You may have heard about stream of consciousness many times in literary discussions. What is a stream of consciousness? What is its role in writing? What kind of novels use the stream of consciousness techniques? Is it fun to read such novels? We will explore all these aspects in this article today. Moreover, I will also list the 10 best stream-of-consciousness novels you must read! And I bet you are going to enjoy reading those timeless psychological novels for sure! Are you ready?
We will begin with a basic introduction first. What is a stream of consciousness novel? In short, a stream of consciousness is a literary technique in which the author tries to write in a way that mimics the flow of a character’s thoughts. In other words, the author tries to enter into the mind of the characters and replicate their stream of thoughts. When an author writes a novel using this technique, there is often very little regard for punctuation or grammar. So, you may forget where to stop! This style is meant to give the reader a sense of the character’s inner experience and can be used to convey the character’s emotions, memories, and impressions more immediately and intimately. Though reading such works generally offers little joy, it is fun at times knowing that you are inside someone’s head, thinking, enjoying, suffering and acting with him or her. Many novelists have exploited this psychological writing technique. Famous examples are James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway” and William Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury.” Have you read any of these yet? Well, I will tell you about more such novels you will enjoy reading!
List of 10 stream of consciousness novels you must read
- Ulysses by James Joyce: Otherwise a classic, this novel is a classic example of the stream of consciousness style. Though you may find it annoying at times because it tosses grammar out of the park and does not tell readers when something ends, you will love following the protagonist over the course of a single day – Leopold Bloom. Sounds intriguing? It is!
- Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf: Woolf was a sure master of this art of stream of consciousness writing! Mrs. Dalloway is another well-known stream of consciousness novel that follows the inner thoughts and emotions of its main character, Clarissa Dalloway, as she prepares for a party. You may experience bursts of amusing thoughts, macabre, simple joys of life, sorrows and griefs, and much more with the character.
- The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner: Other than being a stream-of-conscious literature, this is a perplexing novel that explores the lives and thoughts of several different characters. You will meet four characters. Benjy is an intellectually disabled man. Quentin is a university student who has unique experiences to share. Jason, a businessman, has his story to tell. Mr. Compson, the family patriarch, somewhat the leading protagonist, tells the story from his perspective when he gets the chance.
- To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf: Many days and years just pass by in this novel and you never know if you are not alert. The novel is a cult among lovers of the stream-of-consciousness style and you must not ignore it. A painting begins the novel and it ends it too!
- How Late it Was, How Late by James Kelman: A 1989 publication, very late to the party, James Kelman’s novel is regarded by many as a masterpiece of modern stream-of-consciousness technique. A long novel that follows the protagonist Sammy Samuels, a convict who spends his days making plans and thinking. The novel will interest readers who are fans of classic Russian thought worlds woven by Dostoevsky and others.
- As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner: Death! The concept is fascinating, worrying, enlightening, and much more. Faulkner uses the stream of consciousness technique to enter inside the heads of a few characters who have just received death in the family. And note one, two or three… there are 15 different characters in the novel who are portrayed powerfully by William Faulkner. You may actually feel the work!
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: We all know this novel! A classic American Dream that remains a dream for Mr Gatsby! Jay Gatsby’s mind is opened to the readers as Fitzgerald lets his protagonist share whatever he thinks with the world. Many love it as a romantic novel; you may like it critically if you can connect with the character.
- The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger: Salinger’s writing follows a boy becoming a man on the streets of New York. Popular as a coming-of-age novel, Holden Caulfield’s experiences, thoughts and rebellious imagination is at the centre of this novel. You will love the writing style as you go deeper into Holden’s world of ideas.
- The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: First of all, it is a semi-autobiographical work by Sylvia Plath as the protagonist resembles the author herself. Esther Greenwood is the protagonist whose experiences, mental illness, depression and reactions are open to interpretation by the readers. The Bell Jar came out in 1963. What woman should be? What women should be doing? What the world expects from them and how they see these challenges are the central themes of this classic novel by Plath.
- The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky: Can a list of challenging novels be ever complete without putting Dostoevsky’s name on it? Never! The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor is a complex and very challenging novel that uses the stream of consciousness style to explore the thoughts and experiences of its characters. Four men, brothers, Dmitri, Ivan, Alyosha, and Smerdyakov, are at the centre of this novel along with their father, Fyodor Karamazov. The novel is known for its exploration of deep philosophical and spiritual concepts, including the existence of God, and the nature of good and evil. Like Dostoevsky always does!
Please remember one thing. You do not have to read a novel because someone else recommended it. You read it only if you enjoy it. If you don’t find a work appearing, you may leave that title aside and read something else. There is a very interesting reaction and solution article on To Kill a Mocking Bird. Please read it here – Do not like reading To Kill a Mocking Bird? Here’s what to do
List by Abhinandan for BookWorm Reviews