Narrated Monologue

A third technique for the representation of consciousness is called narrated monologue or free indirect discourse. This represents, in a way, a mixture between psychonarration and interior monologue. In a narrated monologue the narrator often sets the scene but the character's thoughts are reproduced 'directly' and in a way that one would imagine the character to think, though the narrator continues to talk of the character in the third person. The syntax becomes less formal (incomplete sentences, exclamations, etc.) and the character's mind style is reproduced more closely (for the concept of mindstyle see Nischik 1991). We hear a 'dual voice' (see Pascal 1977), the voices of the narrator and the characters are momentarily merged. This can create an impression of immediacy but it can also be used to introduce an element of irony, when the reader realises that a character is misguided without actually being told so by the narrator (see the examples in So What).

For our example the technique of narrated monologue might look something like this (only the first two sentences and the last sentence are direct quotations from Douglas Adams, the rest has been rewritten as narrated monologue):

Against all probability a sperm whale had suddenly been called into existence several miles above the surface of an alien planet. And since this is not a naturally tenable position for a whale, this poor innocent creature had very little time to come to terms with its identity as a whale before it then had to come to terms with not being a whale anymore. Why was he here? What was his purpose in life? The important thing now was to calm down ... oh! that was an interesting sensation, what was it? It was a sort of ... yawning, tingling sensation in his ... his ... well he supposed he'd better start finding names for things if he wanted to make any headway. Hey! What was that thing suddenly coming towards him so very very fast? Would it be friends with him? And the rest, after a sudden wet thud, was silence.

While the narrator resurfaces at the beginning and the end of this version, the voice of the whale becomes more dominant in the middle section which is given in narrated monologue (the relevant section is marked bold) though the narrator is still apparent in the use of the third person and past tense. Compare the two previous versions: Interior monologue and Psychonarration.

A classic example for the frequent use of narrated monologue or free indirect discourse is Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway. The following passage reproduces Clarissa Dalloway’s thoughts and perceptions, reproducing the associative connections of her stream of consciousness, as she is choosing flowers for her party

And as she began to go with Miss Pym from jar to jar, choosing, nonsense, nonsense, she said to herself, more and more gently, as if this beauty, this scent, this colour, and Miss Pym liking her, trusting her, were a wave which she let flow over her and surmount that hatred, that monster, surmount it all; and it lifted her up and up when – oh! A pistol shot in the street outside! (Woolf, Mrs Dalloway)


This table summarises various possibilities for the representation of thought or consciousness (adapted from Nünning 1996: 223)


German Term

Formal Criteria


direct discourse

direkte Gedankenwiedergabe (analog zu direkter Rede)

quotation marks, inquit formulas (optional), dominating tense is present tense

mimetic reproduction of actual thought event

interior monologue

(direct thought in longer passages)

innerer Monolog

reference to character in first person, uses narrative present, syntactical conventions and punctuation partly or completely dispensed with

high degree of immediacy, can reproduce character's stream of consciousness
indirect discourse

indirekte Gedankenwiedergabe (analog zu indirekter Rede)

grammatical structure of reported speech

can create a feeling of distance, but need not, consciousness of character who gives the report interposed

narrated monologue / free indirect discourse

Erlebte Rede, freie indirekte Gedankenwiedergabe

narrator refers to the character in third person and narrative past, syntax less formal: uses exclamations, ellipses, etc.

narrator reports character’s thoughts using the character’s mind style: ‘dual voice’, can create immediacy but can also be used to create ironic distance, can reproduce character's stream of consciousness

psychonarration or narrative report of thought

Bewußtseinsbericht, Gedankenbericht

refers to the character in third person, usually uses narrative past, syntax mostly complete and ordered, one hears the narrator’s voice

usually summarises thought processes using the narrator's and not the character's syntax and diction; can create distance


narrated   monologue
free indirect    discourse
see table