Student Question

In The Hours, what influences Woolf's decision not to kill her heroine?

Quick answer:

In The Hours, Woolf ultimately decide not to kill her heroine because she sees parallels between her fictional character and herself, and she wants to go on living. Instead of being killed off, Clarissa Dalloway will go on, loving London and living a life of ordinary pleasures.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

After what seems like an eternity of tortuous vacillation, Virginia Woolf finally makes the decision not to kill off her heroine Clarissa Dalloway. It hasn’t been an easy decision to make, but just before she goes to bed, she decides to spare her most famous literary creation from death. Instead, Clarissa’s place will be taken by someone else, a deranged poet or a visionary.

One can see Woolf’s decision as therapeutic as well as artistic. The character of Clarissa contains more than a few autobiographical elements. A deeply unhappy woman who often contemplates suicide, Clarissa is uncomfortably close to her creator. Woolf senses that her story and that of Clarissa are running parallel to each other. And she further realizes that, unable as she is to change her life directly, she can only do so indirectly, by devising a completely different fate for her heroine.

In choosing not to kill off Clarissa, then, Woolf is attempting to change the outcome of her own story. If Clarissa is to live on, then so should she. To that end, she is determined that Mrs. Dalloway will continue to live, loving London and leading a life filled with ordinary pleasures. This gives Woolf something hopeful to which she may aspire.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial