Stream of Consciousness as a Narrative Technique in Ulysses

Ulysses by James Joyce written in 1922 is a masterpiece which outstands many major works of modern literature in style, structure, theme and nearly all elements.

James Joyce

Joyce’s  Ulysses has been famous for his stylistic experimentation and innovation that is a stream of consciousness technique. He has used multiple narratives extensively along with the shifts in each new episode of the novel.

To show ironic contrast between the futile and the exhausted modern world and the glorious era of ancient Greece, James Joyce gave a framework of the Odyssey of Homer to his masterpiece. Leopold Bloom is Ulysses, Stephen, who is the spiritual son of Bloom is linked to Ulysses’s son, Telemachus and Molly represents Ulysses’s wife, Penelope. Homer’s Odyssey has 18 episodes and Ulysses maintains the same number of episodes.

The characters in Ulysses have their own problems and they have an unbroken flow of perceptions, feelings and thoughts in waking mind. The mental process of character is vividly shown through stream of consciousness technique. The characters talk to themselves in mind and they can’t control the continuous flow of ideas and thoughts. Through this technique, a character’s personality, his past, his relations, problems and present status and condition are easily exposed to the readers. For example: in “Lestrygonian” episode, Leopold Bloom saunters through Dublin observing and musing.

“Pineapple rock, lemon platt, butter scotch. A sugar-sticky girl shovelling scoopful of creams for a Christian brother. Some school treat. Bad for their tummies.”

In ‘Proteus’ episode Joyce leads us to the inner mental thought of Stephen where he vividly defines the sight, sound, taste, smell and touch in relation to the outer world. Various past memories related to his school life, youth, manhood, his ambition to be a writer, sexual passion during youth and inconclusive and uncertain past life start to flow like a stream in his mind.

The final monologue of Molly Bloom in the ‘Penelope’ chapter is one of the salient instances of Joyce’s use of stream of consciousness technique. The readers enter into the flowing mind of Molly and Molly’s mind travels back on the varieties of subjects such as her girlhood, her courtship with Bloom, Stephen Dedalus as a sentimental lover, Blazes Boylan, and the mysteries and pleasures of sexuality.

In this way Joyce uses the stream of consciousness technique as a narrative technique so as to explore the mental and inner truth of all the characters.