Free indirect discourse

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Free indirect discourse is a way of representing a characters speech or thought by combining direct discourse with narratorial commentary.



Free indirect speech, free indirect discourse involves both a character's speech and the narrator's comments or presentation, or direct discourse and indirect discourse. Famously utilized by James Joyce, free indirect discourse is a more comprehensive method of representation--one which many times makes indistinguishable the thoughts of the narrator and the thoughts of a character. Thus, the method typically privileges the past tense, yet cannot be discerned through merely grammatical indicators.


"Gabriel could not listen while Mary Jane was playing her Academy piece, full of runs and difficult passages, to the hushed drawing room. He liked music but the piece she was playing had no melody for him and he doubted whether it had any melody for the other listeners, though they had begged Mary Jane to play something."

-James Joyce, "The Dead"

Critical Debates

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Related Terms

discourse, direct discourse, indirect discourse


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