Stream of Consciousness in Narration

It seems to me that Xanther’s family’s narration focuses more on the inner workings of the mind compared to Luther, Özgür, and Isándorno.

Astair’s portions are (Although I can’t speak for the jingjing chapters, because I don’t know what on earth is going on there) the most ‘ stream of consciousness’. Her words flow more like people actually think- with parentheses representing stray thoughts and add-ons.

Anwar, too, often follows his ‘chain of thought’ more than plot points. The brackets [{}] perform a similar function to Astair’s parentheses. They illustrate his extraneous thoughts,  but they often bracket actions that wouldn’t seem like they should be bracketed. For example:

‘Shall we brave this storm?’ Anawar asks [opening their big orange umbrellas]. (Pg.99)

This may reflect his programming background.

Xanther’s story often follows her chain of thought to an extreme degree-For example, this passage pretty clearly shows how Xanther’s narration goes off on tangents:

(Not like Xanther can read it though. Is that an E or a 3? Xanther’s a pretty crappy reader. And that’s for normal stuff. Nothing like this crazy mess. CRAZIES! Kle once said something about them and 13. M too? Or was it W? 13? 31?… (pg.53)

In comparison, Ozgur’s story seems fairly narratively straightforward. When I read it, I was struck by how much like a typical detective’s novel it sounded like. Likewise, Isadorno’s story seemed like it could have been an excerpt from a more ‘mainstream’ novel.

We certainly get to see into Luther’s mind, probably moreso than Isádorno or Özgür,  but Luther’s chapters seem to have more focus on the other characters, like Hipo. His narration does not reflect the ‘realistic’ free association of the mind like Xanther’s family.

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6 responses to “Stream of Consciousness in Narration”

  1. prestontaylorstone says :

    Reblogged this on prestontaylorstone and commented:

    I completely agree here. I think there is much more of a sense that the Ibrahim family’s consciousness are in this story moreso than the other characters. I do think Jingjing, though his Singlesh dialect is hard to read most of the time, is probably doing a lot more nuanced stream-of-consciousness than say Oz or Isandòrno but I am not really sure because I, too, find myself re-reading things from JingJing and still thinking “What the hell is happening?” (Which, honestly, is the point, I think. Danielewski is accomplishing something here and the affect each of these narrators–the way they speak, the way their font looks, where on the page their story appears, etc.–has on us is something Danielewski has put much thought into. Nothing is on accident.) But, anyway, I think what JingJing is doing is more closely related to what Luther is sort of doing: We still get some sort of sentiment or conscious feeling with him, but it’s not nearly as much as with the Ibrahims (especially Xanther and Anwar).

    I also agree (and would go further and say) that it’s completely a riff on Anwar’s programming abilities and the whole metafiction ‘code’ of this book (as explained to us by a Narcon in pp.565-577). The use of the [ and { specifically are straight from Java or C+ and generations of programming languages. As the Narcon explains, too (I think), it’s also this sort of attempt at explaining 1. what’s being said, 2. what’s being felt, and 3. what’s being done. It’s the W’s all over again and the (TOTAL) is impossible to simulate for any of the Narcon, so having to use this sort of broken, programming syntax helps the reader still know what the Narcon (and ultimately Danielewski) is trying to communicate to the reader.

  2. prestontaylorstone says :

    I completely agree here. I think there is much more of a sense that the Ibrahim family’s consciousness are in this story moreso than the other characters. I do think Jingjing, though his Singlesh dialect is hard to read most of the time, is probably doing a lot more nuanced stream-of-consciousness than say Oz or Isandòrno but I am not really sure because I, too, find myself re-reading things from JingJing and still thinking “What the hell is happening?” (Which, honestly, is the point, I think. Danielewski is accomplishing something here and the affect each of these narrators–the way they speak, the way their font looks, where on the page their story appears, etc.–has on us is something Danielewski has put much thought into. Nothing is on accident.) But, anyway, I think what JingJing is doing is more closely related to what Luther is sort of doing: We still get some sort of sentiment or conscious feeling with him, but it’s not nearly as much as with the Ibrahims (especially Xanther and Anwar).

    I also agree (and would go further and say) that it’s completely a riff on Anwar’s programming abilities and the whole metafiction ‘code’ of this book (as explained to us by a Narcon in pp.565-577). The use of the [ and { specifically are straight from Java or C+ and generations of programming languages. As the Narcon explains, too (I think), it’s also this sort of attempt at explaining 1. what’s being said, 2. what’s being felt, and 3. what’s being done. It’s the W’s all over again and the (TOTAL) is impossible to simulate for any of the Narcon, so having to use this sort of broken, programming syntax helps the reader still know what the Narcon (and ultimately Danielewski) is trying to communicate to the reader.

  3. sarahedgey says :

    I also agree with your post completely. I feel more connected to those in Xanther’s story and I can’t help but find myself more involved with these characters. I love the way these parts of the novel read. I feel as though I am in their minds and listening to their every thought…even every scrambled thought (Xanther…) And I think it’s another thing to point out that other parts of the novels do read differently… despite the connections when they come together, these could be rewritten as separate stories by different authors completely. I believe this to be one of Danielewski’s talents. He takes on so many different characters and writting styles so you feel differently through every section. As you mentioned… he discusses Ozgur’s story like a detective story and somehow channels Jingjing and flawlessly writes in broken English. He takes on so many different characters and changes writing styles completely.

  4. mconthe127 says :

    I also picked up on the format of stream of consciousness found within Xanther’s family unit. I definitely think that exposing their thoughts in this way is a way to unify them as a group and set them apart from the rest. What I found interesting about this is that we see Astair talking about how she doesn’t have anything in common with Xanther and struggles to relate to her. This is interesting because despite what she is saying, Danielewski reveals that beneath the surface her and Xanther’s thought processes are actually similar. We see Astair questioning her daughter and her own life, and Xanther virtually questioning everything- but despite their difference in inquiries, we see they are both curious and questioning characters.

    I also think that using this format to unify them as a family is interesting because it shows the effect of how one is raise and suggests that it has an effect on how one digests situations around them. I am not sure if Danielewski is trying to reflect the intelligence of the characters by showing their inner thoughts, but I do feel that I get a greater sense of intellect from the Ibrahims because of how they were written.

  5. makaylaadamson says :

    I absolutely loved Danielewski’s choice to really let us into the minds of his characters. A lot of author’s would be too nervous to take the chances that he has. He didn’t give us neat, organized characters that fit nicely with their soft edge. He gave us messy and real. I constantly find my train of thought going off the rails, much like Xander’s. When in conversation, I’m often thinking in parenthesis. By using the parenthesis and brackets, it feels more genuine to me. Like we’re sneaking a peak inside of someone’s mind.

    As mentioned in the previous comments, Xander’s family stands apart from the rest of the characters. They are connected and exposed unlike any of the others, and I think that most of us have given Xander the title of main character because we feel like we really got to know her. We knew exactly what she was seeing and feeling, because it felt like we were Xander. With the other characters, it felt like we were on the outside looking in; like we were just along for the ride. With Xander, Anwar, and Astair, it felt like we were in the driver’s seat.

  6. mhood771 says :

    Like everyone else who has commented, I think that Danielewski’s use of a stream of consciousness narration is very organic. As with most people (although I can really only speak for myself), thoughts and ideas grow and evolve in the mind in a way that is far messier and less structured than is often presented. It’s nice to see the characters make mistakes like misspelling a word or using the wrong word altogether.

    It’s also really nice to see the different styles within the stream of consciousness. As mentioned by another commenter, Anwar’s thoughts are presented as if there were a programming language. Given that he works with code for a living, this isn’t that surprising. It is interesting that Anwar himself says that when he codes “something of his former selves returns” (719). That whole page and the next few pages talk about how he is always working on a puzzle <> or just thinking about life in terms of algorithms and mathematical theories. Pretty interesting.

    The really interesting style (yes, I have used that word waaaaay too many times) belongs to Astair. I agree with the original post’s comments on Astair’s parentheses being “asides.” I certainly think like that. But I also think that the parentheses could mean something more. In the “Bones Nest” section, Astair is giving us the story of Xanther’s big seizure at Dov’s funeral. In telling (or thinking about, really) that story, she makes a comment that the seizure is “(impossible to contain)” and I thought that maybe the parentheses also function as containment. Astair doesn’t like thinking about the seizures or about the possibility of death, but she can’t help it. So she tries to contain her thoughts because they always lead her back to Xanther’s near death or her future death.

    However, later in that same section, Astair fails to “contain” her thoughts. On 249 we have thoughts that are not contained and that express quite openly how she really feels. I won’t put the quotes in because this comment is already way to long. Essentially she says that Dov is responsible for killing Xanther and Astair herself (either because of their failed relationship or because Xanther will die from the genes she got from him). She may speak of him as a hero to others, but to her personally he is something else: “The great fighter. The great soldier. The great killer” (249).

    Alrighty, I hope you made it to the end. If not, I don’t blame you. I just hope it all made sense.

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