STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS IN THE NOVEL
INTRODUCTION: Stream of Consciousness is a literary technique that presents the thoughts and feelings of a character as they occur. This technique is a very bold literary innovation of modern period. It records the multifarious thoughts and feelings of a character without regard to logical argument or narrative sequence. It is a literary technique that has become common in literary criticism. By this technique the writer attempts to reflect all the forces, external and internal, influencing the psychology of a character at a single moment.
DEFINITION: Stream of consciousness is the continuous flow of sense, perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and memories in the human mind. It is a literary method of representing such a blending of mental processes in fictional characters. The term is often used as a synonym for interior monologue. To represent the full richness, speed, and subtlety of the mind at work, the writer incorporates snatches of incoherent thought, ungrammatical constructions, and free association of ideas, images, and words at the pre-speech level. The plot line may weave in and out of time and place. Stream of consciousness writing is characterized by associative leaps in syntax and punctuation that can make the prose difficult to follow.
DEVELOPMENT: Early writers of fiction had mostly limited themselves to presenting a character’s thoughts and feelings through action or dialogue with other characters. Stream of consciousness writing was first used in the late nineteenth century by writers hoping to break away from the formality of Victorian literature. The phrase "stream of consciousness" to indicate the flow of inner experience was first used by William James in Principles of Psychology in 1890. James wrote: ‘Consciousness… does not appear to itself chopped up in bits…a “river” or “stream” are the metaphors by which it is most naturally described.’ James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, D. H. Lawrence and William Faulkner used stream of consciousness as a technique in their novels. In their realistic writing, they strived to portray characters, events, and settings in plausible, authentic ways.
STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS IN THE NOVEL: Stream of Consciousness technique was pioneered by Richardson in Pilgrimage. It was subsequently used by James Joyce and it was developed by Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner. Writers who create stream of consciousness works of literature focus on the emotional and psychological processes that are taking place in the minds of one or more characters. Important character traits are revealed through an exploration of what is going on in the mind. Probably the most famous example is James Joyce’s Ulysses. It is a complex evocation of the inner states of the characters like Leopold and Molly; Bloom and Stephen Dedalus. Other notable examples include Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, and Woolf’s The Waves. The Sound and the Fury records the fragmentary and impressionistic responses in the minds of three members of the Compson family. The Waves is a complex novel in which six characters recount their lives from childhood to old age. Several notable works employing stream of consciousness are: Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground, Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, Samuel Beckett's 'Molloy and Gordimer's July's People. Like these writers Naguib Mahfouz combined realism and stream of consciousness narration to great effect. The Thief and the Dogs pioneered psychological realism in Arabic fiction.
CONCLUSION: In short, Stream of consciousness is an important device of modernist fiction. This term has become common in literary criticism. However, there is no agreed precise definition of the term and no consensus. This has caused much muddle and confusion in discussions of modernist technique.