Using this quote, explore the meaning of the novel's title. "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 and expectations, to burst open and 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..."
I think that one of the basic elements of the novel is the idea that consciousness is fleeting. "The hours" constantly move with striking regularity, defining our lives in a manner that demands we make the most of what is there and recognize that the time we live with is fleeting. The idea of "living our lives up" is implied in this idea. The things that we place value upon, that individuals might deem important, seem trivial, to an extent, when faced with the awesome statement of how the hours slip through our grasp with a regularity that cannot be denied. Yet, while this might be emotionally deadening or result as a source of pain, it is this very idea that motivates our being in the world. It seems that human beings actually revel in the idea that time is short and within it is the need to "do things." Virginia recognizes that she must face life in the few "hours" she has or she will lose her sanity to an even greater degree. She understands the need "to look life in the face" and "to see it for what it is." Richard does lose his sanity in the face of AIDS, something that takes hours away from him, and in the fear that he was not able to "write about it all" with the time he has left. For both of them, the "living life up to the hours" and yet finding some level of statement within it becomes critical and vital to the thematic growth of the novel.