Free indirect discourse and Stream of consciousness is how you write a perfect novel. May be that is why many prominent novelist throughout the 19th and 20th century have come back to this over and over again. This is how you create raw, complex, maybe emotionally fraught characters that we have come to love over the years.
Jane Austen and Free Indirect Discourse:
Jane Austen’s writing is known for its wit, irony, and social commentary. She often wrote about the lives and relationships of upper-class society in Georgian and Regency England. Her writing style is characterized by its precision, economy of language, and attention to detail. She also uses free indirect discourse, a narrative mode that allows readers to see the inner thoughts of her characters.
In today’s era, her writing is appreciated for its timeless exploration of human behavior, social dynamics, and the human condition. Her novels continue to be widely read and adapted for film, television, and stage. Her writing is also admired for its sharp wit, and the way she uses satire and irony to comment on the society of her time, and it’s still relatable to the society we have today.
Austen’s Influence on 19th century English Authors
The Bronte sisters, particularly Charlotte Bronte, have been noted for their similarities to Austen in their use of strong, independent female characters and their critique of societal norms. George Eliot’s novels, such as “Middlemarch,” have also been compared to Austen’s for their depictions of complex characters and their exploration of societal issues. Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” is also said to have been influenced by Austen’s works, particularly in its portrayal of strong female characters and its critique of societal expectations.
In addition, many other authors of the 19th century and beyond have been influenced by Austen’s writing techniques. For example, her use of free indirect discourse, a narrative mode that allows readers to see the inner thoughts of her characters, has been used by many writers in the 19th century such as Henry James, and continues to be used by contemporary authors like Jane Smiley, Julian Barnes, and others.
Free Indirect Discourse: Contemporary Works
One example of a contemporary author who uses this technique is Zadie Smith in her novels, such as “White Teeth” and “On Beauty.” Smith uses free indirect discourse to give the reader access to the thoughts and emotions of her characters, which allows for a nuanced portrayal of their experiences and relationships. This technique also allows Smith to critique societal norms and expectations, particularly in regards to race and class.
Another example of a contemporary author who uses this technique is Lionel Shriver in her novel “We Need to Talk About Kevin.”
Shriver uses free indirect discourse to give the reader access to the thoughts and emotions of her characters, which allows for a nuanced portrayal of the experiences and relationships of the characters.
This technique also allows Shriver to critique societal norms and expectations, mainly in regards to parenting and family dynamics.
Additionally, authors like Julian Barnes, and Jane Smiley, have been known to use this technique in their novels.
For example, Julian Barnes in his novel “The Sense of an Ending” uses free indirect discourse to give the reader access to the thoughts and emotions of his characters, which allows for a nuanced portrayal of the experiences and relationships of the characters.
This technique also allows Barnes to critique societal norms and expectations, like memory and aging.
Narration Techniques: Free indirect discourse and stream of consciousness
Free indirect discourse allows the reader to see the inner thoughts and emotions of the characters, but it remains third-person narrative. It gives access to the characters’ thoughts and feelings, but it is still filtered through the narrator’s perspective. On the other hand, stream of consciousness is a first-person narrative mode that represents the flow of thoughts and sensations of a character without any filter of narrator’s perspective.
Free indirect discourse is more subtle and nuanced in its portrayal of characters’ thoughts and emotions. It often uses irony and satire to comment on societal norms and expectations, whereas stream of consciousness is more raw and direct in its portrayal of characters’ thoughts and emotions.
Stream of consciousness is known for its use of long and unbroken passages to depict the inner thoughts of the characters.
Free indirect discourse is more focused on characterization and plot development, whereas stream of consciousness is often used to depict the inner workings of the character’s mind, the characters’ mental states and their emotional experiences.
Stream of consciousness is more focused on the subjective experience of the characters rather than the plot.
How free indirect discourse used by Jane Austen and contemporary authors differs from Virginia Woolf’s and James Joyce’s stream of consciousness technique:
Let’s take “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen, “To the Lighthouse” by Virginia Woolf, and “Ulysses” by James Joyce as examples.
In “Pride and Prejudice,” Austen uses free indirect discourse to give the reader access to the thoughts and emotions of her characters, particularly Elizabeth Bennett. For example, when Elizabeth is reflecting on her feelings for Mr. Darcy, the reader is able to see her inner thoughts and feelings without any filter of narrator’s perspective, but it remains third-person narrative:
“She could not but think of his using the word “handsome” to describe himself. She remembered how, a few weeks ago, she had told him that she found him no more handsome than Mr. Bingley. But perhaps he had grown more handsome, or perhaps she had grown more partial to him.”
In contrast, in “To the Lighthouse,” Woolf uses stream of consciousness to depict the inner thoughts and sensations of her characters. For example, when Mrs. Ramsay is reflecting on her marriage and her children, the reader is able to see her inner thoughts and feelings without any filter of narrator’s perspective, it is a first-person narrative:
“She thought how little she cared now whether he came in or not. She could see him, in her mind’s eye, sitting alone, reading perhaps, while she went upstairs to dress. And what did it matter? And what did anything matter? And who was he?”-Virginia Woolf
Similarly, in “Ulysses” James Joyce uses stream of consciousness to depict the inner thoughts and sensations of his characters. For example, when Stephen Dedalus is reflecting on his life, the reader is able to see his inner thoughts and feelings without any filter of narrator’s perspective, it is a first-person narrative:
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“He had stood before the mirror, staring at the abrupt dull pallor of his face, the haggard and passional cast of his eyes. He had stood thus for a long time, letting his mind take its own colour from the dreary grey light of the day.
Stream of Consciousness in the POSTMODERN literary works:
When it comes to postmodern authors, Toni Morrison, for example, in her novel “Beloved”, She uses a stream of consciousness narrative mode to depict the inner thoughts and emotions of her characters, particularly Sethe, a former slave. The novel explores the trauma of slavery and its aftermath. Morrison uses stream of consciousness to depict the fragmented thoughts and memories of Sethe, as she grapples with the past and its impact on her present life.
For example, the following passage is a stream of consciousness of Sethe’s thoughts:
“The best thing, he said, was to love just a little so there’d be something to come back to. But Sethe had already been there, the best thing. And look what came back to her for it. She was the best thing, and she had come back to nothing.”
Similarly, Salman Rushdie in his novel “Midnight’s Children” uses a stream of consciousness narrative mode to depict the inner thoughts and emotions of his protagonist Saleem Sinai. The novel explores the history of India and its partition, through Saleem’s subjective experience. Rushdie uses stream of consciousness to depict the fragmented thoughts and memories of Saleem, as he grapples with the past and its impact on his present life.
Tony Morrison and Stream Of Consciousness
Morrison also uses stream of consciousness to show the complexity of Pecola’s inner thoughts and feelings, and the ways in which they are shaped by her experiences of racism and poverty. For instance, in one passage, Pecola is describing her desire for blue eyes:
“She had always wanted blue eyes. Not because they were traditionally more beautiful, but because they were the opposite of black, the absence of color. They were desirable, the own-color people said, because they were so rare. So different.”(Chapter 2, page 11)
This passage illustrates how Pecola’s desire for blue eyes is shaped by her internalized racism, and how she believes that blue eyes would make her more acceptable to white society.