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What exactly is stream-of-consciousness?

I really do not understand what the meaning of it is. I am reading The Catcher in the Rye and one of the requirements is to find stream-of-consciousness. Can a whole book be written in a stream-of-consciousness?


  1. Stream of consciousness refers to a first person narrator who just “talks” as thoughts occur to him or her. It can be considered rambling on. Thoughts do not have to be in proper order or necessarily refer to the rest of the thoughts. William Faulkner was a master of it. He used it brilliantly in the second part of The Sound and the Fury. Girl, Interrupted was also written in stream of consciousness. It is a very interesting form of writing, but often difficult to follow unless you are more or less used to it. Pax – C

  2. Stream of consciousness is a term used to describe free floating associations e.g. where one thought loosely connects to another, which may then be expanded, and then lead to another thought association or vaguely connected memory. In psychanalysis for example stream of consciousness or free association is extensively used to explore the unconscious. In this case the analyst listens quietly without making comments while the patient freely associates: these loosely linked ideas may assist to retrieve early half forgotten memories which may lie at the root of the patient’s psychological problems. In literature this method is often employed: a famous writer known for this method is the French writer Proust whose ideas meander along in this fashion for hundreds of pages.


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