Stream of Consciousness : Narrative Technique

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      The significant feature of contemporary fiction is the movement towards greater inwardness. Stream of Consciousness literary technique first used in the late 19th century employed to evince subjective as well as objective reality. It reveals the characters, feelings, thoughts and actions, often following and associative rather than a logical sequence without commentary by the author. It has a progression in the direction of inwardness of the characters from the earliest impression.

The term 'stream of consciousness' was first applied by Virginia Woolf to the latest innovation of the technique as well as the theme of the modern English novel.
Stream of Consciousness

       The term 'stream of consciousness' was first applied by Virginia Woolf to the latest innovation of the technique as well as the theme of the modern English novel. The kind of novel was entirely new and original. Marcel Proust in France, Dorothy Miller Richardson, an English woman and James Joyce, an Irishman wrote the modern psychological novels almost simultaneously between 913 and 1915. The novels turned fiction away from external to internal reality from the outer world to the hidden world of fantasy and reverie. Marcel Proust's Remembrance of things past; Dorothy Richardson's Pilgrimage and Joyce's 'A Portrait of the artist as a Young Man' have striking similarities. All these novels are voyages through consciousness.

      Virginia Woolf is the main exponent of the theory, and Practice of this type of fiction. In her famous essay 'Modern Fiction' in the The Common Reader (First Series) she is taken up with the destructive criticism of the Edwardian novelists (Wells, Galsworthy, Bennett, etc.) whom she has condemned as materialists who are not concerned with the spirit but with the body who write of unimportant things and spend immense skill and, immense industry making the trivial and the transitory appear the true and the enduring. Life according to her, escaped these materialists. The presentation of life was very far from the life that exists when we 'look within'. As she elaborates: "Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day. The mind receives a myriad impressions - trivial, fantastic, evanescent of engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms; and as they fall as they shape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday, the ascent falls differently from of old.... Life is not a series a gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end".

      This is sheer psychology and seems to echo the very words Freud himself. It means that human experiences that come in some exceptional moments and not the ordinary deeds of every day life. Time is no factor in determining the length of life. The morning and the evening do not constitute one day. A morning or evening might represent eternity (the 'instant made eternity' as Browning has put it). Thus one person's whole life story has no greater time-value than the twenty four hours in the life of another. "One crowded hour of glorious life is worth an age without a name." Hence if life is a complicated succession of experiences, the novelist whose aim is to present life, must "record the atoms as they fall upon the mind in the order in which they fall, trace the pattern however disconnected and incoherent in appearance which each sight or incident scores upon the consciousness".

      This flow of feeling or consciousness over a long stretch of life - 'the stream of consciousness' follows no particular logical design or order. The great novelist who seeks to bring us into close touch with life, must therefore present this over-changing consciousness over a long stretch of life "the stream of consciousness" follows no particular logical design or order. The great novelist who seeks to bring us into close touch with life-must therefore present this over-changing consciousness, this flow of feelings, continuously affected by external contracts of incidents and ceaselessly transforming itself from within. Thus it is not a definite pattern of life but only scattered fragment of life, mostly inner, that the novelist aims at. The treatment is more or less psychological. It is the inner working of the mind that is the main concern of the novelist and there is little mixture of incidents or action which are altogether alien or subordinate. Outward, events serve only as spring-boards of thought and the stage is shifted from the outward in the inward. As a result, plot, character, comedy, tragedy, love interests in fact all conventional elements of the novel are completely subordinate as they are not quite adequate to capture and communicate this stream of consciousness. Thus 'action' is almost banished from the novel and only psychological analysis of mind remains making the novel succession of what is called the "interior monologues" of the "hero or heroine" of the novel. The term 'interior monologues' means the device by which the dissociated fragments of thoughts passing through the mind are represented.

      Many a novelists use an indepth analysis to describe the unspoken thoughts are conventional dialogue. But technically the trend was begin by the French novelist Dujardin's novel 'The Laurels'. The technique was adopted and developed by James Joyce himself D. Richardson, Virginia Woolf, M. Prout and others in English.

      The ability to represent the flux of character throughout impressions, emotions and memories often without logical sequences or syntax marked a revolution in the form of the novel. The related phrase interior monologue is also used to who described in the inner movement of consciousness in a characters mind. However Stream of Consciousness is often confused with interior monologue, but the letter technique work the sensation of the mind into a more formal pattern: flow of thoughts inwardly expressed similar to a soliloquy. The technique of Stream of Consciousness, however attempts to portray the remote preconscious state it that exist before the mind organised sensations. Consequently, the recreation of Stream of Consciousness frequently lacks the unity explicit cohesion and selectively of direct thoughts.

      First English psychological novelist is Dorothy Richardson who began her carrier with the 1915 novel 'Pointed Roofs'. It is the first of a sequence of highly autobiographical novels entitled 'The Pilgrimage'. The novel Pilgrimage (1911 to 1938) a 12 volume sequence is an intense analysis of the development of a sensitive young woman and her responses to the world around her. The last volume 'March Moonlight' appeared posthumously. She was a pioneer of the Stream of Consciousness technique narrating the action through the mind of her heroine 'Marian Henderson', she believed in unpunctuated female prose and Virginia Woolf created her with inventing the psychological sentence of the feminine gender. The novel is also important as a feminist one, which enters fully into the struggles of a young very gifted but at the same time utterly underprivileged women in a world made by men for men.

      Ulysses (1922) best illustrates all the characteristics of this type of psychological novels. In fact, Virginia Woolf seems to have written the lines quoted above mainly with eye to Ulysses. It is a powerful study "of an ordinary mind on an ordinary day". It gives a vivid reproduction of the stream of consciousness of Leopold Bloom (and his wife Mrs. Bloom) during a single day in Dublin. Bloom is a modern 'Ulysses' passing through strange experiences in the squalor of the Dublin slums. The material is treated with an, effectiveness of language, with occasional thoughts of Puck-like humour and with a strict dramatic objectivity, Its frank treatment of sex shocked moralists and the novel was at first banned and banished. At last it came home in triumph and was hailed as the greatest novel of the day. A heroic reception is given to it and a new style and techniques of novel-writing, 'the Ulysses style' held the field, more or less affecting all subsequent writers. Virginia Woolf's novels also belong to this tradition. To the Lighthouse is generally recognised as her masterpiece in this line. Other novelists who follow the technique consciously are Dorothy Richardson and May Sinclair. The method had a subtle and pervasive influence on all subsequent writers for a long period.

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