By definition stream of consciousness is the capturing of a character or author's internal thought process. Virginia Woolf creates an interesting contrast within the characters using stream of consciousness. Clarissa's inner thoughts are shown using a contrast between the lack of attraction for her husband Richard Dalloway, her lesbian feelings toward Sally Seton, and the fear of loosing her husband who has become her social stepping stone. This contrast is a usage of stream of consciousness. Clarissa's character reveals to us early in the book her lack of attraction to her husband. "Lovely in her girlhood, suddenly there came a moment - for example on the river beneath the woods at Clieveden - when, through some contraction of this cold spirit, she had failed him".
(31) The "cold spirit" that she talks about could be her sexuality. In saying this, her attraction to women and her lack of understanding why she is this way, is a good explanation of Clarissa's character. In feeling this way Clarissa feels that her lack of attraction is a direct effect of her failed emotional relationship with her husband. Another usage of stream of consciousness with Clarissa's character is that she feels that after the birth of their child she has lost her sexual relationship and attraction for her husband. "she could not dispel a virginity preserved through childbirth which clung to her like a sheet". (31) Clarissa makes known her true sexuality speaking of her previous relationship with Sally Seton.
"But this question of love, this falling in love with women - Had not that, after all, been love?" (32) The use of stream of consciousness with such a complex character as Clarissa helps explain her internal thoughts. Throughout the novel Woolf uses heterosexual and homosexual love triangles existing simultaneously with a multiplicity of characters in various triangles. The use of these triangles combined with the stream of consciousness shows that it may not be the object in the triangle that is truly desired, but the desire of the subject for what the other wants. This becomes apparent within the character of Peter Walsh who wants Clarissa not because she makes him happy, but because of his jealousy of Richard Dalloway. This jealousy is first shown in the book at their first meeting of the book. "She will marry that man, he said to himself.
He didn't even know his name". (61) This jealousy only does one thing for Peter, and that is intensifying his feelings for Clarissa. Her rejection of him and his desire maintains this triangle and even furthers Peter's feelings of jealousy and rejection. Another extension of this triangle is Daisy. Daisy is another object of Peter's affection. Instead of Peter directing his emotions toward one woman he blurs the two relationships and is in turn overwhelmed with jealousy about both Clarissa and Daisy".
It was jealousy that was at the bottom of it - jealousy which survives every other passion of mankind, Peter Walsh thought, holding his pocket-knife at arm's length". (80) The character of Peter's desire may very well not even be true desire for Clarissa or Daisy, but just the desire of something he could never fulfill. In closing I would just like to bring forth that stream of consciousness is a very deep and engaging concept. There are no boundaries with this literary device. The characters are suspect and subject to the imagination of the reader / author.
The use of stream of consciousness in this book helps bring fourth the ultimate meaning behind its characters and the total concept of the story.