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Significance of Yellow in The Hours

            In most literature, the color yellow represents joy, excitement, and energy. It is a lively color that illustrates honor and loyalty, and it is said to portray stability and safety. However, in Michael Cunningham's, The Hours, the yellow represents a negative aspect of the character's lives. Yellow symbolizes the disappointment, unfamiliarity, anxiety, and chaos in certain moments of a character's life.
             The color yellow is said to help activate the memory and encourage communication, nonetheless, it has the opposite effect on Clarissa. Sally Lester, Clarissa's partner, is wearing yellow, described by Clarissa as being a "deep mustard tone"(89). At this moment, Clarissa comments on how she sees Sally as a stranger. Sally is described by Clarissa as a "pale, gray-haired women, harsh-faced, impatient," and for a moment, Clarissa is "filled with tenderness and a vague, clinical disapproval"(89). Clarissa then thinks about how Sally should never wear yellow. Clarissa thinks that Sally should never wear yellow because it represents an image of Sally that Clarissa feels Sally is not. To Clarissa, Sally is pale and gray, and she feels as though she is distant and unfamiliar, this contrasts what yellow supposedly portrays; stability and familiarity. .
             Next, Laura Brown is baking a cake for her husband, Dan's birthday. This is her second attempt at the birthday cake because the first did not meet up to her high standards. The cake features the words "Happy Birthday Dan," written in white across the cake, surrounded by yellow icing roses. "It is a fine cake, perfect in its way, and yet Laura is still disappointed in it" (143). She notes that two of the yellow roses are lopsided, and then remarks that she feels "amateurish and homemade," explaining that, "it still seems somehow wrong" (143). In this moment the two lopsided yellow roses, a minor detail, make Laura feel defeated and feel as though she has failed.

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