselves, or take pills; more die by accident; and most of us are slowly devoured by some disease, or, if we’re very fortunate, by time itself. There’s just this for consolation: an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds & expectations, to burst open & give us everything we’ve ever imagined, though everyone but children (and perhaps even they) know these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult. Still, we cherish the city, the morning, we hope, more than anything for more. Heaven only knows why we love it so.

There is a beauty in the world, though it’s harsher than we expect it to be.

Virginia Woolf: ‘Someone has to die in order that the rest of us should value life more. It’s contrast.’

Virginia Woolf: ‘You cannot find peace by avoiding life, Leonard.’


Virginia Woolf: ‘Dearest, I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don’t think two people could have been happier ’til this terrible disease came. I can’t fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can’t even write this properly. I can’t read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that — everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer. I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been.’

Virginia Woolf: ‘Dear Leonard. To look life in the face. Always to look life in the face. And to know it for what it is. At last to know it is. To love it for what it is. And then to put it away. Leonard always the years between us, always the years. Always the love. Always the hours.’

Virginia Woolf:  ‘If I were thinking clearly, Leonard, I would tell you that I wrestle alone in the dark, in the deep dark. And that only I can know, only I can understand my own condition.

You live with the threat, you tell me you live with the threat of my extinction. Leonard, I live with it too. This is my right; it is the right of every human being. I choose not the suffocating anaesthetic of the suburbs but the violent jolt of the Capital. That is my choice. The meanest patient, yes, even the very lowest is allowed some say in the matter of her own prescription. Thereby she defines her humanity. I wish, for your sake, Leonard, I could be happy in this quietness.
[pause] But if it is a choice between Richmond and death, I choose death.’

Virginia Woolf: Did it matter, then, she asked herself, walking toward Bond Street. Did it matter that she must inevitably cease, completely. All this must go on without her. Did she resent it? Or did it not become consoling to believe that death ended absolutely? It is possible to die. It is possible to die.

Virginia Woolf: It’s on this day. This day of all days. Her fate becomes clear to her.

Virginia Woolf: I was going to kill my heroine. But I’ve changed my mind. I fear I may have to kill someone else, instead.

Laura Brown: There are times when you don’t belong and you think you’re going to kill yourself. Once I went to a hotel. Later that night I made a plan. The plan was I would leave my family when my second child was born. And that’s what I did. I got up one morning, made breakfast, went to the bus stop, got on a bus. I’d left a note. I got a job in a library in Canada. It would be wonderful to say you regretted it. It would be easy. But what does it mean to regret, what does it mean to regret when you have no choice. Its what you can bear. There it is. No one is going to forgive me. It was death. I chose life.’

“That’s who I was. This is who I am–a decent woman with a good apartment, with a stable and affectionate marriage, giving a party. Venture too far for love, she tells herself, and you renounce citizenship in the country you’ve made for yourself. You end up just sailing from port to port.

Clarissa Vaughan: That is what we do. That is what people do. They stay alive for each other.

Richard: Ah Mrs Dalloway! Always giving parties. To cover the silence.
Clarissa Vaughan: But I still have to face the hours, don’t I? I mean, the hours after the party, and the hours after that…

Clarissa Vaughan: I remember one morning getting up at dawn, there was such a sense of possibility. You know, that feeling? And I remember thinking to myself this is the beginning of happiness. This is where it starts. And of course there will always be more. It never occurred to me it wasn’t the beginning. It was happiness. It was the moment. Right then.

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