In The Hours, how do the flowers function as a symbol?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

From the very first opening line of the original, which is "Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself," the importance of flowers throughout The Hours is indicated through their ubiquitous presence. In particular, if we examine their usage, we can see that they are used to diffuse or brighten moments of great emotional tension. Roses in particular are shown to be incredibly significant for the major characters. Consider the way that the roses that surround the resting place of the dead bird indicate the big "nothing" that awaits us all at our death for Virginia. Clarissa seeks to brighten Richard's apartment with the flowers she has purchased, and likewise does the same for her own home. Clarissa feels threatened and somewhat defensive when Mary Krull spots the flowers, as they represent to her a domesticity and homemaking instinct that is contrary to her character. Sally recognises that a beautiful bunch of roses is something Laura will love as a gift. Lastly, Laura views the roses that are placed on the special birthday table as a compensation for the barriers and distance that she erects between her internal life and her family. Flowers in general, and roses in particular therefore, are key symbols because of the way in which they cast light on the characters of this brilliant novel.