Stream-of-consciousness And Swann's Way: Remembrance Of Things Past
Marcel Proust's novel Swann's Way is a wonderful novel of French society in the age known as La Belle Epoch. However, Swann's Way respresents so much more; it is a soft remembrance of a time lost, a sentimental journey thrugh the memory of the mind. Proust relates this story, not in a linear way, but in a slipping back and forth, from times past to present, through the remembrances of childhood. There is no traditional structure with a conflict or resolution, but a steady flow of workings of the mind, a stream-of-consciousness, a sort of daydreaming. Proust's method is not a conventional narrative but a collection of memories. His method is a complex but natural process, natural because this is the way that the mind really works. He uses emotion and sensory perception in a deliberate way - working away from the customary structure of chronological order in a novel. His method applies, in his own words, the memory of the past, the involuntary life of the unconscious.
Proust was a very sensitive and creative child, who was very attached to his mother, much like the young protagonist in the novel. As a young boy, he would wait for his mother to kiss him goodnight and if she failed to do so, he would not sleep but agonize over her absence for hours. Proust's father was somewhat stern and disapproved of this attachment between mother and son. Proust was also sickly; he suffered from severe asthma which confined him to his room much of the time. At this time, he developed a love for books and reading. Proust was also very close to his great aunt, who lived with the family in his childhood years.
The author's awareness of dream states and of the conscious and unconsciousness selves began in childhood and is used throughout the novel. His stated aim is to draw forth from the shadows, a life felt and to spiritualize it in the present.
A memory comes to the adult Marcel as he is stirring his teacup with a spoon; the clinking sound of the spoon in the teacup triggers a memory of a bell that rang somewhere in his past. The bell rang when vistors came to the house. A memory of a visit to his great Aunt Leonie's room and the little Madeleine cake that she gave him with his tea, begins to surface to his consciousness. Later, another memory surfaces with the handling of the texture of his napkin. It is the memory of gazing out the window of his seashore room and wiping his boyish face with a stiff napkin.
Swann's Way is loaded with lovely and haunting images of memories long past; of a young boy's discovery of the beautiful world around him, through scents, sounds and emotions. It is a wonderful compilation of segments of a life removed in time.
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