What Is an Example of Stream-of-Consciousness Writing?

Some examples of stream of consciousness writing include the works of James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner. Steam of consciousness is a narrative technique that attempts to depict the workings of human consciousness through a series of thoughts and images, many of which often seem unconnected.

In most literature prior to the 20th century, writers informed the reader of what characters were thinking in highly-structured prose. Stream of consciousness writing, however, attempts to demonstrate realistically the flow of a character’s thoughts, which may often appear cluttered or jumbled. In an attempt to accurately reflect the tangled nature of the mind and memory, stream of consciousness often moves the narration back and forth between different times and places. The famous opening section of Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury,” for example, is narrated by mentally challenged character Benjy Compson, whose thoughts form a swirling succession of interconnected observations. In Faulkner’s highly non-linear narration, events that Benjy witnesses cause him to think back to other events in the past, creating a sense of temporal confusion in which the specific year and Benjy’s own age are not always immediately clear. Other modernist novels, such as Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway” and James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” demonstrate similar narrative techniques. In “Mrs. Dalloway,” for example, the titular protagonist opens a window, which causes her to think back to another memory involving windows from her childhood.