There are multiple ways in which an author might use an interior monologue. It will depend on their broader writing style as well as what they want to accomplish. For example, some writers might choose to express every passing thought that comes through the character’s mind for a short period of time, also known as stream of consciousness style writing. Or, they might instead focus on more coherent thoughts, those they have structured to move the plot forward or teach the reader something about the character.
The term is made up of two words, “interior” and “monologue.” The latter suggests an unbroken series of lines that contains a character’s words. While “interior” lets the reader know that it is not a dramatic monologue performed for everyone to hear, it is an interior monologue that goes on inside someone’s mind.
Explore Interior Monologue
Interior Monologue Definition
An interior monologue is the part of a narrative in a book, poem, play, biography, or other literary work, in which the writer puts to paper what they believe a character would be thinking at a specific moment.
There are two different types of interior monologues. They can be explored below:
- Direct: the character’s thoughts flow freely from their mind. The author does not comment on what the characters thinking or what they believe. In these examples, readers may find themselves more confused but also more inspired by what they learn.
- Indirect: in this form, the author is selective in the thoughts they present. They may more clearly guide the reader through the thoughts and even comment on them.
It is most common to find interior monologue used in fiction examples. At the same time, not all writers will choose to use them, many will. They often add to a reader’s understanding of a character’s mindset and even decisions they will make in the future. Without some knowledge about a character’s thoughts or beliefs, it may be difficult for the reader to connect with their story.
Examples of Interior Monologues
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf is a prime example of a novel that uses ground-breaking examples of interior monologues. Throughout her works, Woolf pioneered the stream of consciousness style in her delivery of characters’ thoughts, opinions, and troubles. For example:
She felt very young; at the same time unspeakably aged. She sliced like a knife through everything; at the same time was outside, looking on… far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day.
This is a beautiful quote that evokes a great deal of feeling from the reader. It also helps one imagine what exactly is going on within this character’s mind.
Ulysses by James Joyce
James Joyce’s Ulysses is a very interesting example of an author’s experimental use of interior monologues. Throughout this book, Joyce experiments with a variety of new literary techniques. The novel is one of the most important examples of 20th-century novel writing. Consider these lines:
I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.
This stream of consciousness monologue allows readers to hear every word and image that comes into a character’s mind. While not all examples of internal monologues are like this one, writers often turn to Joyce’s skilled composition style for inspiration.
Read James Joyce’s poetry.
Interior Monologue or Stream of Consciousness
When writing an interior monologue, writers may choose to use the stream of consciousness style. This means that the character’s thoughts and feelings flow freely from their mind. They cannot differentiate between good thoughts or bad thoughts, those that forward the most detailed points of the narrative, and those that don’t. There are other ways of writing interior monologues, but the stream of consciousness style is one of the most effective.
There are many types of monologues. Some are: soliloquies, dramatic monologues, comic monologues, and interior monologues. There are other subcategories, but in drama and fiction, readers are most likely to come across one of these.
A dramatic monologue is a conversation the speaker has with themselves. It may also be directed at a listener or reader who is not responding. The other side of the conversation is left up to the imagination or doesn’t exist at all. The difference between this and an interior monologue is that an interior monologue occurs within a character’s mind. No one else is hearing it except for the reader.
Writers may use interior monologues in between descriptions of scenes, people, and events. This is especially effective if the story is written from the first-person perspective. Interior monologues allow readers to get to know characters at their deepest level.
Related Literary Terms
- Dramatic Monologue: a conversation a speaker has with themselves, or which is directed at a listen or reader who does not respond.
- Dramatization: used to describe a play or film that’s adapted from a novel or a real event.
- Soliloquy: a dramatic literary device that is used when a character gives a speech that reveals something about their thought process.
- Aside: a dramatic device that is used within plays to help characters express their inner thoughts.
- Free Indirect Style: a type of third-person narrative perspective that includes the thoughts of a character while maintaining the narrator’s control over the story.
- Read: Ulysses by James Joyce
- Read: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
- Listen: What is Stream of Consciousness?