Conflicting Desires In A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man

794 words - 3 pages

In the story, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, written byJames Joyce, the main character Stephen Dedalus has many encounters withwomen. Women and sexuality are major influences on Stephen's adolescentlife. Another major factor that has an influence on Stephen's life is theChurch. Women and sexuality conflict with the Church and its beliefs, andthat is one of Stephen's major problems thus far. Stephen is having a verybig identity crisis, from being a God fearing Catholic to a very hormonalteenager.As Stephen sits at the "adults" dinner table for the first time,his father, Mr. Casey and Dante are fighting about religion and politics inIreland. As they are arguing, Stephen's train of thought leads him to thinkabout Eileen. Eileen Vance was the little girl that Stephen wanted to marrywhen he was younger. She is described to have ivory hands and golden hair,which confuses Stephen with the phrases, "Tower of Ivory" and "House ofGold" which is part of the Roman Catholic Litany of Our Lady. Later whenStephen is at school, he again thinks about Eileen. Stephen gets his firstsensual experience from Eileen when she puts her hand into his pocket andtouches his hand. Stephen gets quite confused with the terms of the Litanyof Our Lady so he starts to associate the "Tower of Ivory" and "House ofGold" to Eileen. The way James Joyce describes the scene, "She had put herhand into his pocket where his hand was and he had felt how cool and thinaand soft her hand was."(43) gives the reader the idea that Stephen enjoyedthe feeling. The only problem with Eileen was that she was a Protestant andStephen was a Catholic. Stephen also associates women with the Virgin Mary,who was the mother of Jesus Christ. He thinks women as pure, just as Marywas and since he already associated the "Tower of Ivory" and "House ofGold" with Eileen, he assumes her to be like the Virgin.Another influence of women in Stephen's life comes from the story"The Count of Monte Cristo" while reading this story, Stephen starts tofantasize about Mercedes. As he fantasizes, he tries to bring her to lifethrough another girl, known as E.C.. He has many sexual longings for E.C.but can not understand and is frustrated by his feelings. Knowing that histhoughts and his actions "perhaps he had been masturbating" put him intomortal sin, Stephen is...

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