A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

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What do you understand by the term "stream of consciousness" with reference to A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce?

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Stream of consciousness is a style of writing that strives to mimic the actual flow of real human thought. Often, stream of consciousness narratives are messy, lack a logical structure, and/ or flout the basic rules of grammar, all because human thought generally does not abide by regular writing rules and conventions. Though stream of consciousness has been used in many different periods and is still popular today, the technique was...

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'Stream of consciousness' is a famous literary device that was heavily used by Modernist writers, especially James Joyce, the author of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Joyce was a famous proponent and one of the first inventors of this type of writing.

During the novel, 'stream of consciousness' appears over and over in the form of 'disjointed current thoughts' that the main character Stephen is thinking. In real life everyone thinks quickly and without logical flow: these characteristics are mirrored in 'stream of consciousness' writing, which is often hailed as being very realistic. This is especially evident in the early part of the book [ie. the first chapter particularly], which follows Stephen's childhood. His simple thoughts are recorded verbatim [as if from his mind itself] as they flit from topic to topic, and run along random pathways. 

The most famous example of this literary technique is in the well-known 'epiphany' scene in the novel: Stephen sees a beautiful girl wade into the ocean, and feels he has witnessed an incredible moment of spiritual revelation while watching the beautiful scene [ie. the beauty of the girl, nature and the reality of life's transience.]

As his thoughts race on her image and his intense emotions, he suddenly, randomly thinks "To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life!" [from chapter four]. His inner thoughts are presented the way books that don't use stream of consciousness would describe action. His thoughts alone are often the sole focus of the text.