What is Twentieth Century Novel Or The Novel as the Modern Epic Or The stream of Consciousness Novel Or The modern Psychological Novel?

Introduction: Modern novels have taken place of the ancient epics. The magnitude of epic is not its volume or narrative enlargement; rather it is expansion of thought and perception. An epic reflects the conscience of an age, its life style and thought equilibrium. Thus, from Homer to Milton the epics become the carriage of social, moral and communal representation. Later, the same search of age – consciousness is done, at least tried, through the dramas. The dramas have their limitation in its time frame and dramaturgic setting. Even Shakespeare fails to cross these limitations. After many currents and cross currents of prose-lyrics become multi-faceted, many – sided, complex and abundantly rich in it astonishing variety. The modern novelists are reading the conscience of his characters through the medium of his own, and by the process the dimensional mirror of novel is reflecting an age conscience which we have already read in epics. Modern novel is truly the ‘comic prose epic’.(Fielding)

Dialogism: Mikhael Bakhtin has pointed out a singular characteristic of the novel – the dialogic quality. The traditional epics compact diverse elements in life and looks upon humanity with a vaster sweep of vision. The novels, however, actively assimilate aspects of life – crisis, correlation and combination – out of which a   dimensional thought is expressed. In the 19th century, Dickens and Balzac have successfully depleted the multidimensional qualities in their pragmatic fictional works.

In all these efforts there have been a giant leap into the terrain of humanism but yet the possibility of grossness looms large. The totality of the storyline seems here mechanical – a piling of facts, elements, incidents and characters. Here is no harmony, rather assimilation. Henry James thus accuses these traditional novels as ‘loose baggy monsters’. Thus through the passage of James, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Tomas Mann there comes an inwardness in the novel and give birth to the stream of consciousness novel.

The Stream of consciousness Technique in Fiction: A withdrawal from the external phenomena into flickering half shades of the author’s private world is the basic pattern of stream of consciousness novel. It occupies with time, subjectivity, inwardness, absence of action, plot and catastrophe. The stream of consciousness novel does not adhere to the concept of reality. From the Freudian and Youngian concept here the reality lies not in the outer actions, but in the inner working of the human mind, in the inner perceptions. Consciousness is a constant flow, not jointed, and not chopped up in bits. It is the stream of thought, of consciousness, or of subjective life. By this technique, the novelists try to catch the flow of life before it hardens into intellectual concepts and mechanical habits.

The novel based on this technique is mostly psychological. Emphasis lies on the individual and that too on the inner working of his mind. There is definite change in the concept of reality. There is decay of plot, decay of character. Actually the entire method of characterization is changed. The ‘stream of consciousness’ technique novelists record the impressions upon the mind of the character. It is the interior monologue of the character.

The modern novel is free and frank treatment of sex, love and marriage. The pre occupation of the modern novel with sex themes is very much due to the theories of psychologists like Freud and Havelock Ellis and the frustration, boredom and brutality caused by the two devastating world wars. The writers’ life of Kafka, James Joyce, and Henry James rightfully exhibits this.

The novels written by Stream of Consciousness writers clearly reflect the decay of plot and there is a tendency of discontinuity instead of continuity of action. They do not particularly care about neatly finishing off a given action, following it through the fall of the curtain. In short, these novels are like incomplete sentence. The great modern novels like Ulysses by Joyce or Pilgrimages by Dorothy Richardson are still stories, but they are stories without an ending, and the characteristic modern novel is a story without an ending. Despite of these, these novels are a serious art form which is well constructed in its aesthetic unity. Henry James, Conrad, Mrs. Woolf and other novelists have given careful thought to the aesthetics of the novel and propounded their own theory.
A few notable writers of Stream of consciousness novels: Undoubtedly Dorothy Richardson is the English writer who is the pioneer in this field and who presents stream of consciousness writing at its purest. But among the other writers Mrs Woolf is notable writer who’s Mrs Dalloway or To The Lighthouse are her immortal creation. Her Mrs. Dalloway is the interior monologue of Clarrisa Dalloway whose party remains a delusive notion of our culture. Clarrisa in her stream of thought finds out the hoax meaningless sociological norms and customs. The suicide of Septimus has no impact on anybody even to Dr Brads who instigated her to commit suicide. The crisis of the society haunts in this novel. James Joyce’s Ulysses is a masterpiece in this genre. The hero of the novel Leopold Bloom and his monologue of a single day in the slum of Dublin city constitute the whole novel. Bloom is loitering to and fro, interacts with different persons – particularly with his wife and affectionate son like youth Stephen Dedalus. Within these twenty four hours of stream of conscience the three thousand years history of European culture, creative and experimental assimilate into a harmonious whole. His other novel A Portrait also roughly defines the stream of consciousness in the opening and closing pages of the novel. The emphasis in the stream of consciousness method is on the psychic being of the characters and the associate mode is kept in the forefront of Stephen’s consciousness. Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse is an experiment towards a new method of satisfactory re-creating the reality inherent in human personality. The Pilgrimage by Dorothy Richardson is without plot, comedy – tragedy, love interest or catastrophe. Here is only Miriam Henderson, living from day to day, experiencing, feeling, and reacting to the stimuli of the outside world of people and things.

Conclusion: The stream of Conscience is also called the psychological novel, the novel of subjectivity, the novel of the interior monologue. Enriched by the philosophic thinkers like James, Freud, Jung, Adler and Bergson, the novelists like Proust, James Joyce, Dorothy Richardson and Virginia Woolf preoccupy with the subjectivity, inwardness, absence of plot and action and to the deepest recesses of the human psychology. But above all these novels as an organized symmetry have tried to rich the ‘dialogism’ and ‘carnivalesque’ – the two true essence of any epic writing.