In Arthur Schnitzler’s novella Fräulein Else, the stream of consciousness narrative form creates a more in-depth portrait of Else’s mindset and thinking. Even though the narrative may seem contradictory and erratic at first, this is only a result of the more extensive portrayal of her mental process, which includes elements not present in a more conventional narrative.
The path of Else’s thoughts is indirect and recursive, but this portrayal of thinking is closer to the actual process of thinking than the more streamlined flow of thought presented in most novels. The stream-of-consciousness technique attempts to create a more comprehensive and realistic picture of mental activity. In pursuing a train of thought, one encounters various memories and sensations that are associated with the main idea, and the useless or distracting elements may be pushed aside for the moment. This seemingly free-flowing and unimpeded narration may have been what Sigmund Freud desired from his patients, as his study of the unconscious wishes behind dreams necessitated a minimum of mental censorship.
The asides and random thoughts that often show up in Else’s stream of consciousness may seem nonsensical or irrelevant to the story, but the inclusion of these serve to draw the reader deeper into Else’s consciousness. As Else leaves her hotel room and goes down to the main lounge, she hears someone playing the piano and thinks, “Isn’t someone playing in there? A Beethoven sonata! How can anyone play a Beethoven sonata in this place? I’m neglecting my piano-playing. I shall practise regularly in Vienna” (Schnitzler, 30). Without all of the tangents and musings included in the novella, the narrative would not have been as inclusive and complex as it was.
The constant corrections and censoring in her thoughts may not necessarily be indicative of some mental disorder or contradictions in her character. Since the reader is privy to hastily discarded notions and intrusive thoughts that may never be acted on, her thoughts seem more erratic...