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Stream of Consciousness

Stream of consciousness is a narrative technique that aims to capture a character's inner mind. It involves a lot of brainwork, interior monologue, sensory observations, and the character’s psychological state during the observations. As Liisa Dahl describes: ‘’Interior monologue is a description of associations, starting from their source, in the form in which they come to mind. It is soliloquy within the mind, partly under the influence of subconsciousness’’ (Dahl, 441). The reader feels like they are sharing the mind of the character; sensing the character's actions. However, there are a lot of novels that use internal monologue that are not related to the stream of consciousness such as Moby Dick, and Of Time and the River. Therefore, the stream of consciousness is not only associated with using monologue.

[Boris Pelcer ''Coming Apart'']

The speaker is not the writer anymore, characters take over all of the dialogues, and become the main source of thoughts. Dorothy Richardson, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and William Faulkner, are examples of writers who use the stream of consciousness. They channel the power of mind into their novels and write like a perpetual monologue. As Robert Humphrey mentions: ‘’Consciousness indicates the entire area of mental attention, from preconsciousness on through the levels of the mind up to and including the highest one of rational, communicable awareness’’ (Humphrey, 2). It can be said that memories, thoughts, and feelings are explicit in the outside world. They show themselves not in a strict structure, on the contrary, it flows like a chain. In her novel, Mrs. Dalloway and The Waves and To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf uses the stream of consciousness technique and shows how the human mind approaches the moment itself. In this way, characters pay attention to even small details about life. The point of Woolf is to present the private voice of the main character. The notable observations are depicted from a transparent point of view.

William Faulkner, another prominent writer, also uses this technique. Robert Humphrey says: ‘’The most organic use of punctuation to control movement of stream of consciousness is that of William Faulkner in The Sound and the Fury. In this novel direct interior monologue is always indicated at its beginning by italics’’ (Humphrey, 57). He keeps italics in the monologue to keep the reader in the novel. He demonstrates a pure example of this technique. His language adjusts to focus on the inner dialect between character and the mind. He preserves the objectivity near the layer of consciousness.

The creation of human consciousness in a novel is an attempt to analyze the human mind. Experience is an endless journey and, it never stops until the people die. As Barry Dainton says: ‘’Since each stream of consciousness consists of a single field of consciousness and its occupants, streams emerge as ontologically basic entities, of an experiential kind (Dainton, 93). So, consciousness becomes a part of human nature, because it is a point where life works. This journey of awareness is enough for the writers because they can collect every experience as a tool for writing. With the help of realization, the character manages to understand lacked parts of their life. This journey is not only related to the outside world but also connects with the mind. The character's heart is ready to rebel against everything that he or she has. Generally, they want to dig in life more, exploring the outside world is salvation for them.

[Ryan Hatton, ''stream of consciousness'']

In his novel, Ulysses, James Joyce uses this technique. Robert Humphrey mentions: ‘’in Ulysses on the level of man's daydreams and mental delusions, shows the smallness of man, the great disparity between his ideals and his actualities, and the prosaicness of most of the things he considers special’’ (Humphrey, 16). The embracing of the inner life is also accepting the reality of life, Joyce admits it. That's why Joyce uses both the internal and external world as a means to reveal the human mind in front of the reader. He reflects reality from the accumulation of the mind. The character feels hollowness into the soul and admits its presence. Without any filter or revision, character offers us how they are feeling. They observe the emptiness of their life, and this emptiness captures their soul. In this way, actual ideas come out, and his feeling transmitted to the reader. There are no secrets or hidden emotions between them. It is one of the features.

[Boris Pelcer, ''Neuroplasticity'']

To sum up, writers use their character's mind as a tool in order to reveal the burdens of the world. However, no matter how characters try to distance themselves from their internal thoughts, ultimately they have to face their state of mind. As Robert Humphrey underlines: ‘’Stream of consciousness is not technique for its own sake. It is based on a realization of the force of the drama that takes place in the minds of human beings’’ (Humphrey, 21). Writers deal with the idea of the unknown, and they use language as a means to reflect what the real idea is. Consistently, the reader encounters perpetual thoughts that characters expose. Description of the dilemmas shows the reader how the mind is reflected from the inner intuition. The writer reflects on reality, especially by focusing on the process of this reflection. The stream of consciousness contains a particular character. The narration slips from the mind to reality, grasping every detail from the environment, mostly from the characters. Thereby, characters are able to achieve a greater perception of themselves.


Dahl, Liisa. “The Attributive Sentence Structure in the Stream-of-Consciousness-Technique: With Special Reference to the Interior Monologue Used by Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and Eugene O’Neill.Neuphilologische Mitteilungen, vol. 68, no. 4, Modern Language Society, 1967, pp. 440–54,

Humphrey, Robert. Stream of Consciousness in the Modern Novel. University of California Press, 1968.

Dainton, Barry. Stream of Consciousness: Unity and Continuity in Conscious Experience. Routledge, 2000.

Image References

Boris Pelcer ''Coming Apart'' and ''Neuroplasticity''. [Illustration].

Ryan Hatton, ''stream of consciousness''. [Illustration].

2 comentários

Didem Bezek
Didem Bezek
22 de fev. de 2022

I think some examples and quotes from the novels could be included to make the article richer.

Aylin Usta
Aylin Usta
22 de fev. de 2022
Respondendo a

Thanks for feedback Didem!

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Aylin Usta

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