Tag Archives: stream of conciousness

Historical Line- Stream of Consciousness

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce, which was published in 1916, Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf published in 1925, William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying published in 1930, and Untouchable by Anand, which was published in 1935 all explores the stream of consciousness. The stream of consciousness, which was a new concept in the 20th century, proved to be very popular.Throughout 21 years, the device influenced writers to get creative in exploring and expressing the character’s consciousness. In  A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce uses the stream of consciousness to depict the mind of a young man exploring his sexuality. When Stephen is awakened to his sexual needs, “He wanted to meet in the real world the unsubstantial image which his soul so constantly beheld… They would be alone, surrounded by darkness and silence: and in that moment of supreme tenderness he would be transfigured”, which depicts a typical young man’s coming of age(12). Also in 1925, Woolf uses stream of consciousness to explore the present and the past. We see Peter Walsh’s  thoughts towards Clarissa, “Of course I did, thought Peter; it almost broke my heart too…”, which depicts Peter answering Clarissa in his stream of consciousness and recalling memories through it (42). In 1930, Faulkner used the narration of different characters to explore stream of consciousness. He depicts Jewel’s thoughts of being alone with his mother, he repeatedly thinks “one lick less. One lick less…”, which depicts him holding back his frustration in his mind. By this point in history, the authors use stream of consciousness to express the emotions of different characters. Lastly, in 1935, Anand uses stream of consciousness to show the truth behind each characters’ lives. In the beginning, Bakha sees the uniform “And he had hungered for the touch of them. But he had never mustered up courage enough to go up to the keeper of the shop and to ask him the price of anything, lest it should be a price he could not pay and lest the man should find out from his talk that he was a sweeper-boy” (11). Stream of consciousness was used to follow each characters personally, but also to dive into the characters’ process of thinking. Over the years, writers changed the usage to depict their writings vividly, but they all continued to express the thoughts and feelings of the characters.

He Could Not Help It, for this is who he is.

“Because I said will I or wont I when the sack was half full because I said if the sack is full when we get to the woods it wont be me. I said if it dont mean for me to do it the sack will not be full and I will turn up the next row but if the sack is full, I cannot help it. It will be that I had to do it all the time and I cannot help it. And we picked on toward the secret shade and our eyes would drown together touching on his hands and I didn’t say anything. I said “What are you doing?” and he said “I am picking into your sack.” And so it was full when we came to the end of the row and I could not help it. And so it was because I could not help it.” (23 – 24)

Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying: The Corrected Text. New York: Modern Library, 2000. Print.

Faulkner uses a very familiar form of repetition that we have been seeing in works by Stein, but in this case, the perspective is first person and causes this tool to be used very differently. Dewey Dell repeats over and over that he “could not help it” when talking about the condition of the sack being full. In doing so, it comes off as committing it into understanding or taking into perception an idea that may or may not be true. Once again, we see a stream of consciousness and while the stream was outwardly present in Mrs. Dalloway, Dewey Dell, like the rest, have a stream that is entirely inward. Dewey Dell is not talking to anyone but himself and is doing his very best to comprehend the situation in a way that he could. He goes from claiming that the full sack could not be helped and then reverts that claim by stating that the sack is full because he could not help it. This could possibly lead to an understanding on what he can or cannot control, or understand, and how it affects his daily life in the simplest of ways.