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A Room Of One’s Own Perception

1300 words - 6 pages

In his novel The Hours, author Michael Cunningham describes his characters in a very unique way. Cunningham portrays his characters through the descriptions of rooms in which each person spends most of their day. The rooms become a window to each character’s personality and personal situation. Through reflection of her own room, Clarissa Vaughn comes to realize that she is completely unhappy with the way her life has turned out. Similarly, Cunningham uses Laura Brown’s time in her kitchen and her two hour stay in a hotel room to assess her mental standing. These spaces are not only observed by their inhabitants, but also by those close to them. Clarissa’s room is observed by her old friend ...view middle of the document...

His shift is emphasized by the descriptions of his apartment building. Through Clarissa, Cunningham continually uses the word “squalid” to refer to Richard’s apartment. Clarissa observes that the building itself has been neglected and left in the past, that only the wainscoting “indicates that this was once a building of some consequence; that hopes were nurtured here…” (53). Her observation of the building is very similar to her reflection on Richard, her chapters in the novel are riddled with her past memories of Richard as a young man full of hopes and dreams.
Clarissa Vaughn is described as having almost no personality, just as her apartment is bare of any personal flair. She tries to add her own style to her apartment by buying eccentric furnishings that she feels will give the room a sense of hominess and warmth. Despite this effort, she still feels as if her home is not truly her home. Walking into her kitchen, through Cunningham’s narration, she is overcome by a feeling that, “This is not her kitchen at all… She lives elsewhere… She feels the presence of her own ghost; the part of her at once most indestructibly alive and least distinct; the part that owns nothing; that observes with wonder and detachment, like a tourist in a museum…” (91-92). This emptiness in her home parallels with her personal situation in life: she feels as if she has not achieved the station in life she ultimately wishes for, she feels as if she belongs elsewhere. Much of this feeling of “displacement” is due to her need for perfection, subtly emphasized by her placing a vase of flowers down and “[moving] the vase slightly to the left” on multiple occasions (130).
Cunningham gives emphasis to Clarissa’s personality by introducing Louis, Clarissa’s old friend who pays a visit to her home. The reader is given a chapter of Louis’ perspective of Clarissa and her home. Upon immediate entry to her apartment, Louis quickly establishes that the apartment has been decorated by Clarissa’s girlfriend, that nothing in the room holds influence that Clarissa lives there also. The room, in Louis’ eyes is lacking personality, that the little personality that is there is completely forced and calculated. He compares the room to a director creating a scene for a piece of artwork complaining that, “[the room] isn’t convincing enough yet, we need more things to tell us who these people really are” (127). In regards to her personality, he considers her “impenetrable” and “infuriatingly well behaved” (127). Clarissa’s constant need to be correct is one of the factors that ultimately lead to her unhappiness and “imprisonment” she feels in life.
Laura Brown's mental stability is depicted through the design of the kitchen in her home and her short stay in a hotel room. Laura...

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