In watching The Hours, a distinct shift in the problems of each lead female character can be seen. The central plot element tying these three very different stories together is Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. The problems that each of these women face seems to be focused on the generational issues within their moment in society and time.
Virginia Woolf suffers not only from her lower societal position as a woman in 1923 England but also from the fact that she must suppress her lesbian desires in order to be accepted. These issues which she struggles with if brought to the surface would have labeled her an outsider. Laura is dealing with the very different lifestyle that she yearns for and its conflict with the 1950's homogeneous societal outlook. As she comes to the realizations that this lifestyle favored and pushed to the forefront by society is not for her, she leaves and takes her life into her own hands. Clarissa's issues are also very much her own and deal with her struggles as a lesbian in the modern age and how she can achieve happiness.
Each of these stories is linked by significant plot issues but each outcome and conclusion for the women is different. The over arching problem which they each struggle with is whether they should live their lives for their own personal satisfaction or for the happiness of others. Each woman's story brings to light parts of their character which works against the societal norm and which they must struggle with to seek happiness.