Interior Monologue as Social Critique in James Kelman's How Late It Was, How Late (1994)

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James Kelman’s use of interior monologue, in his novel How Late It Was, How Late, portrays a consciousness enacting Althusser’s modern state paradox: a contradiction within the subject between the ideology of free subjectivity and the reality of subjection. Protagonist Sammy Samuel’s displays this contradiction when readers are thrown into his private voice of ‘free’ subjectivity, railing against the voices of social subjection. His interior monologue becomes a stoic core and autonomous realm, a direct, free-form inner voice, reacting to the sensory disorientation of blindness and confronting bureaucratic voices who refuse to ‘officially’ recognize his sight loss. Interior monologue potentially gives voice to oppressed subjects, but something more commanding is at work here. The ‘inner space’ in this fiction constructs a terrain for the dialectics of authenticity to fully inhabit. Sammy’s autonomy, his motivation by rational principle, lies in his rejection of the welfare system, to whom he is a phase in a bureaucratic process. His interior monologue becomes an ‘authentic’ truth, addressed to the self in an idiolect that appears uncontaminated by social obligation or public expression.
Original languageEnglish
JournalÉtudes Britanniques Contemporaines
Issue number56
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2019


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