Stream of consciousness is a key technique used most famously by modernist writers T.S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf. The Oxford-English Dictionary defines consciousness as “Internal knowledge or conviction; the state or fact of being mentally conscious or aware of something.” The term “stream of consciousness” is what is going through an individual’s mind. There is always a conversation going on within a person’s mind, whether it is an internal debate or just a general observation. The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms defines stream of consciousness as “The continuous flow of sense-perceptions, thoughts, feelings and memories in the human mind.” To put in simpler terms, stream of consciousness is the thoughts that pass through a person’s mind at all times, it is a constant stream of thoughts.
Stream of consciousness was a term created in the late 1890’s. The phrase was coined by philosopher William James in the book “The Principles of Psychology.” Stream of consciousness has also been referred to as an “interior monologue” by James. James describes interior monologue as a vocal stream of consciousness. The interior monologue is essentially a conversation from within involving only oneself. Eliot and Woolf both use this methodology to help the reader connect with the perception of each character. It allows readers to get a deeper understanding of each character rather than using the thoughts of a third party narrator.
Stream of consciousness is a never ending process in the brain. While speaking to another person, one can never see what someone else is thinking. For that reason, you will never fully know somebody and what thoughts are constantly crossing that persons mind. That is what stream of consciousness is about; it is about an individual’s perception of things and the constant “stream” going through the mind. You will never know what is going on in another person’s mind and they will never know what is going on in your mind.
Virginia Woolf and T.S. Eliot both used this and formed it into a technique for writing. The writers would show each individual characters stream of conscious to help the reader develop a deeper understanding of what is going through the characters mind. When the reader is able to see the characters thoughts it helps the reader to gather a better understanding of the situation. It also allows the ready to see different perspectives from each character.
The biggest example of stream of consciousness with Virginia Woolf comes in To the Lighthouse. In the novel, Woolf develops an identity for each character and the reader is allowed to see the perception of each individual through their stream of consciousness. Mrs. Ramsey is a great place to start. Through her thoughts and action it is easy to understand that she is a protector and will do anything in her power to protect her children.
"But it may be fine--I expect it will be fine," said Mrs. Ramsay.” Mr. Ramsey informs the children that the weather will be too...