Writing Tool of the Twentieth Century: Stream of Consciousness

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Stream of Consciousness

Thoughts, emotions, and motives make up whom a person is. These are the same things that make up the characters in some of the most famous literary works. Stream of consciousness shows the thoughts, feelings, and ideas of a character through the character’s point of view. Stream of consciousness is a writing tool used most notably in the early twentieth century, during the rise of modernism. Another description for stream of consciousness is interior monologue. This interior monologue gives the reader a look into the thoughts that drives the character to their actions. William James explains the term in The Principles of Psychology, stating, “Consciousness, then, does not appear to itself chopped up in bits. Such
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Alfred Prufrock”. In “Prufrock”, Eliot uses a combination of stream of consciousness and imagery to tell the story. The imagery is evident by the amount of descriptive language the speaker uses, while stream of consciousness is represented by the story being told entirely through the speaker’s mind. In “Prufrock”, the thoughts are of Prufrock himself, not of the author, T. S. Eliot. The use of stream of consciousness in “Prufrock” opens the mind of the character, allowing the thoughts and feelings of the character to be exposed. This exposure makes the character more relatable because it shows the strengths, and more primarily, the insecurities of the character. Prufrock’s insecurities are on full display during the entire poem, and are apparent in the fifth stanza, line 39, as he thinks “Time to turn back and descend the stair, / With a bald spot in the middle of my hair- / (They will say: ‘How his hair is growing thin!’)” (39-41). The parenthesis indicates a break in his original thought. As he notices the bald spot in his hair, he seems to immediately think to himself what “they” will say. He adds, “My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin, / My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin- / (They will say: ‘But how his arms and legs are thin!’) (42-44). Again, his thought is broken by a worry. He realizes that his clothes do not fit him as well as they used to, and
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