How does appreciating the frivolities in life and her maternal status comfort Clarissa in The Hours?

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In Cunningham’s The Hours, the figure of Clarissa Vaughn is a modern-day iteration of Clarissa Dalloway, the protagonist of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, which composites so much of the plot of Cunningham’s own book. Just like Mrs. Dalloway, Clarissa Vaughn lives a placid and artificial upper-middle-class life in the city. In this way, Clarissa is really not so much different from her married counterparts who live on Park Avenue. Just like Woolf’s titular character, Clarissa Vaughn has ended up with a dull and uninspiring life.

This is made evident in the joy Clarissa takes in the superficial responsibilities of a stay-at-home busy body. She likes buying flowers, attending parties, and receiving guests. Cunningham portrays these interests not as those of a woman who leads an independent and satisfied existence but rather of one who is too vapid to appreciate anything deeper. For example, Clarissa takes great pride in her apartment, essentially getting lost in the depths of its many expressions of wealth:

Clarissa lets herself into the apartment and immediately, oddly, feels better. A little better. There’s the party to think about. At least there’s that. Here is her home; Her’s and Sally’s; and although they’ve lived here together almost fifteen years she is still struck by its beauty and by their impossible good fortune. Two floors and a garden in the West Village! They are rich, of course; obscenely rich by the world’s standards; but not rich rich, not New York City rich. They had a certain amount to spend and they lucked into these pine-planked floors, this bank of casement windows that open onto the bricked patio where emerald moss grows in shallow stone troughs and a small circular fountain, a platter of clear water, burbles at the touch of a switch.”

In a sense, these material comforts must satisfy Clarissa, because they are all she has. Though she is satisfied in her marriage to Sally, Clarissa often reminisces back to her brief love affair with Richard and the possibilities of what could have been had she simply returned his kiss. She did not, however, and decided rather to settle into a simple, humdrum life with Sally, a life that is characteristic of her own lack of inner complexity. Clarissa is comforted by frivolities in her life because she is, at the most fundamental level, a frivolous person.

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