Study Guide

Minor Characters from the World of Clarissa Vaughan in The Hours

By Michael Cunningham

Minor Characters from the World of Clarissa Vaughan


Barbara manages the flower shop where Clarissa Vaughan buys flowers for her party. She is "forty or so, a pale, ample woman who came to New York to sing opera. Something about her face—the square jaw or the stern, inexpressive eyes—reminds you that people looked essentially the same a hundred years ago" (1.38).

Like many of the novel's characters, Barbara hasn't succeeded in making her dreams come true. Rather than becoming the professional opera singer she hoped to be, she manages the flower shop and "lives somehow on her hourly wages" (1.40). Clarissa imagines that she probably lives in a tenement apartment like Richard Brown's—a small, just-the-basics place with "the bathtub in the kitchen" (1.40).

Here's our depressing lesson for the day, kids: Sometimes dreams just don't come true.


Evan is Walter Hardy's long-term partner. We readers never learn his surname, but we do know that he has been living with AIDS. Unlike Richard Brown, he seems to be responding well to the newest medications, and it looks as though he may pull through.

Hunter Craydon

Hunter Craydon is one of Louis Waters's drama students, and he also happens to be Louis's current love interest. Although Louis tells Clarissa Vaughan that he's in love with Hunter, the truth is that he isn't:

The truth is that he does not love Hunter and Hunter does not love him. They are having an affair; only an affair. He fails to think of him for hours at a time. Hunter has other boyfriends, a whole future planned, and when he's moved on, Louis has to admit, privately, that he won't much miss Hunter's shrill laugh, his chipped front tooth, his petulant silences. (11.108)

Way to be positive, Louis.

Martin Campo

Martin Campo is Richard Brown's publisher, and has been for more than thirty years. Although we never meet him in person, Clarissa Vaughan speaks very highly of him. In fact, she calls him "heroic" for having "sunk his entire family fortune into publishing important, difficult books he knows won't sell" (4.109).

Oliver St. Ives

In the fictional world of the novel's late twentieth-century narrative, Oliver St. Ives is a famous movie star whose film career has been rocky ever since he came out. That said, coming clean about his sexuality hasn't been all bad for his career:

Oliver St. Ives, who came out spectacularly in Vanity Fair and was subsequently dropped from his leading role in an expensive thriller, has gained more notoriety as a gay activist than he could ever have hoped for had he continued posing as a heterosexual and cranking out pricey B-movies. (8.25)

Oliver's literary counterpart in Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway is an aged, aristocratic woman named Lady Bruton, who likes to think of herself as being a valuable advisor to England's political elites. Oliver doesn't think of himself in those terms, but he is interested in making a splash, and on the day of Clarissa Vaughan's party, he has lunch with Clarissa's partner, Sally, to pitch his ideas for an action movie with an openly gay male hero—played by yours truly, of course.

Although Sally doesn't think the movie will fly, Oliver finds a friend and ally in Walter Hardy, who agrees to write the script.

Oliver St. Ives's Assistant

Famous movie star that he is, Oliver St. Ives has an assistant. This assistant is "a surprisingly plain young man" who is "white-blond, hollow-cheeked," "weedy," and "eager" (16.2). According to Clarissa Vaughan's partner, Sally, he "would look right at home behind the perfume counter in a department store" (16.2).

The Clerk at the High-End Clothing Store

In the late twentieth-century world of Clarissa Vaughan, Clarissa's partner, Sally, stops at a high-end clothing store after having lunch with Oliver St. Ives. Actually, she follows Walter Hardy into the clothing store after he spots a shirt that he'd like to buy for his partner, Evan.

As Walter makes his transaction, Sally observes the store clerk in much the same way that Laura Brown observes the desk clerk at The Normandy. He is handsome, has "slicked-back hair," and "is not aloof or condescending, as you might expect of a handsome boy working in a store like this" (16.70-76). All in all, he leaves Sally wondering: "Where do they come from, these impeccable beauties who work as salesclerks? For what do they hope?" (16.76).

We guess that's just another one of life's little mysteries.

Willie Bass

Willie Bass is a random passer-by who observes Clarissa Vaughan as she walks down the street on a sunny June morning. His observations give us an outsider's perspective on Clarissa—something that we don't really see in those passages where the novel's narration conforms to her own impressions and thoughts. Using a random pedestrian in this way is a pretty clever strategy, but Michael Cunningham didn't come up with it himself: Willie Bass is this novel's version of Scrope Purvis, a similar character who appears in Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway.