Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
The Psychology of Conversion
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is, if nothing else, a record of the psychological journeys of Stephen Dedalus as he progresses from child to adult, unlearned rural boy to intellectual student, sinner to saint to artist. Stephen’s level of devotion and intensity, regardless of the object of these feelings, seems to increase following each transformation, culminating in his “desire to press in my arms the loveliness which has not yet come into the world” (273). William James, the early 20th Century American psychologist, examined real-life experiences similar to those of Stephen Dedalus conversions, religious transformations, saintliness in his classic book on the psychology of religion, The Varieties of Religious Experience. James provides insight into Stephen’s motivations, approaches, and actions by using philosophy and psychology to analyze religion, especially Christianity, and its effect on the human psyche. Of particular interest are James’s discussion of conversions, especially when viewed in the light of Stephen’s move from the depths of sin to the height of fanatical asceticism, following by his full embracing of art and beauty as the true object of his desire. A careful analysis of James’s works will illustrate whether Stephen’s religious awakening was a true spiritual experience or simply a response to the pressures of his environment.From an early age, Stephen Dedalus shows a strong devotion to systems or orders that are imposed from without, be it by family, church, or country. As he grows older, Stephen begins to shed these constricting social bonds one at a time, undergoing a number of conversions that change his direction in life, of which the most important are his sudden change into a fanatically religious ascetic and his final transformation into the Artist. Stephen’s religious epiphany occurs after hearing a lecture on hell from Father Arnall at the University’s retreat honoring St. Francis Xavier. Realizing that his soul is “festering in sin,” Stephen turns to God, and weeps “for the innocence he had lost” (150). After confessing each and every last sin, Stephen finally feels the weight of guilt lifted from his shoulders and rededicates his life to God. He becomes a strict ascetic, denying himself any pleasures of the flesh or mind and constantly praying. However, after being asked to become a priest, Stephen discovers that his true goal in life is Art, and deserts his ascetic and religious lifestyle.William James undertakes to study the extraordinary phenomenon of conversion, “by which a self hitherto divided, and consciously wrong inferior and unhappy, becomes unified and consciously right superior and happy, in consequence of its firmer hold upon religious realities” (Lecture Nine). He relates the studies of Professor Starbuck of Stanford, who undertook a statistical analysis to determine the causes of conversion. Starbuck concludes that, “Conversion is in its essence a normal adolescent phenomenon, incidental to the passage from the child’s small universe to the wider intellectual and spiritual life of maturity” (Lecture Nine), adding that the normal age for such experiences ranges from fourteen to seventeen. Commonplace in these conversions are sense of incompleteness and imperfection; brooding, depression, morbid introspection, and sense of sin; anxiety about the hereafter; distress over doubts, and the like.James then writes of Professor Leuba, who focuses on the moral aspect of conversion rather than the theological. Religion, Leuba states, is merely a word that has come to mean the “conglomerate of desires and emotions springing from the sense of sin and its release,” that is, a man’s religion has no effect on his spiritual conversions. He uses several cases of the conversions of drunkards that were obviously not doctrinal, simply situations in which one has an absolute need of help from God and receives it. This moment of salvation need not be connected to an institutional religion to be valid.So, how do these theories provide insight into Stephen’s conversions? His first conversion, into a devout Catholic, fits neatly with the theories of Starbuck. Stephen is 16, falling in the range of 14 to 17. While sinning, Stephen is aware of his wrongdoing “He had sinned mortally not once but many times and he knew that, while he stood in danger of eternal damnation for the first sin alone, by every succeeding sin he multiplied his guilt and his punishment” (110), showing a recognition of sin, and doubt of the hereafter. “A cold lucid indifference reigned in his soul” (110), as Stephen undergoes periods of brooding, depression and morbid introspection. Starbuck remarks that the results in every adolescent conversion are the same, a happy relief and objectivity, and following his sudden conversion, Stephen exclaims, “Another life! A life of grace and virtue and happiness!…the past was past” (158). Seeing Stephen’s conversion adhering almost exactly to Starbuck’s previous experiences, it seems natural that Starbuck’s conclusion, that is, conversion is a normal adolescent phenomenon that may or may not have long-term effects, applies to Stephen’s situation as well, and this is supported by Stephen’s later behavior.Stephen’s second conversion, from devout ascetic to passionate artist, takes place after he is offered a place in the order. Stephen has a vision of “a winged form flying above the waves” and realizes that his future lies not with the Church, but in his ability to create from within himself. This conversion follows more closely with the theories of Leuba than those of Starbuck. Stephen’s first conversion, to ascetic Catholic, is almost entirely driven by a sense of sin, corresponding to Leuba’s “feeling of unwholeness.” Leuba considers these types of conversions invalid, as they are driven by a sense of doctrinarian and control by the church, whereas true conversions are free of such “doctrinal theology.” Stephen’s conversion to artist is completely free of church influence, driven solely by his innermost feelings and desires. At the moment that he needs guidance from God the most, he is overcome by a feeling of ecstasy that leads him to his true fate “to “create proudly out of the freedom and power of his soul, as the great artificer whose name he bore” (184). Leuba states that a conversion “starts with the absolute need of a higher helper, and ends with the sense that he has helped us,” succinctly describing Stephen’s experience. This conversion, unlike his last, is truly driven by Stephen’s true feelings and desires.The final differences in the two conversions lie in their origin, or type. Following his writings on Starbuck and Leuba, James discusses the two different types of conversion: Volitional, in which the convert actively seeks to change, and Self-surrender, in which the change comes into effect in and of itself. While both types of conversion are valid, James finds Self-surrender to be more effective in the long term, because Volitional conversion emphasizes the “imperfect self,” while Self-surrender conversion is lead by the subliminal forces of the “better self in posse.”While visiting the prostitutes, Stephen is aware of the depths of sin he had fallen in to, and the destructive effect his constant sinning is having on his life. When he hears the topic for the retreat, “Stephen’s heart had withered up like a flower of the desert that feels the simoom coming from afar” (116). Following the lectures, he goes to his room, prays to God for forgiveness, and goes to confession. In other words, he actively seeks to change his life, which shows the Volitional nature of his religious conversion. In contrast, Stephen is content with his life as he enters his second conversion. He is simply strolling along a beach, contemplating life, when the ecstatic vision of the “winged creature” comes upon him and changes the course of his life. This artistic transformation was in the realm of Self-surrender, because the circumstances of the conversion were beyond Stephen’s control.As a doctrinal-based, Volitional conversion, Stephen’s change into a devout and ascetic Catholic was bound to falter, as most adolescent conversions do. His second conversion, however, has a greater chance of truly changing Stephen’s life because it is solely based his subconscious desires, his “better self.” This dedication to art is revealed in Stephen’s next to last diary entry, as he writes, “Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race” (276). Stephen has realized that to truly experience life he must embrace the desires of his “better self” by casting off all the constraints forced upon him by society and himself.
Evolution of the Perception of Women
In “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”, Stephan Dedalus’s evolving image of the female derives from his shifting and inconsistent perspective on religion and spirituality. Whichever religious belief he holds during each adolescent phase is projected onto the female of the text and she serves as a tangible object of his abstract convictions. Sex, salvation and purity are three of Stephen’s most frequent ascriptions to women. In discovering these attributes in prostitutes, the Virgin Mary and the bird-like girl Stephen exploits women as sources of spiritual elevation, religious redemption and freedom. Stephen’s altering idolization of each female figure chronologically documents his progression from a conservative religious devotee to an independent and spiritually resourceful artist.Throughout Stephen’s childhood the significance of Catholicism is impressed upon him in a manner comparable to teaching a child table manners. They were fundamental edifications practiced by every Irishman devoted to the ‘true’ Ireland; those dedicated to the rebellion of Protestantism. Raised with religion as and an additional appendage to his body, Stephen never questioned the validity of the existence or motivations of God. He attends academically Catholic institutions, studies educational instructions of priests and prays at mass without query. While Stephen’s childhood is saturated with the influences of Catholicism his sensitive and intellectual mind are fully aware of the national and political tension revolving around Irish politics and religion. The Christmas dinner scene disturbs young Stephen, and as he enters puberty he begins to understand how socially controlling religion was. Religion was the reason why he was sent to these Catholic schools where he experienced abuse by priests while Mr. Dedalus’s while political support for Parnell was the source of the devout Dante’s meltdown at the Christmas dinner. Distraught and suffocated by a religion that was “reshaping the world about him into a vision of squalor and insincerity” (“A Portrait of the Artist as A Young Man” …pg 46), Stephan finds himself simultaneously hungering for intellectual and physical answers for his confusion—his young 16 year old hormones harbored a craving for sensual satisfaction of the body.In Chapter 2, subsequent to experiencing familial humility and shame, Stephen discovers himself wandering down dark and damp Dubliner streets searching for the answers that his befuddled and randy body demanded. Stephen’s wanderings led him to stand before the rawest symbol of sex—a young feminine prostitute. Prostitutes are considered the epitome of female sexuality since they sell their bodies in order to provide their means of living, essentially saturating every economic aspect of their lives with sin. They were the ultimate symbol of Catholic rebellion and Stephen considers the prostitute’s blatant defiance of her Christian community intoxicating. Stephen views the young prostitute as the release to the “cry that he had strangled for so long in his throat” and her sex as a method for the “vehicle of a vague speech” (Portrait…pg.70), a vague speech that liberate Stephen free from the restrictive sermons of religious life.Stephen’s keenly sensitive mind does not allow him to consider the sexual act with the prostitute as purely physical. An orgasm to Stephen is a spiritual experience that transports him from the harsh reality of poverty and hormonal confusion into a world of pleasurable fireworks. Stephan still cannot part with the Catholic notion of the adored and heavenly Virgin Mary, even though the prostitute is an obvious contradiction of the Virgin Mary. His description of the prostitute and her room is heavenly—the prostitute wears a long flowing gown and her room is lit softly by candles (candles were often found to be the source of soft light in churches). The prostitute also has a doll in the bedroom, a symbol of innocence and child-like purity. Similar to how one would surrender to the power of God, Stephan allows her to bow his head in the position prayer, and he finds himself “surrendering himself to her, body and mind, conscious of nothing in the world” (Portrait. . .pg. 71), as if he is being spiritually transported to another spiritual realm. Stephen continues his sordid affairs with prostitutes and does not cease until he hears Father Arnell’s sermon regarding hellish damnation of those who participate in unwholesome pleasures of the flesh and mind. Scared witless by the notion that his “human spirit will be sobbing and sighing, gurgling and rattling,” due to his body “feeding the mass of its creeping worms and to be devoured by scuttling plump-bellied rats” (Portrait…pg. 79), Stephen vows to seek a life of Christian redemption. In efforts to reverse the effects of his sins, Stephen practices extreme mortification of his senses, and subsequently seeks advice from a priest in confession. The priest advises Stephen to “pray to our mother Mary to help you. Pray to Our Blessed Lady when that (meaning sordid sex) comes into your mind” (Portrait. . .pg. 103). Coupled with his new practice of mortification and the priest’s counsel, Stephen discovers himself devoutly praying to the Virgin Mary obsessively, revering her as the idyllic image of virginal purity and beauty. Previously Stephen found the prostitute’s disparate image of the Virgin Mary intoxicating; he now worships the purity of the Virgin Mary with the intention of eradicating the prostitute’s fleshy scent from his skin.Stephen’s fascination with the virginal female includes Emma— a living, breathing reincarnation of Mary. The fact that Stephen has never spoken to her increases her purity level. By never having touched or spoken to Emma Stephen is unable to have ‘soiled’ her therefore he never compromises her heavenly representative of Mary on Earth. Additionally Stephen couples Emma and the Virgin Mary in his thoughts of female wholesomeness. He imagines himself standing, “near Emma in a wide land, humbly in tears, bent and kissed the elbow of her sleeve” (Portrait… pg. 82) in attempts of gaining her forgiveness for previously harboring brutishly lusty thoughts of her. In this imagined scene the Virgin Mary unites the two by the hand, in essence granting Emma’s forgiveness as well as her own onto Stephan. Stephen’s passionate commitment and idolatry to the Virgin Mary exemplifies his ability to reconfigure the image and role of the female form depending on the phase of his life. Stephen’s projection of women will change yet again as he unearths his desire to express his artistic and intellectual independence.As a reward for his unfettered devoutness to the church Stephan is offered a position in the priesthood. However initially attracted to the prestige associated with the position, Stephen increasingly discovers himself offended by the notion of being constrained by another’s rules—after all, although previously bounded to the notions of mortification, they were his very own standards, imposed rules determined by him and no other. He comes to realize that the “chill and order of the life repelled him” ( Portrait. . .pg. 115), and with a sound resolution he claims, “He was destined to learn his own wisdom apart from others or to learn the wisdom of others himself wandering the snares of the world” (Portrait… pg. 116).Subsequent to his newfound and exuberant proclamations of following in the steps of the great Greek artist Daedalus, Stephen stumbles upon a young female wading in the beach water. Stephan’s powerful imagination, freshly filled with images of the flying Daedalus, imagines the girl as a bird. The bird-like girl symbolizes the notion of an unfettered natural beauty, unregulated by religion. Stephan stands frozen and amazed by her naturalness and independence. It is interesting to note that Stephan chose a woman to project his newfound independence— why not merely project his current exuberance onto an actual bird? It is important for Stephan to ascribe his emotional and intellectual ideals onto women because they serve as the medium in which religious and spiritual symbolism takes place on earth. They are easily accessible in terms of touch and visualization, and Stephen is able to convert them to another form (whereas a bird is already a bird and therefore is less desirous in terms of transformation). It is Stephen’s imagination at this time that creates and adapts the sighting of the bird-like girl into a monumentally spiritual affair. In this moment he reveals the inspiration as a sign to, “To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life! A wild angel had appeared to him, the angel of mortal youth and beauty…” (Portrait… pg. 123).By the end of the text the boy who was once ruled by religion and social pressure has embarked on a deeply spiritual and sensual journey of introspection. In this journey across the sea the women in A Portrait of the Artist as A Young Man serve as landmarks in Stephen’s adolescence. Each female symbol is a projection of the varying phase in Stephen’s search for himself. All three women, the prostitutes, the Virgin Mary and the bird-like girl are maps of Stephan’s desired destination—each one mapping deriving their directions from his mind. Stephen’s phase, like his projection of women changed radically depending on the external influences of religion, and ultimately the influences of his artistic mind and soul.
Boy Takes Flight
A caterpillar must crawl, inch by inch, across the earth before it can mature, grow wings, and soar beautifully above the land in which it was born. So too, in James Joyce’s A Portrait Of The Artist as a Young Man, must the central character, Stephen Dedalus, live a terrestrial life as that young man before he can take the skyward route of the artist. As the novel is in most respects autobiographical, the story recounts the rising (and successive falling, rising, falling) of James Joyce as a boy growing up in Ireland. Of significant interest, though, are the parallels that exist between the Greek myth of Daedalus (from which Stephen gets his surname), Stephen’s own tale, and the political and social states of Ireland. All three face a conflict where being land-locked prevents them from their goal of freedom, and must make a change, or metamorphosis, in order to achieve that goal.In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a man named Daedalus, an exile from Athens and a masterful craftsman, is imprisoned in the Labyrinth, a giant maze that he himself designed for Minos, the King of Crete. The Minotaur–a monster with half the body of a man, and half the body of a bull–ruled over this Labyrinth at one time. Understanding how wandering the labyrinth would take him only to dead ends, Daedalus sets to work at escaping. However, because of the Labyrinth’s walls, the only way to do this is by air. Thus, the craftsman fashions two sets of waxen wings–one for him, and one for Icarus, his son–transforming the land-locked pair into masters of the sky. Before they make their escape, however, Daedalus warns his son “to keep the middle way,” as flying too low to the ocean might crash him into the waves, and flying to high would cause the wings to melt from the sun’s heat. “Fly midway. Gaze not at the boundless sky,” he admonishes. Unfortunately, Icarus foolishly soars too high, and plummets to his watery death. Daedalus, however, succeeds in his escape.Joyce takes advantage of how rich the myth of Daedalus is, and masterfully crafts his tale of Stephen Dedalus to fit beautifully in line with the work. In Portrait, Dedalus is a young man, plagued with internal conflict, and living amidst a nation that is all but torn asunder by its own internal disputes. Throughout his life, Stephen intently observes what is going on around him, and struggles to make sense of it. Like the exile, Daedalus, Stephen feels much like an outsider, never really finding his place among his contemporaries. Life in his current situation, in fact, becomes a labyrinth for him. Though he has many paths in life to choose from, like becoming a priest or a politician, he recognized that such careers would inevitably lead him only to a dead end.”His destiny was to be elusive of social or religious orders… to learn his own wisdom apart from others or to learn the wisdom of others himself wandering among the snares of the world.”Stephen clearly sees that his destiny involves leaving his nation and wandering the world in search of wisdom, both his own and of others. This path, however, is only conceivable by flight, or by leaving behind the land of his birth. He must cease from being a young man bound to the soil, and go through the metamorphosis that will change him into a winged artist. In this way he parallels the flight of Daedalus and Icarus. Also, just as it was important for the winged escapers to “keep midway,” it is important for Stephen to keep watchful eye on his own altitude. Stephen knows that his art must be significant and powerful in order to take him high enough to avoid being lost in the crashing waves. Conversely, there exists the possibility of failure if he strives for too much, and, like Icarus, he can suffer a disastrous fall because of it. Stephen’s art, like the sky, is potentially “boundless,” but it is imperative that he keep control over it. Though it is a risky escape for Stephen to attempt, he is strongly motivated by the dire need of his nation for a hero, someone to give them the voice: the wings they need to escape their own prison.Ireland was a country in need of a rebirth. Just as the Labyrinth was an endless prison, so too the Irish felt virtually imprisoned in their own home. Under the control of Britain, it could not define itself as a nation, could not create for itself its own world as the artist does. The myth connects further. In the biblical book of Daniel, the prophet sees a vision of a multi-horned beast, whose horns would symbolize different worldly kingdoms. Knowing this, if Ireland was the labyrinth, then the Minotaur that ruled over it, with its two symbolic horns, could justifiably represent the political and religious control bearing over the Irish by both the British government and the Roman Catholic Church. These two entities also separate the Irish, throwing them into a discord that prevents them from establishing their own identity. Other signals that also hint at such conflict line Portrait’s pages; for instance, the green and maroon brushes of Dante, and the argument at the Christmas table. Joyce continues this theme in his later work, Ulysses, where Stephen clearly states that two masters, one Italian and the other British, rule him. This type of feeling is not only his own, but represents the inner feelings of much of Ireland. Other artists, such as Lady Elizabeth and William Butler Yeats, also spoke of such internal conflict in their works. One of the greatest obstacles for Irish freedom was that it had divided feelings towards the goal. In his poem “September 1913,” Yeats accused the Roman Catholic Church, which tended to include the Middle Class Irish, of choosing money and convenience over freedom and independence. The English writer Lady Gregory continued this theme in her play “The Rising of The Moon,” which tried to unify the two opposing Irish sides towards that goal of freedom.Stephen himself characterizes this conflict, as throughout the novel he is constantly rising and falling in the pursuit of his goal. Eventually Stephen, however, sees that neither a life in politics, nor one in religion, will help Ireland attain its freedom. Charles Stewart Parnell, the man who did the most for Ireland, was dead, first effectively and then physically. Many held that the church was indirectly to blame for his death, as it was religious conventions that caused Parnell to lose his support. Ireland could not attain freedom until it stopped kicking out its own legs. To Stephen, only his art could offer hope, as his mission statement mentions:”Welcome, O Life! I go to encounter to for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.”Stephen is preparing for a life where he can “soar” away by means of his art, which is where the novel closes. Whether he is able to succeed in his flight, or instead become like Icarus and suffer a disastrous fall, is not mentioned in Portrait. However, as the story is largely autobiographical, it can be seen in the life of Joyce himself how his art has had a profound effect on the identity of Ireland.Stephen’s goal finds fruition in the life of Joyce, who was very much aware of the impact his writing would have on the nation.”I seriously believe you will retard the course of civilization in Ireland by preventing the Irish people from having one good look at themselves in my nicely polished looking glass.” (Norris 56)Joyce was able to be boundless with his writing, reaching new heights with his prose and in so many ways succeeding in flight. Part of his success was the power of his words. He was able to transcend the rules of the printed page, having language mold like wax in his hands. He was the great artificer. His writing also gave wings to Ireland as a nation: his works accurately described their plight both to European readers and the Irish themselves. In the end, the almost mythical tale of Stephen, the artificer, and his native land, has taken flight, proving a transformation from that earthbound boy, into the eternal and boundless winged artist.– Works Cited –Norris, David and Carl Flint. Introducing Joyce. New York: Totem Books, 1997.”Portrait of The Artist as A Young Man” Book Rags.com. 2000. October 3, 2004 “http://www.bookrags.com/notes/por/BIO.htm”
The Burnt and the Cooked: Binaries and Continua in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
The Christmas dinner scene¹s divisive political and moral debate in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man underlines an essential obstacle to the artistic mind of Stephen Dedalus. Ireland imposes a set of oppressive binariesnamely in the form of religion and nationalismfrom which he can escape only through the ambiguity of language and his developing theory of the aesthetic. His progression to systems of continua over binaries also functions as implicit instruction from Joyce on how to read the novel. In a piece of art so consumed with its own internal order, the author acknowledges the textual value of a structural analysis, but only for the ideological content of the work. To ingest the “tragic emotion” of the novel, the reader needs to split the emotional binary of pity and terror and hold a “face looking two ways” (176). In other words, the reader may not process the emotion of the novel in a diagrammatic form, as he may, for example, when linking the ends and beginnings of chapters or the motif of the word “ivory.” From this continuum follow Stephen¹s ideas on stasis and radiance by which, presumably, we should behold Portrait as a work of beauty.However, Joyce complicates his Janus-like theory with Stephen¹s proclamation that the simplest form of art is “the lyrical form, the form wherein the artist presents his image in immediate relation to himself” (184). The next form, the epical, is merely the artist¹s “image in mediate relation to himself and others” (184). Portrait is, at its most basic level, the authorial framing of a younger self¹s worldboth self-interrogation and mediated surveillance of the self with othersand thus an ostensible aesthetic failure. The concluding project for Joyce, then, is the elevation of his literary adolescence beyond lyrical and epical autobiography and into the dramatic, in which the “personality of the artistfinally refines itself out of existence” (185). He can accomplish this only by applying the novel¹s concept of rhythm to the biographical conflation of Joyce and Stephenthe initial solipsistic and monochromatic deterrent to an imaginative dramatic aestheticas viewed through the kaleidoscopic lens of exile.When a taunting schoolmate asks Stephen whether or not he kisses his mother goodnight, Stephen first answers yes and, when his peers mock him, recants and is again met with derision. There is no way out for him, and the early lesson of impossible logic imprints itself on him: “What was the right answer to the question? He had given two and still Wells laughed” (10). To escape the laughter or, in other words, to claim his own voice and not heed those of others, Stephen must find a third way, a triangulation which opens up a multiplicity of non-exclusive answers. Language is a powerful signifier in Irish culture, as evidenced by both the content and form of the Christmas dinner. Dante opens the discussion with “identity” logic, arguing that a priest must be a singular entity who relates a Manichean morality: “A priest would not be a priest if he did not tell his flock what is right and what is wrong” (25). Joyce repeatedly emphasizes the table¹s attention to the power of the word in the various rebuttals. Uncle Charles pleads “Not another word now” and Dante returns with “Nice language for any catholic to use!” (25) Further attempts to conciliate”Nobody is saying a word against them”are met by Dante¹s return to the oral interaction: “The bishops and priests of Ireland have spokenand they must be obeyed” (25). Dante, who appeals to Mrs. Dedalus with “You hear?” reaffirms the importance of language as a vessel for memory and morality: “O, he¹ll remember all this when he grows up, said Dante hotlythe language he heard against God and religion and priests in his own home” (27). Evidently, Stephen does, but even at an early age he has discovered a defense against accepting the binary morality of priests.Joyce establishes Stephen¹s first as a poetic mind, able to find beauty in ordinary usage of language. The “author” of the start of the novel¹s second episode is ambiguous, as the language is attuned to its own poetics (and thus, perhaps, Stephen¹s own voice) but also to the overarching narrative:”The wide playgrounds were swarming with boys. All were shouting and the prefects urged them on with strong cries. The evening air was pale and chilly and after every charge and thud of the foot-ballers the greasy leather orb flew like a heavy bird through the grey light. He kept on the fringe of his line, out of sight of his prefect, out of the reach of the rude feet, feigning to run now and then.” (4)Structurally, many of the touches here are Joyce¹s work. Stephen¹s terror at the end of the first episode is remedied through claustrophobic refuge under the table, and here the agoraphobia of the “wide playgrounds” juxtaposes his continuing fear. Just as Joyce is clearly in charge of contrasting closed with open and domestic with recreational, he also rhymes the word “cries” with Stephen¹s poem from the end of the first episode (“Pull out his eyes / Apologise” ). But the internal tension of the words here shows a developing awareness of and expertise with linguistic play, and should be read as Stephen¹s. Instead of the simple “abba” rhyme scheme of the “apologise” poem, the language here fractures itself in a more sophisticated fashion. The “f”/”b” sound of “foot-ballers” is reversed by the sequential pairing of “orb” and “flew,” but not before “greasy leather,” sandwiched between them, finds its alliterative match at the end of the sentence with “grey light.” The play is kept up with “f” and “r” sounds of the next sentence, beginning with “fringe” and finding more reversal with “rude feet” and “feigning to run.” Stephen sets up phonic chiasma whose crossed lines befuddle the binary; the Manichean world of black-and-white blurs as Stephen extends his tonal range into new harmonious and discordant octaves.When motifs develop across the novel and not just a passage, however, we must concede them to Joyce¹s structural control. Stephen¹s later prediction that “There would be cloudy grey light over the playground” (20) and his eventual aesthetic triumph of “A day of dappled seaborne clouds” reconfigure his growing sensitivity to his interior “periodic prose” under Joyce¹s own attention to periodicity, to the rhythmic pattern of the novel (143). The pun has always been a weapon of play, a double-edged sword that cuts into the ignorance of a monochrome world. Joyce wants his reader to combine appreciation of both narratological and linguistic structures. When Stephen notes that “belt was also to give a fellow a belt,” that the word functions as both a device of self-aid and as a violent action to others, we must remember this as Stephen experiments with other binaries (5). The printed names of “cold and hot” on the faucets in the school lavatory strike him as “queer” (7). That water, the most miscible of substances, should be defined only under two temperatures contradicts Stephen¹s own recognition of the scale of degrees: “He felt cold and then a little hot” (7). At this point in the narrative, this information is just that, factual examples whose intellectual content outweighs any emotional connection we may feel to “hot” and “cold.”By Stephen¹s late adolescence, he explores the same hot/cold binary within a far more intimate framework. When the dean of studies at his university asks Stephen if fire is beautiful, the student¹s response bespeaks why he is, indeed, a student and not a priest: “In so far as it satisfies the animal craving for warmth fire is a good. In hell, however, it is an evil” (159). The confining religious view of fire receives a jab here, and the reader feels something in Stephen¹s response beyond a simple philosophical shift. The next paragraph again adds the intellectual fuel of Joyce¹s structural command to Stephen¹s passionate voice: “Like Ignatius [the dean] was lame but in his eyes burned no spark of Ignatius¹ enthusiasm. Even the legendary craft of the company, a craft subtler and more secret than its fabled books of secret subtle wisdom, had not fired his soul with the energy of apostleship” (160). The repetition of fire imagery”burned no spark” and “fired his soul”still uses the style indirecte as a means of extending the analytic and emotional reach of the words. The reader is able to “face two ways.”As the prose is a fusion of Joyce and Stephen, the novel maintains a vocal rhythm that coincides with Stephen¹s theory of aesthetic appreciation of an object: “you apprehend it as balanced part against part within its limits; you feel the rhythm of its structure. In other words, the synthesis of immediate perception is followed by the analysis of apprehension” (183). By turns immediate perception and analytic apprehension, Portrait, and its component episodes, are also “selfbounded and selfcontained upon the immeasurable background of space or time which is not it” (183). Yet, as we see from the progression of fire imagery, much is lost in the appreciation of the singular as opposed to the total. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, then, with its titular call to the reader to recognize its inherent artistic self-production, is a component part of two larger works: Ulysses and Joyce¹s own life. Although Joyce may not have known he would later write Ulysses, he probably did know that he would keep Stephen Dedalus as a recurring character in some later work, as he often spread his characters across several narratives (especially in Dubliners). In this sense of playing off Ulysses (especially the first three episodes featuring Stephen), Portrait achieves Stephen¹s first definition of rhythmthe “relation of part to part in any esthetic whole” (177). Portrait¹s episodic structure on its own satisfies Stephen¹s second definitionthe relation “of an esthetic whole to its part” (177). Viewing the entirety of Ulysses as the ocean and Portrait as the stream, Portrait finalizes Stephen¹s definition of rhythm: the relation “of any part to the esthetic whole of which it is a part” (177). The autobiography of Portrait rises beyond the lyrical because it assumes the polyphony of Ulysses, and the lambent radiance of the shorter novel¹s “fading coal” retains heat from the fireplace of the epic.This may seem like specious reasoning; by this rationale, anything written now (such as this paper) has the potential to be a greater achievement by virtue of its placement within a future opus. A safer place to look for a reservoir is within Joyce¹s life after he left Dublin. The word polyphony has become a literary catch phrase that derives from its etymological roots of “many voices.” Gary Morson explains in Narrative Freedom: “As Bahktin coined the term, a polyphonic novel is one in which a special relation obtains between author and hero. That relation allows the hero to be truly free, capable of surprising not only other characters but also the author.” The problem of a conventional autobiography in presenting polyphony is that the author and central character are the same person, or altered versions from temporal distance, and the conversation remains monotonous (single-toned, not necessarily “boring”). Joyce nears solving this describing Stephen through an ironic filter. Two prime examples of this come in Stephen¹s anticipation of an epiphany. In Chapter Two, Stephen fantasizes about meeting the “unsubstantial image” of Mercedes and, “alone, surrounded by darkness and silence,” being “transfigured” (54). The abrupt end of the episode leads to a scene of the Dedalus family¹s evictionJoyce¹s realistic version of physical “transfigurement,” actual dislocation of the figure. An even more self-parodying irony occurs in Chapter Four, when Stephen sees a bird shortly after deciding to free himself from religion:”What did it mean? Was it a quaint device opening a page of some medieval book of prophecies and symbols, a hawklike man flying sunward above the sea, a prophecy of the end he had been born to serve and had been following through the mists of childhood and boyhood, a symbol of the artist forging anew in his workshop out of the slugging matter of the earth a new soaring impalpable imperishable being?” (145)Joyce¹s vivisection of his own literary techniques and of the reader¹s ability to “read” the text highlights an essential difference between Joyce¹s irony and typical autobiographical irony. Joyce is not simply an older, wiser version of Stephen. Exile has changed him; although the final image from Stephen¹s diary is that of “the smithy of my soul,” the artist still must “forgethe uncreated conscience” of his race (219). He must make something out of nothing, and not just alter the preexisting. Exile is Stephen¹s only option of escaping the chorus around him, and Joyce makes the reader understand that exile is a way, ultimately, of silencing the pernicious effects of those voices on the expatriate. Exile has given Joyce the ability to understand his former self such that his irony is a result of having shed his sagging accouterments of personality. Joyce is no longer Stephen Dedalus; the ironic distance is the span of knowing a character so intimately, but still being able to reject the dual movements of desire and loathing and beholding the character with objective stasis. James Joyce is Stephen Dedalus¹s as yet “uncreated conscience,” and the final continuumthat of an author who can slide toward or away from his subject with easemoves Portrait out of the genre of autobiography and into that of tragic drama.Works Cited:Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. USA: Barnes & Noble Books, 1999.Morson, Gary Saul. Narrative and Freedom: The Shadows of Time. New Haven and London: Yale UP, 1994. 91.
The Heroics of Mind and Space
…His mother said:-O, Stephen will apologise. Dante said: -O, if not, the eagles will come and pull out his eyes.This capsule of utterance, which comes at the climax of the short first passage (or first independent “poem” of the book, as Fisher might assert) that Joyce presents to us, defines the heroic quest that “Stephen Hero” (and/or his latent identity as mythic Daedalus) must undertake. He is, in this instance, bound by a strict commandment from “above” (from the towering grown-ups above him, from the air-borne, attacking eagles), from the poets of the past , and – most superficially from his elders, to perform an act of “apology”. Stephen seals this cosmic agreement with his little song:Pull out his eyes,Apologise,Apologise,Pull out his eyes.Apologise,Pull out his eyes,Pull out his eyes,Apologise.Stephen internalizes his predicament or legacy – by chanting the words that descend to him from layers of higher authority. He shapes the received words with his own voice (whether it be “out loud” or only inside his head), compresses /extractions phrases from the longer syntax, and utilizes rhyme in a patterned repetition. (In short, he has applied a “craft”.) If his mother, a temporal and merely parental figure, initiates young Stephen’s artistic covenant in a mundane way, “Dante” (whose “real” identity in Stephen’s world is sparsely revealed in this passage) is the accidental and incidental avatar of an old poet, or the “poetic tradition”, or the artist-creator that Stephen (or Joyce, if we treat this work as autobiographical) must become. The implied historic Dante serves as a representative, for Stephen and Joyce, of the poetic craft (Daedalus is a craftsman in myth), and a link across time with the Classical world; the latter being a world that the grown and almost fully adult Stephen in Ulysses and his compatriots would feign inhabit. ( His comrade, dissatisfied with Ireland, instructs to Stephen, “Hellenise it.” (p 6) ).Eagles are the sacred birds of Zeus (and not indigenous to Ireland). As the voice of “Dante” speaks from another time (14th century Italy), so he also speaks of a far away land and kosmos in which this foreign bird exists, and on another level, where Zeus is the most powerful god of an ancient pantheon. (It cannot be coincidental that “Thunder” the natural phenomenon associated with the Zeus deity – is the last name of a little boy in the following “section” of part I (p 21), presented as an ironic [as this is a tussle between school boys] but over-powering, unbeatable foe.) These two “shots from the blue” (flashes of dialogue from mother and Dante on the page before Stephen rains out his song), both introduced by an archaic, inspired, and elevated “O” (or, a mere interjective, colloquial “O”, if we read these lines mundanely, as in common speech; both levels, mundane and elated, are surely implied by Joyce) warn Stephen and guide him. He must achieve a special vision like the eagles of Zeus, like the king of the Greek pantheon (the master of the universe in which Daedalus lives). Or, Stephen is warned by polyphonic sources (governess Dante, the specter of the poet Dante, and by his own self as he chants his rhyme), he will lose his “eyes” and “sight” (that is, he will lose his special artistic vision, the product of which is “apology” [see below]) altogether. He is receiving a challenge from a mythical source that speaks to his latent Deadalic identity. If then, by this passage, we are to assume that Stephen is receiving some sort of primal message echoed from artists and artistic/inspired legacies across the ages, and we then metonymically link Stephen and his eyes to the clawing eagles, we may ask what sort of sight might be associated with “eagles”. From lore (and science) we know that eagles possess an ability to see over great distances (eight times that of humans, in fact) and an ability to navigate (as winged creatures) through and across this distance. They soar and to see the to the full parameters of a vast (by human standards) spatial realm. This trope of control over/placement within a great spatial realm (universe, globe, nation, world, etc.), here implied by the symbol of the eagle, recurs throughout Portrait of the Artist(3).To illustrate Stephen’s grapplings with a spatially-defined world we could begin with his careful scrolling of his exact and outward-extending location in “Clongowes, Sallins, County Kildare, Ireland…” and, ultimately, “The Universe” (p 27) in his notebook. But Joyce begins to play with Stephen and his relationship to a defined and significant spatial universe sooner than this. At the end of the first section in part I, Stephen is hiding under a desk (p 20), cowering in a small space. At the outset of the second section of part I Stephen is in the midst of “The wide playgrounds…his body small and weak” (p 20), cowering in a large space. Twin and seemingly contradictory phobias, claustro- and agora-, are paired in the frightened, struggling, and evasive, i.e., crafty (“He kept on the fringe of his line, out of sight of his prefect…”p 20) person of Stephen Dedalus. His affliction, that is, his artistic affliction/curse, is principally one of the mind and psyche. Phobias are a sickness of the mind and therefore, can only be transcended through use of the psyche, and by the cultivation of the mind.(2) Stephen’s flickering and resistant wit is present both when he is under the table (composing a ditty out of his elders’ speech) and when he is strategically negotiating the space of the football field. Note that Stephen writes in his school notebook the clearest rendition of his location and identity, and that this memoir as a whole is saturated with the issues, settings, and fruits of scholarly and monkish learning. Stephen’s head is a globe, congruent to the “shells” or “rings” of placement (County Kildare, Ireland, etc. or family, school/church, Ireland, etc., more philosophically) that surround him. Take one example of an instance where it is obvious that Stephen is grappling with the mind-in-universe/mind-is-universe phenomenon:The formula which he wrote obediently on the sheet of paper, the coiling and uncoiling calculations of the professor, the spectrelike symbols of force and velocity fascinated and jaded Stephen’s mind. He had heard some say that the old professor was an atheist freemason. O the grey dull day! It seemed a limbo of painless patient consciousness through which souls of mathematicians might wander, projecting long slender fabrics from plane to plane of ever rarer and paler twilight, radiating swift eddies to the last verges of a universe ever vaster, farther and more palpable. (p 167) Here, Joyce repeats the components of the introductory sequences almost exactly: Stephen is receiving instructions from his elders which he obeys apparently “obediently”, but which he must subtly resist (he complains poetically “O the grey dull day!”), ponder and transform into a stylized rumination. We see his thoughts and the learning of ages (via the souls of presumably dead mathematicians) passing through Stephen’s mind and imagination out into even the farther reaches of the universe. His thoughts in this micro-portion of the text, as in the text of the “macro” narrative of Stephen’s growth, spiral up through rings of intellectual affiliation. In this passage the intellectual affiliation is represented by an ephemeral reference to the professor being an “atheist freemason” (and, of course, a professor of mathematics). In the course of Stephen’s larger intellectual and spiritual growth he passes through most significantly – atmospheres of Irish Nationalism, Catholicism, Jesuit thought, and, finally, in part v of the book, the university-scholarly atmosphere which is itself a collection and co-mingling of various intellectual spheres and disciplines. (And he clearly sees his presence at University in Dublin egoistically: “…Stephen’s, that is, my green” (p 215), he remarks as he walks towards the college library. The mind-ego of “Stephen,” the innermost concentric ring in the spatial pattern lunges out to embrace a larger portion of the universe.) It is not until this fifth, summarizing chapter at the University that we hear a full range of languages and cultures from all over the world from Gaelic to German and Buddhism, (p 196), smatterings of Italian (p 215) and references to Coptic and Swedenborgian thought (p 194). It is as though all of Stephen’s spatial landscape is now filled with inspired learning. His interaction with his environment produces nothing but references and reminders of this learning (a state of affairs preordained by Dante’s contract): as he passes “Talbot’s Place”, the spirit of Ibsen blows through him; a shop on the Liffey incites him to sing a line by Ben Jonson (p 155).But for Stephen’s mind and “soul” (as he keeps referring to it) to reach this final “sphere” of identity and development (where he reaches a intellectual identity/cohesion that fully identifies him with Daedalus (“O Father, O artificer…” p 218), Stephen must pass through the rings of thought and transformation that are described in each book part. He must suffer through series of discrete, harrowing metamorphoses (it is probably not incidental that Joyce begins his book with a quotation from Ovid…). He grows from a tiny, abused, flickering soul- flame alone in the cold and dank (part I), to a position of hopeful and then disappointed newcomer to a feasting, adult family table (sandwiched in part I), to a state of burning bodily lust and self-degradation (part ii), to the searing heat of conscious damnation and redemption (part iii), to the joining of these in the image of a bird/woman at the peaceful moment of synthesis (final pages of part iv). These roughly chronologically-represented stages of his maturation are the outward and inward rings of his hell (or, purgatory, more correctly, especially because we Joyce is already working with allusions to Dante) with which he must struggle. Stephen’s discussion of purgatory becomes conscious only in part v. He is deeply and personally moved by the fires of hell in part iv, but by the fifth and final chapter of the novel, we see Stephen coolly and detachedly observing his schoolmates discuss “purgatory”, “hell” and “limbo”, (p 210). It is directly after his observation that he takes Cranly aside to confess his knowledge of (and his belief in the potency of) the “chemistry” and symbology linked with guilt and sin, and voices a firm decision to abstain from participation in this sinning and redeeming cycle. He has mastered a knowledge of this process, and understands the power of a symbol in a repeated, socio-religious environment: “I fear more than that the chemical action which would be set up in my soul by a false homage to a symbol behind which are massed twenty centuries of authority and veneration.” (p 210) In short, he has become an artist, who profoundly understands the language of symbols, but will “use” them under the guidance of his own authority only.Stephen’s quest is thus achieved by mapping and finding a place within all the worlds he inhabits (and more succinctly/importantly, an intellectual mapping of the worlds which inhabit him), by establishing himself as firm, durable beacon. That is, he establishes within himself the image and psychic reality of a “tower.” The tower symbol is first vaguely introduced by the “Tower or Ivory” musings (p 49), then sublimated into Stephen’s ideal feminine image, the feminine corollary to his masculine-based soul (p 151-152), and then finally presented outright as the place where Stephen lives in the First Chapter of Ulysses. The tower is a symbol of psychic reconciliation with his spatial environment. It is a hardened atom that ascends into heights; a representative of independent human intellect and spirit that may interact with yet see through/over these spaces/worlds, real (i.e. Dublin, the island of Ireland) and intellectual (i.e. Catholic dogma/Jesuit casuistry/Irish nationalism, etc.). It is the psychic-symbolic manifestation of the eagle’s sight. So, Stephen can finally write his “apology”, that is, his memoir of development, his Bildungsroman, that charts his growth into an artist. The reference circles back to the meta-frame of Joyce’s “Portrait”: in Stephen Hero and A Portrait of the Artist, Joyce achieves just such an “apology”. It is both a confession and a tour de force of literary ability, and turns on the crux of an irony that is explicit in the very first use of the word. He is forced by temporal powers (his mother and Dante, the Catholic Church- he was to apologize for saying he wanted to marry a Protestant -) into a compromising contract to which he must submit. Like the poverty-stricken and compromised material world that Stephen Dedalus inhabits, the word “apologise” carries within it resources of great (yet difficult, via a certain purgatory) potential. Just as embedded in Stephen’s last name is a vast system of mythical referents into which the young man mysteriously taps, “apology” too is presented to the reader also with it’s latent, deeper meaning with Hellenic roots. The word is from Greek apo +logos =a speech; literally “formed from words/reason/ speech”. (This writerly meaning that calls him to his craft is “wedged” up against the weight of meanings which are created by the heaviness of the world/his circumstances; between the two meanings there is a productive, “purgatorial” margin…). Stephen as scholar (an identity realized in part v) can finally tap into these archaic reserves of meaning and inspiration. He and his school chums jog easily (if at times farcically) through the use of Latin and Classical language and allusion, and Stephen has become a conscious composer of apologies; using classical and other learned sources Stephen artfully “defends” a theory that he has himself created. (Apology begins circa p 178.) Thus, Joyce brings us to a full telos within the pages of part v that was clearly prophesized at the end of the first section of part I of the novel: his heroic quest is achieved by the novel’s end. (1) For Example, in part I he wishes that he himself was the orb of a censer, so that he might perfume the world with incense, in part ii, Joyce describes Stephen’s intellectual-spatial explorations of Dublin and his conscience when confronting his “sin” (“By day and by night he moved among distorted images of the outer world….He returned to his wanderings…”(p 94), which lead him to the extremities of Dublin’s neighborhoods), and in part iii, these is a vast exposition describing the lower, imagined (mental) cosmic realm, Hell.(2) And, perhaps, by the negotiation/release of some quite primal urges of the body, as Stephen proves in the sexual exploits of Part ii; although these explosions of impulse are always kept under or later brought within the strict stewardship of the mind.
The Failures of Fatherhood: Simon Daedalus and Joyce’s Ireland
Father-son relationships are a part of the fabric of everyday life, and because of this, father-son relationships are a recurring theme of great literature. While a father can certainly be a role model and source of strength for a son, a father who fails in his role can create a very negative relationship. In The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen Dedalus has a troublesome relationship with his father, Simon Dedalus. Stephen also has problematic relationships with other fathers: Catholic priests. Joyce uses the shortcomings of these fathers to symbolize the problems facing Ireland and show Joyce’s complex relationship with his homeland.
One major way in which Simon Dedalus symbolizes the problems facing Ireland is through Simon’s fall into poverty. In Chapter 2, Simon faces increasing financial hardship, and Stephen notices his father’s failures. Despite still being quite young, Stephen understands that “his father was in trouble” financially (67). Forced to move to a “cheerless house” in Dublin, Stephen begins to resent his father (68). Stephen’s resentment of his father’s poverty shows how Joyce resents the poverty of Ireland. Subject to harsh British rule, Ireland was one of the poorer countries in Europe during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Dilapidated urban areas, such as those described in the novel, covered most of Dublin during this time period (“Poverty and Health”). Therefore, the move to Dublin is especially significant because Dublin is poorer than some of the areas around it, just as Ireland is poorer than the Western European countries near it (Britain, France, etc.). Just as the poverty of his father deprives Stephen of “comfort and revery of Blackrock,” the poverty of Ireland deprives Joyce of the luxuries that he could have in wealthier countries. The financial decline of Simon continues to get worse throughout the novel. As Stephen ages, he continues to notice the “disorder, the misrule and confusion of his father’s house”(176). Stephen refers to the house as “his father’s house,” showing how Stephen blames his father for his family’s financial situation.
Joyce uses Stephen’s resentment of his father’s poverty to display his displeasure with the poverty of Ireland. Another instance in Chapter 2 where the shortcomings of Dedalus symbolizes problems facing Ireland is Stephen’s trip with his father to Cork. Stephen has to accompany his father to “his own dispossession” as he has to sell off his estate (92). Stephen’s unhappiness on this trip is another example of how Joyce despises the poverty of Ireland. Also, from the onset of the trip Stephen is aware of his father’s “draughts from his pocket flask”(92). As the trip continues, Simon drinks as he journey’s “from bar to bar” around the city (99). His drinking becomes so disruptive that Stephen finds that he must “cover that shameful sign of his father’s drinking bout”(99). Simon’s drinking is another problem of Ireland that Joyce seeks to criticize. Ireland is known for being a heavy drinking country, and the stereotype of the drunk Irish is common (“Alcohol…Ireland”). Joyce uses the drinking habits of Simon Dedalus to criticize the heavy drinking of Ireland. The effect Simon’s drinking has on Stephen reveals this criticism. Stephen considers his father’s drunkenness “shameful,” and he is disappointed that his father’s drinking allows him to be “duped by the servile manners of the porter”(99,94). Stephen is “wearied and dejected” by his father’s drinking, showing how Joyce uses Stephen’s relationship with his father to criticize obstacles facing Ireland.
Another shortcoming of Simon Dedalus that Joyce highlights in his Chapter 2 visit to Cork is his tendency to dwell on the past. During the trip, Stephen “[listens] to stories he had heard before… of his father’s youth,” and has to accompany his father as he “drank to the memory of [his] past”(96,101). Faced with a daunting financial future and a return to his hometown of Cork, Simon Dedalus dwells on past memories. The reminiscing of his father has a negative effect on Stephen: as he “[listens] without sympathy,” he begins to feel “a faint sickness… in his heart”(92,96). Just as Stephen disapproves of his father being stuck in the past, Joyce despises the ways in which Irish culture and society is stuck in the past. One example of this can be seen in the Christmas dinner discussion about Parnell. Parnell spearheads an Irish independence movement, but the Catholic “public morality” of Ireland “[hounds Parnell] into the grave” after his affair (30,33). As he grows up, Stephen realizes that “Ireland is the old sow that eats her farrow,” destroying a great political figure because of its old-fashioned moral system (220). This connection is another example of how Joyce uses Stephen and Simon’s relationships to show problems he has with Ireland.
While Stephen has a troublesome relationship with his biological father, he also has a strained relationship with Catholic priests that are fathers in name, such a Father Dolan. At Clongowes College, Father Dolan pandies Stephen for not doing his work, when in fact Stephen had broken his glasses. Stephen finds this punishment “cruel and unfair” as he is left “trembling” and “quivering” (54,51,52). The strict actions of Father Dolan greatly disturb Stephen, and Joyce uses this strained relationship to symbolize his dislike of the austerity of Irish morality and religion. The sermons given by Father Arnall on the Belvedere retreat that Stephen attends showcases the strict philosophy that Joyce symbolizes in Stephen’s relationship with Father Dolan. The scorching speech is the philosophical equivalent of hitting a child with a pandybat, and the anguish that the punishment causes Stephen shows how Joyce disapproves of the strict moral philosophy practiced in Ireland. Furthermore, Simon Dedalus later hears about Father Dolan’s punishment of Stephen, having a “great laugh over it” and calling Stephen “impudent” (76,75). Simon’s joking attitude about an event that greatly disturbed Stephen is another example of how Joyce uses father-son relationships to show his problems with Ireland.
Father-son relationships contribute a great deal to the meaning of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as a whole. As the book progresses, Stephen’s relationship with his father becomes strained, especially as his father’s financial failures cause his family to fall into poverty. Also, Simon’s drinking habits and tendency to dwell in the past causes trouble in his relationship with Stephen. Lastly, the harsh actions by Father Dolan is another example of a troublesome father-son relationship in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Joyce uses these problems to symbolize problems in his own relationship with Ireland: his displeasure with the poverty, drinking, and the outdated and strict morals of his home country.
Decisions and Suffering
Icarus decided to fly too high. Stephen decided to sin. Icarus decided to fly too low. Stephen decided to pursue a more selfish path. Icarus fell. Stephen grew. Icarus’s story is a warning for any man with too much hubris. Stephen Dedalus, from The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce, soars like Icarus and surrenders to temptation but in the end decides to grow in the face of suffering before he can fall. A person’s decision when they are faced with suffering leads to their growth or their surrender, this suggests that a person’s development is determined by their decisions.
Stephen’s decision to surrender to temptation and end the suffering of sexual frustration leads him into the identity of a sinner. Stephen does not feel free in his suffering. His faith and fear of committing sin smothers him, so when he finally surrenders he can finally feel some form of freedom, “…as he suffered the agony of its penetration…and the cry that he had strangled for so long in his throat issued from his lips. It broke from him like a wail of despair from a hell of sufferers…” (100) His occasion to surrender to his suffering from sexual frustration fuels his continuous surrender to this sin. The pleasure outweighs his faith as he descends into sin. “He was in another world: he had awakened from a slumber of centuries.” (100) He surrenders to his suffering and this ignites a passion greater than his faith and restraint could offer. He has essentially surrendered into the world of hell but hell has more passion than earth and so he indulges. “…all but burst into hysterical weeping. Tears of joy and relief shone in his delighted eyes and his lips parted though they would not speak.” (101) Stephen is like a boy again, full of wonder, and he lets go of his emotions like he did as a boy. He lets his emotions take over and physically show. “He closed his eyes, surrendering himself to her, body and mind, conscious of noting in the world but the dark pressure of her softly parting lips…he felt an unknown and timid pressure, darker than the swoon of sin, softer than sound or ordour.” (101) Stephen finds himself completely immersed in his new state of pleasure and surrender. He feels relief and a greater passion than he could have ever thought possible. Which, keeps him in the world of surrender to the sin of sex.
Stephen’s decision to go to university instead of priesthood is, however selfish, growth. This decision lets him grow into his newfound identity as an artist rather than a man shackled to sin and faith. He exclaims once he makes his choice, “The university! So he had passed beyond the challenge of the sentries who had stood as guardians of his boyhood and had sought to keep him among them that he might be subject to them and serve their ends. Pride after satisfaction uplifted him.” (165) Stephen faces a challenge to grow out of submission to priests and into the freedom of university. Although this means his family suffers, he develops great personal growth. “The end he had been born to serve yet did not see had led him to escape by an unseen path: and now it beckoned to him once more and a new adventure was about to be opened to him.” (165) Stephen escapes the suffering under his faith. He instead sees the freedom of not knowing what will happen. Stephen thinks as he crosses a bridge, that trembles with all of his and passing priests’ weight and steps, “…to tell himself that if he ever came to their gates, stripped of his pride, beaten and in beggar’s weeds, that they would be generous towards him…” (166) The instability of the bridge and the bridge itself symbolizes his ambivalence towards his decision to reject priesthood. As he crosses the bridge he deals with the exciting reaction to the decision to the examination of his future. He must question his own future’s stability.
Stephen decides freedom for growth over stability with the priesthood. “His heart trembled; his breath came faster and a wild spirit passed over his limbs as though he were soaring sunward” (169) Stephen resembles Icarus, soaring towards the sun, but he must make the conscious decision to grow rather than fly so far he can only fall and surrender. “Yes! Yes! Yes! He would create proudly out of the freedom and power of his soul, as the great artificer whose name he bore, a living thing, new and soaring and beautiful, impalpable, imperishable.” (170) Stephen takes this challenge to not only grow but to soar with his new freedom. And he seems conscious of his ties to the myth that could end in his ruin. He knows that his freedom and growth is worth the risk of the fall.
Stephen’s decision to leave university is at first a surrender, but ultimately a growth. His hesitation over the idea to leave illustrates a surrender, “A sense of fear of the unknown moved in the heart of his weariness, a fear of symbols and portents, of the hawklike man whose name he bore soaring out of his captivity on osierwoven wings…” (225) This is potentially an occasion to surrender to his namesake’s fate, however Stephen makes it into a challenge to grow into the artist that he wishes to be. Like the artist that his namesake was. Stephen connects with birds not only because of his parallel to the myth of Icarus, but to their patterns, “Then he was to go away for they were birds ever going and coming, building ever an unlasting home under the eaves of men’s houses and ever leaving the homes they had built to wander.” (225) The birds are free, they are free to move and wander. They are free to grow and discover while men are set in their unchanging reality. Stephen sees himself as a bird in his challenge to grow in his new freedom, and decides full heartedly. “…I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defence the only arms I allow myself to use-silence, exile, and cunning.” (247) His chance to grow as an artist despite modest means is not wasted. Stephen refuses to waste his chance and makes his decision clear. Stephen does not back away from his final decision to have his freedom as an artist. “Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the realty of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.” (253) Ultimately, his decision is not a surrender, but a challenge to grow in the face of little comfort but complete freedom.
Icarus and Stephen soared. The difference between them is Icarus fell and Stephen grew. How they dealt with their suffering and eventual freedom illuminates their development as people because their decisions either lead to their death or their rebirth. Stephen and Icarus may both be full of hubris, but Stephen decided to channel that into personal growth and Icarus decided to channel that into an exhaustion of his freedom. Their suffering lead to their decisions about their freedom. Stephen decided not to fall.
“A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” — Significance of the Title
The title of “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” has been the subject of as much speculation as the novel itself, and like all modernist writing, this title has been able to maintain its open-ended nature. Indeed, this open-endedness has posed problems for many critics. The theme of this novel concerns the development of the artist from that point in his life when he becomes conscious of the world around him, to the time when he reaches manhood, and sets off in pursuit of the goal which he has identified for himself in the course of the book. The problem is that we are not given a portrait of AN artist, but of THE artist. The choice of the general article “a” before the word “portrait” suggests the open-ended nature of the text – that it is only one of many portraits that can be painted, and that the author is only attempting to show one side of the picture, from one point of view. The reader may interpret as he wishes. The definite article “the” before “artist”, however, cannot be understood so easily. It may refer to the autobiographical element in the novel, or it may refer to the type of the artist, the form of art which he chooses to make his own. The phrase “portrait of the artist” is traditionally used in connection with self-portraits, and this is suggested by a comment which Joyce had made to Frank Budgen, who has quoted thus in his book “James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses” – “I have not let this young man off very lightly, have I? Many writers have written about themselves. I wonder if any of them has been as candid as I have”.Yet, in spite of all the evidence pointing to Stephen Dedalus being a portrait of Joyce himself, it is difficult to accept this completely. The novel remains autobiographical in all the incidents recorded in it, and also in most of the peripheral characters around Stephen. But the character of the hero himself is very far from that of the author, as far as we know about his biography. As such, James Joyce both is and is not the subject of the portrait of the artist as a young man. James was certainly not the humourless, self-centred young boy who takes himself too seriously, that is portrayed in the novel. The incidents, moreover, are a combination of what happened to Stanislaus, James’s brother, and those experienced by the author himself as a young man. The refusal to do his Easter duty, for example, was actually his brother’s revolt against what he did not believe, than Joyce’s own. Stephen’s dark personality, too, parallels Stanislaus more than James.As such, the phrase, “portrait of THE artist” is misleading. It would rather be rewarding to consider the second argument in this connexion – that the phrase “the artist” refers to a particular kind of artist. In the novel, we find, the word “artist” specifically refers to a literary artist, and not an artist of any other form. In fact, other forms of art, like painting or sculpture, are regarded with a certain amount of disrespect by Stephen in the fifth chapter of the novel, while talking to Lynch. The vocation which Stephen chooses for himself after rejecting all others, is that of a writer, and he mentally begins to recognize the mythical Dedalus as his spiritual father, while explicitly describing his relationship to his biological father Simon Dedalus as that of fosterage.There is also, in this regard, an open-endedness about the word “artist”, as well. There is no doubt that Stephen aspires to becoming an artist; there is also no doubt that he has in him almost all the qualities that an artist should have. For example, he is in love with words from infanthood, and often turns to words – their sounds and associations – for comfort and enjoyment when his spirits are down (such as the meaningless words in Doctor Cornwell’s Spelling Book). He has a vivid imagination, and is always attempting to create something which is otherwise unattainable – a green rose, for instance. He is also an avid reader, and is proficient enough in word-usage, as is illustrated by the fact that he wins cash prizes in essay competitions, and that his best subject in school is essay-writing. Yet, when the word “artist” is mentioned in the title, we cannot but regard it with a touch of cynicism, because Stephen never does become the artist he wants to be – mostly because of his extreme self-centredness and rejection of everything that human society regards with emotion, such as nation, language, religion, family, and friends. In the entire novel the only creative work that he manages to complete, after long lectures on art and poetry, in a villanelle which he professes to have written in a moment of wild inspiration – a stiff, stilted, artificial, unpleasing work. By the time he is ready to leave his country, we have genuine reservations about this young man, for it is a mystery how a person as “wrapped up in himself” (according to his rival Mc Cann) as he can ever aspire to great art. This young man loves nobody and nothing but himself, and rejects anyone who comes anywhere closer than arm’s length – his parents, his friends Cranly and Davin, and even Emma at the end. Stephen, moreover, is extremely confident about his ideas and views, disdainfully shaking off the good advice of the Dean of Studies, and expounding his theory of art to the most unlikely and unappreciative person, Lynch.About the latter part of the title, it was Joyce himself who took the trouble to advise his readers not to forget the four last words, “as a Young Man”, as many of his early critics had tended to do. That is why we are shown Stephen as a potential artist, striving towards maturity and fulfilment, where this maturity is only hinted at, not shown in the time-period of the novel. It is because Stephen is a young man here, that the interest of this novel goes beyond its plot, for speculation remains even after the novel is over, whether, in spite of all his potentiality, he does become the artist he aspires to be. It also paves the way for the mature Stephen Dedalus in the loose sequel to this novel – Joyce’s masterpiece, “Ulysses”.
Symbolism in “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”
The stream-of-consciousness novel is a twentieth-century innovation, which aims to depict the totality of experience through the human consciousness. This necessarily means a retreat from the direct portrayal of social interactions, and a reduction of the outside world to a mere object of the subjective awareness of the hero. Unlike the narration of objective circumstances, this individual awareness is shapeless and un-dramatic, and is unable to contribute its own form and order to the novel. This form and order must necessarily be imposed by the novelist, because the impression of an unconnected stream of thoughts which this kind of novel aims to produce must have an artistic unity, which is an indispensable necessity in any artistic creation. The most important device used by the stream-of-conscious novelist for attaining such unity is the employment of a system of symbols, which connects the diverse threads into an integrated whole, and imposes a thematic unity to the unconnected strands of thought.James Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” is not the classic stream-of-consciousness novel, as is his “Ulysses” or “Finnegan’s Wake”, but the system of symbols on which it is developed is as important as in the other two novels. Without this system the hero’s mind would be a very loose integrator, imposing only structural unity and not a strong thematic unity to the novel.A symbol may be defined as anything which signifies something else, and the significance of which becomes evident through mental association or tradition. Symbols have a range of references which relate to various levels of human society, from religion and culture to emotions and beliefs. M.H. Abrams in “A Glossary of Literary Terms” classifies symbols into “conventional” or “public”, and “private” or “personal”1. The former have developed in the consciousness of an entire culture through several generations, and include symbols like the Cross or the Rose or the Lamb. The latter are symbols whose associations and meanings are developed by an individual author, and must be understood in the context of his work alone. Symbols may also be made to stand alone, or be a part of an entire system of related symbols running through the text. Both these types are very common in stream-of-consciousness novels, and often such novels stand on such symbols systems. For example, Virginia Woolf’s “To the Lighthouse” uses the symbols of the lighthouse throughout the novel as a unifying agent, while individual symbols are strewn intermittently all through. Likewise, Joyce’s “Ulysses” uses the myth of Odysseus and his journey as the main symbol.In “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”, too, both types of symbols are used. The primary symbol is best seen in the most important epiphany in the novel – the one where Stephen looks on at a girl wading in the sea at the end of Chapter IV. Here, the chief impression that emerges from the description of this girl is that she is bird-like – “She seemed like one whom magic had changed into the likeness of a strange and beautiful sea-bird”2.It is this bird-imagery that pervades the novel from the very beginning, and continues till the end, symbolizing whatever is beautiful and free in the consciousness of Stephen. Emma, the epitome of his ideal woman, is also like a bird – near the end of the novel, when he brings himself to feel sympathetically about her, and then he describes her as “simple”, “strange” and “wilful”. A bird can also evoke connections of aspiration, and a reaching out for the unattainable – as we see in that wonderful account of Stephen standing in the colonnade of the library, looking at the numerous birds wheeling together in the sky, preparing to make their way back to where they had come from. Their flight makes him think of his own plans of flying away over the seas, away from his country Ireland, to the continent, to concretize his ambition of becoming an artist.The bird-image is also linked to that other major symbolic figure in the novel, from whom Stephen Dedalus gets his name. The Dedalus of myth is also a winged figure – “the hawk-like man whose name he bore soaring out of captivity on osier-woven wings”3. The very name of Dedalus brings to his mind the image of a bird, and also that of art –“Now, at the name of the fabulous artificer, he seemed to hear the noise of dim waves and to see a winged form flying above the waves and slowly climbing the air…… a symbol of the artist forging anew in his workshop out of the sluggish matter of the earth a new soaring impalpablw imperishable being”4.Stephen’s alienation from his family, especially his father, results in a search for a father-figure – a person who will be his mentor in his search for a vocation. This search comes to rest on the mythical Dedalus, whom he begins to consider his real father, the father of the spirit, not merely of blood. On the other end is his biological family, to whom he stood “rather in the mystical kinship of fosterage, foster-child and foster-brother”5. Dedalus, “the great artificer”, flying away from captivity, becomes a symbol of his own release from the captivity of his nation, language, and family, and of a life devoted to art, to a total expression of the self. What is implied in this symbol, but not fully understood by Stephen himself, is that he becomes at that moment, Dedalus’s son Icarus, who, in the myth, attempted to fly, but not being as wise as his father, lost the feathers of his wings to the melting heat of the sun, and drowned in the sea. He had tried to fly too high, without following his father’s advice about following the middle path – and the question hangs in the balance about whether Stephen himself is not attempting to do the same. Is Stephen going to be the Dedalus he wishes to be, or is doomed to become another Icarus?One other image becomes as well-knit a symbol as that of the bird in the novel – the symbol of the Rose. We actually come across this image in the very first page of the book – “O, the wild rose blossoms / In the little green place”; which the infant Stephen corrupts in his lisp in the very next line – “O, the green wothe botheth”6. The significance of this line is clarified much later, when Stephen is sitting in the classroom of Clongowes, looking at and musing about the rose-like badges pinned to the shirts of the boys around him. The red rose is the badge of the house of Lancaster, and the white is that of the house of York – the two houses in the school, named after the English Wars of the Roses (1453 – 85). Soon after, unable to do the sum given to the boys, he falls to thinking about all the different colours of roses besides the ones represented in the badges of his school – so many beautiful colours: pink, cream, lavender. However, in spite of the wonderful variety of colours of roses, one cannot find a green rose, like the one in the song he had sung as a child. Perhaps, he also thinks, one can have a green rose if he searches well enough in the world! The Green Rose, therefore, becomes a symbol of the unattainable, something not to be found in reality, but which can be realized in the imagination, through art. Also, being related to the Wars of the Roses, the green rose can also be linked to the political theme that runs so strongly in the novel. Green, being the colour of Parnell’s Home Rule Party, can also refer to the much-wronged and also much-admired leader of the Irish people in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. In fact, Parnell plays a very important background role in “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”.Repeated references to certain ordinary things turn them into distinctive elements in the design, and have a symbolic effect. These repeated references are called “motifs”. Good examples of such motifs are the colour symbolism used in the novel – colours such as maroon and green, or white and ivory. Maroon and green are used repeatedly in connection with Ireland politics, beginning with the colours of the brushes in Dante’s press, standing for Michael Davitt and Parnell, or the green and red combination of the Christmas decorations in Stephen’s house. The colour white, departing from its usual connotations of purity or virtue, represents coldness and lack of emotion, particularly in connection with priests and religion. Rather, the colour ivory or cream is represented as a warm colour, being related with emotion and vibrant life.Another important motif is that of the cow, another symbol of Ireland. The novel itself begins with “Baby Tuckoo” (Stephen) meeting a cow while “walking down along the road”7, in the story that his father tells his little son – meeting it headlong, as it were, in a manner of confrontation. Confrontation with national ideals and nationalism is an important part of Stephen’s life as portrayed in the novel. The cow, or Ireland as succour, is also briefly hinted at in the beginning of the second chapter, when Stephen is shown to accompany his friend Aubrey Mills in the milk-cart, delivering milk from house to house. Often, they were taken in the milkcar to see the cows grazing in the fields of Carrickmines – a pleasant sight, which the boys enjoyed. However, when autumn came, the cows were kept in a filthy cowyard at Stradbrook, “with its foul green puddles and clots of liquid dung and steaming brantroughs”, a sight which “sickened” Stephen’s heart. His attitude to his country is paralleled with his attitude to the cows –“The cattle which had seemed so beautiful in the country on sunny days revolted him and he could not even look at the milk they yielded”8.Quite as significant is the repeated reference to heat and cold in the novel. Beginning with the wetting of the baby Stephen’s bed in the very beginning of the novel, when he first feels warm and then cold, it continues throughout the first chapter in the uncomfortable coldness of the “square ditch” in which Wells pushed Stephen, leading to the heat of the fever which this incident resulted in. It finally culminates in the third chapter in the heat of Hell, and the fourth chapter in the coldness of priesthood which was offered to him.All these symbols and motifs act as the unifying agents in a novel which would otherwise have consisted as loose images and experiences in the consciousness of the hero.References :1) M.H. Abrams : “A Glossary of Literary Terms” (Bangalore, Prism Books, 1993), p.206.2) James Joyce : “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” (Penguin Books, 1992, London), p.185.3) Ibid, p.244.4) Ibid, p.183.5) Ibid, p.105.6) Ibid, p.3.7) Ibid.8) Ibid, p.66.
Beli’s Non Serviam: Joycean Parallels in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
“And out of this disillusionment and turmoil sprang Beli’s first adult oath, one that would follow her to the states and beyond. I will not serve. Never again would she follow any lead other than her own. Not the rector’s, not the nuns’, not La Inca’s, not her poor dead parents’. Only me, she whispered. Me” (Diaz 103).
Caught halfway into a romantic encounter in a school broom closet, young Hypatía Belícia “Belí” Cabral is expelled. Due to the high standing of her partner, and partly due to her own low social class and ill-regarded skin tone, Belí is given sole blame for the incident, and leaves El Redentor in shame. Heartbroken and unsure of the future, Belí is at a metaphorical crossroads. Will she continue to do the will of her guardian, La Inca, and return to education? Or will she utilize the newfound agency afforded by her emerging womanhood and take control of her own life? In the passage above, the reader will see that she chooses the latter.
Belí makes what the narrator calls an oath, and the technique employed in his narration contributes to this idea. The alliteration of “Not the rector’s, not the nuns’, not La Inca, not her poor dead parents” supports the narrator’s denoting this passage as an oath; as a sacred vow. The repetition of “not” and later “me” in “Only me, she whispered. Me.” again evokes a chant-like, holy quality. However, the most significant and illuminating device in this passage comes in the form of an intertextual reference: The sentence, “I will not serve”. This quote matches verbatim a line uttered by a similarly disillusioned Stephen Daedalus in James Joyce’s semi-autobiographical novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. It is through the lens of Joyce and this Stephen Daedalus that a reader can best understand this section—this oath—as one that highlights Belí’s growing dissatisfaction of her life with La Inca, highlights her emerging independence and foreshadows the violent tragedy that necessitates a departure from her homeland.
For author Junot Díaz, whose vast repertoire of textual references and allusions in Oscar Wao ranges from those to Homer and Ovid to King and Kirby, this Joycean parallel can only be read as intentional. At the end of his university days, Stephen Daedalus, bitter from a youth characterized by a lack of love, poverty and an oppressively religious culture makes this exact remark. During a conversation with a friend, Stephen makes his oath, stating plainly “I will not serve” (Joyce 239). He later elaborates on this assertion, “I will not serve that in which I no longer believe whether it call itself my home, my fatherland, or my church” (Joyce 247). Stephen refuses the demands or his home of Ireland, his family of paupers, and of the Catholic Church. Belí’s determination embodies similar rejections. The young Dominican rejects the pressures of her family; of the overbearing La Inca and the respected legacy of her parents. She rejects the pressures of religion; of the rectors and nuns that managed her school and later saw her expelled. Finally, in her determination to serve only herself, Belí begins on a journey that will see her torn from her fatherland. Belí, like Stephen, aims to create a future with an outcome determined by only her own choices. Leaving school, she begins to seek out her own fortune as a waitress at a Chinese restaurant, where her good looks and fiery personality earn her a valued place among the staff and customers. This prosperity, however, is not to last, and while Stephen makes his future pursuing the arts in France, Belí meets a different, unpleasant fate resultant from her own self-assured decisions.
“I will not serve” does not only signify a budding disillusionment with power and a strive for independence: It foreshadows a fall into despair. Belí’s oath is both her awakening and ruin. The line, “I will not serve” carries a religious significance that was touched upon by Joyce through a church official present in Stephen’s youth, Father Arnall. In a fiery sermon, Arnall attributes the refusal to serve God to the fall of man; that it was Adam’s vainglorious denial to obey God that led to humanity’s expulsion from Paradise. Arnall states, “Theologians consider that it was the sin of pride, the sinful thought conceived in an instant: non serviam: I will not serve. That instant was [Adam’s] ruin” (Joyce 117). Although readers do not see consequences for Stephen’s non serviam until he returns in Joyce’s Ulysses, Belí experiences a downfall similar to Arnall’s vision of Man in that its cause can be traced directly back to her “oath”. Through her ambition to serve only her own ends, Belí meets a character known as the Gangster, and through him Belí’s life makes a turn towards violence and further heartbreak. On an evening she was expected at dinner with La Inca, Belí meets this imposing figure and engages in a torrential affair with him soon after. This relationship leaves the young girl with child, and later, after refusing to terminate the pregnancy, beaten to near-death in a cane field.
Facing further violence, Belí is forced to leave the D.R., and spends the rest of her years raising children as a single mother in the poverty of the Patterson ghetto. Her bold assertion, “I will not serve”, while initially empowering, only serves in essence to make Belí a political refugee. In a hospital bed, succumbing to cancer and close to the end of her life, Belí seems to reflect on how her hardheaded independence led to her sad decline, remarking, “All I wanted was to dance. What I got instead was esto, she said, opening her arms to encompass the hospital, her children, her cancer, America” (Diaz 113). Belí’s empowerment and subsequent fall shares in the double meaning of Joyce’s non serviam as both the call to the individual awakening and the omen of individual ruin.
Díaz, Junot. The Brief and Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao. Riverhead books, 2007, New York. Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Viking, 1916, New York.