And yet--well, the movie isn't about three approaches to sexuality, or three approaches to suicide. It may be about three versions of Mrs. Dalloway, who in the Woolf novel is outwardly a perfect hostess, the wife of a politician, but who contains other selves within, and earlier may have had lovers of both sexes. It would be possible to find parallels between Mrs. Dalloway and "The Hours"--the Ed Harris character might be a victim in the same sense as the shell-shocked veteran in the novel--but that kind of list-making belongs in term papers. For a movie audience, "The Hours" doesn't connect in a neat way, but introduces characters who illuminate mysteries of sex, duty and love.
Peter hears the ambulance go by to pick up Septimus’s body and marvels ironically at the level of London’s civilization. He goes to Clarissa’s party, where most of the novel’s major characters are assembled. Clarissa works hard to make her party a success but feels dissatisfied by her own role and acutely conscious of Peter’s critical eye. All the partygoers, but especially Peter and Sally Seton , have, to some degree, failed to accomplish the dreams of their youth. Though the social order is undoubtedly changing, Elizabeth and the members of her generation will probably repeat the errors of Clarissa’s generation. Sir William Bradshaw arrives late, and his wife explains that one of his patients, the young veteran (Septimus), has committed suicide. Clarissa retreats to the privacy of a small room to consider Septimus’s death. She understands that he was overwhelmed by life and that men like Sir William make life intolerable. She identifies with Septimus, admiring him for having taken the plunge and for not compromising his soul. She feels, with her comfortable position as a society hostess, responsible for his death. The party nears its close as guests begin to leave. Clarissa enters the room, and her presence fills Peter with a great excitement.
As the novel focused mainly on the character of Clarissa Dalloway, Woolf changed the name of the novel to Mrs. Dalloway from its more abstract working title, The Hours , before publishing it. Woolf struggled to combine many elements that impinged on her sensibility as she wrote the novel. The title, Mrs. Dalloway, best suited her attempts to join them together. As Woolf commented, "In this book I have almost too many ideas. I want to give life and death, sanity and insanity; I want to criticize the social system, and to show it at work, at its most intense." Furthermore, she hoped to respond to the stagnant state of the novel, with a consciously 'modern' novel. Many critics believe she succeeded. The novel was published in 1925, and received much acclaim.