Perspective Series: #3 Stream of consciousness

Perspective Series: #3 Stream of consciousness

The following technique in our perspective series has to do with psychology: we talk about the stream of consciousness.

In this sense, the author uses narrative and stylistic devices to create the sense of an unedited interior monologue.

What is a Stream of Consciousness?

The stream of consciousness is a narrative technique that consists of the free representation of a character’s thoughts as they appear in mind. Thoughts are not logically reorganized into sentences and are not introduced by graphic signs or binding syntagmas.

In other words, it is an interior monologue, where the individual emerges in the foreground, with their inner conflicts, their emotions, feelings, and sensations, in short, his unconscious psychic life.

This particular technique was officially invented by philosopher and writer William James at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. At this time, there were psychoanalytic theories, in particular Freud’s studies on the unconscious. Its characteristics are to eliminate dialogue, concentrating on a free flow of thoughts, without rules or graphic expedients (commas, inverted commas).

Many writers have made use of this particular technique. Above all, James Joyce, Virginia Wolf, Jack Kerouac, William Faulkner, Svevo, Pirandello.

How the stream of consciousness works

Moreover, the thoughts of the characters are reported as described below:

  • the character’s narrative voice is not introduced by the verbs of thinking and delimited by inverted commas
  • through the technique of discourse with the mediation of an external narrator
  • characters who think refer to themselves in the first person
  • the verb tenses of the character’s thoughts are in the present tense
  • without rational logical order and conventional sentence syntax
  • without the use of ligature syntagmas or graphic signs.

Stream of consciousness: example

Among the various authors who made use of the stream of consciousness, we mentioned James Joyce.
For instance, his novel, Ulysses, ends with a stream of consciousness. Actually, it is an inner dialogue of eight paragraphs, without pauses or punctuation.

“Tight shoes? No, she’s lame! Oh! Mr Bloom watched her limp away. ‘Poor girl! That’s why she had sat on the ledge while the others took off running. There seemed to be something unusual about her outward moves. Beauty of wasted vagueness. A defect in a woman is worth ten times as much. But it makes them kind. Glad I didn’t know that when she was showing off. But a wild one, nevertheless. I wouldn’t mind of. Curiosity. Like a nun, a black woman, a girl with glasses. That cross-eyed one is a tough one. She’s about to have her period, I have an idea, that makes her shady. I’ve got a headache today! Where did I put the letter? Ah, here it is. They have all kinds of crazy cravings.”

Extract of “Ulysses”- James Joyce

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Perspective Series #3: Stream of Consciousness- bibisco's main character conflict section - bibisco blog | useful resources by your novel writing software
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In conclusion, a stream of consciousness is a technique that is distinguished by being punctuation-free. They are thoughts that seem disconnected from each other but lead the reader to reflect and get to know the character well. A writer can use the stream of consciousness to convey the thoughts or feelings going on in a character’s head, a writer’s trick to convince the audience of the authenticity of the thoughts they are trying to write into the story.

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