What is Stream of Consciousness
Stream of Consciousness is a method of narration that depicts countless thoughts and feelings which pass through the mind. In fiction, this method reflects the characters’ inner thoughts. The term Stream of Consciousness was introduced by the American philosopher and psychologist, William James in 1890 in his The Principles of Psychology. However, the technique of stream of consciousness is associated with the modern novelists in the first part of the twentieth century.
Writers use this technique of stream of consciousness as an equivalent of a thought process. Since it attempts to imitate the natural thoughts of characters, it is often characterised by disorder or chaos. That is to say, the stream of consciousness is often characterised by a lack of associative leaps, the absence of punctuations, grammatical and syntactical deviances, and use of colloquial language. These characteristics reflect the natural chaos of thoughts. This narrative mode also uses long, interconnected to reflect the thought process.
Although the stream of consciousness is always associated closely with interior monologue, it is important to note that these two terms are not synonyms. The stream of consciousness refers to the subject‐matter while interior monologue refers to the technique of presenting the subject matter. In addition, an interior monologue always presents a character’s thoughts directly, it does not necessarily blend them with impressions and perceptions, and it is more structured and organised than stream of consciousness.
Examples of Stream of Consciousness in Literature
“Away and away the aeroplane shot, till it was nothing but a bright spark; an aspiration; a concentration; a symbol (so it seemed to Mr. Bentley, vigorously rolling his strip of turf at Greenwich) of man’s soul; of his determination, thought Mr. Bentley, sweeping round the cedar tree, to get outside his body, beyond his house, by means of thought, Einstein, speculation, mathematics, the Mendelian theory––away the aeroplane shot.”
― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
“On one side was the little grey river, on the other long wet grass repelling and depressing. Not far ahead was the roadway which led, she supposed to the farm where they were to drink new milk. She would have to walk with someone when they came to the road, and talk. She wondered whether this early morning walk would come, now, every day. Her heart sank at the thought.”
― Dorothy Richardson, Pointed Roofs
“Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.”
― James Joyce, Ulysses