What is a Stream of Consciousness Novel? Characteristics and Examples

Stream of Consciousness is a type of novel in which the basic emphasis is placed on the exploration of the prespeech levels of consciousness for the purpose of revealing the psychic being of the characters.

The speech levels involve the language that is used every day for communicative purposes, either in actual speech or in writing. On the other hand, the prespeech level is not focused on communicating successfully.

What is Stream of Consciousness?

  • Stream of Consciousness is a method of narration that describes happenings in the flow of thoughts in the minds of the characters.
  • It is an expression of the character’s flow of thoughts in the form of words.
  • The incidents in the plot are in the sequence of their occurrences.
  • The plot is presented through the thought process of the character and thus, the details of the story appear as they enter the mind of the character.

Characteristics of Stream of Consciousness Novel

  • In the ‘Stream of Consciousness’ novel, everything is presented through apparently unorganised successions of images and ideas connected by association rather than by logical argument or narrative sequence.
  • The action takes place and the plot develops through the mind of the principal character as his ‘Stream of Consciousness’ reflects all the forces of which he is aware as they are playing upon him at any moment.
  • Stream of Consciousness novelists argues that characters are a process, not a static state, and men’s reaction to their environment can be presented only through the Stream of Consciousness technique.
  • This is the method which shows the character changing or developing so that while the initial portrait is valid with reference to the situation presented at the beginning of the novel, it ceases to be valid by the time the novel is concluded.
  • It takes us to the hidden recess of the ever-changing consciousness of their characters and reveals to us what is happening inside their character’s minds.
  • The Stream of Consciousness novelists are also innovators in the sense that they do not care about a well-knit and compact plot.
  • Even if the Stream of Consciousness novels are formless in structure and without a pattern, they are because life very seldom falls into a pattern and shapes itself into a story.
  • Life is chaotic, incomplete and confusing. Why should life become so well-knit, trimmed, logical and order in a novel?
  • So in order to keep the novel closer to reality, illusionary objective patterns and the work of the novels are disposed of for catching flex in the character’s mind.
  • This technique’s relevance progressed into the second half of the 20th century and into the present day. More contemporary works that utilize the technique include Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, and Brendan Connell’s The Life of Polycrates and Other Stories for Antiquated Children.

Who coined the phrase Stream of Consciousness?

Stream of Consciousness is a phrase coined by William James in his treatise ‘Principles of Psychology.’

What are some examples of Stream of Consciousness novels?

Some examples of Stream of Consciousness novels are Ulysses by James Joyce, Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf, and The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot.

Who is a notable proponent of the Stream of Consciousness novel?

Irish author James Joyce is a notable proponent of this technique, using it in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, and Finnegan’s Wake.

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