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Stream Of Consciousness Essay

1752 words - 7 pages

‘Stream of Consciousness’ is a technique, deployed by modernist writers like James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, which is supposed to authentically document the mental process or to capture the ‘atmosphere of mind’. This technique is used to explore the inner reality or the psychic being of characters. Virginia Woolf makes use of this technique in her novel Mrs. Dalloway. For Woolf “life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of the consciousness to the end.” As a novelist she wanted to “record the atoms as they fall upon the mind…trace a pattern, however disconnected and incoherent in appearance, which each sight or incident scores upon that consciousness.” Woolf’s writing of Mrs. Dalloway is a form which breaks away from contemporary form which she reviled for not doing justice to life and character. What she seems to be arguing for is a representation of the life of the mind, in all its vagaries, idiosyncrasies and indeterminacies, in all its complexity and in its fullness. She emphasized the need to move away from the public to the private, the social to the introspective, the political to the individual. (The political and the public that do come into her writing are only through individual psyches). Woolf’s true subject in the text is consciousness, awareness, action and reaction, what we remember and say and keep hidden, the distance between the interior and the exterior, how very differently we appear to ourselves and to others. What she wants is what E.M. Foster said to her in praise for Jacob’s Room, ‘to get further into the soul’. Woolf celebrated the representation of “inner life” and attempted to capture in lucid prose, the unrestricted flow of thought; and so she deemed the non-linear, non-chronological plotting as the suitable narrative style.
In the text readers experience movements and shifts from the inner realm to the outer sphere and vice versa, from chronological time to mental time, from present to the past. We move in Mrs. Dalloway’s mind from London to her girlhood in her family home at Bourton, and back again to London. Thus the world of a pleasant London morning fuses and blends with the world of her memories, and in this way with great rapidity and economy we are given intimate knowledge of characters and their relationships. Just as the action moves in time and space, so it also moves from one consciousness to another and this movement throughout is an alternating one. From the consciousness of Mrs. Dalloway we move to the consciousness of Septimus, Rezia, Peter Walsh, Miss Kilman and others and then back again to the consciousness of Mrs. Dalloway. In this way there emerges a complete picture of not only Mrs. Dalloway but also of the world around her and of post-war England.
All the characters walk through important places of London, and think. There may be a tyre twist in the market, or overhead an airplane may fly, or an ambulance may rush through. All these seemingly...

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