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What is the definition of interior monologue?

Interior monologue refers to a narrative technique that presents the inner thoughts, feelings, and reflections of a character directly and in an unfiltered manner. It provides insight into the character's mind and allows readers to experience their internal experiences, perceptions, and consciousness.

Interior Monologue

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Last Updated May 26, 2023.

Interior monologue is the term for a passage or text work of literature that displays a character's thoughts to the reader. Writers use internal monologue to show readers what a character thinks or feels. Doing so allows the reader to better understand how the character's mind works. Interior monologue is a device heavily used in stream-of-consciousness works, in which conventions of literature, logic, and grammar are forsaken to realistically replicate the flow of someone's thoughts. 

Interior comes from the Old Latin word interus, meaning "inward." Monologue comes from the Greek word monos, meaning "alone," and logos, meaning "speech."

An example of interior monologue can be found throughout Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse, which uses this style to create a stream-of-consciousness narrative that shifts between the minds of various characters. This passage captures the interior monologue of the character Lily Briscoe as her mind wanders from speculation about what other characters are doing to how she feels about early mornings:

They must be out of bed by this time, she supposed, looking at the house, but nothing appeared there. But then, she remembered, they had always made off directly a meal was over, on business of their own. It was all in keeping with this silence, this emptiness, and the unreality of the early morning hour. It was a way things had sometimes, she thought, lingering for a moment and looking at the long glittering windows and the plume of blue smoke: they became illness, before habits had spun themselves across the surface, one felt that same unreality, which was so startling; felt something emerge. Life was most vivid then. One could be at one's ease.

see: characterizationmonologue

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