Free indirect discourse is a thorny term that typically refers to a third-person narrator that has the power to enter and articulate the thoughts of other characters. The narrator is, in a sense, free to display what’s on the mind of whatever character it wishes.
In James Joyce’s short story “The Dead”, you should spot several examples of the third-person narrator revealing the thoughts of the protagonist Gabriel. Through the narrator, the reader learns why Gabriel is uneasy about his literary activities. They also discover why he’s uneasy when he catches his reflection in the mirror.
In Katherine Mansfield’s short story “The Garden Party,” examples of free indirect discourse happen early and often. The narrator takes up residence in Meg’s head to explain why she can’t supervise the workers. Later on, the narrator enters Lara’s head to explain why a glimpse in the mirror persuades her to not cancel the party.
Finding examples of free indirect discourse might be a tad tricky when it comes to Virginia Woolf’s short story “A Mark on the Wall.” Remember, based on the normal definition of free indirect discourse, a third-person narrator is needed. Woolf’s story possesses a first-person narrative. There is a specific “I” telling the tale. Yet you might say that this “I” has much in common with a third-person narrator. Like a typical third-person narrator, the “I” in Woolf’s story remains unknown and unnamed.
More so, in keeping with the free indirect discourse theme, the narrator's thoughts tend to wander. “I wish I could hit upon a pleasant track of thought,” states the narrator. While “A Mark on the Wall,” might not represent a textbook definition of free indirect discourse, you could argue that its free, stream-of-consciousness style shares significant similarities with free indirect discourse.