The Artist in Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as A Young Man and Pink Floyd's The Wall
Foragers, the people who live in hunter-gatherer societies, have no artists. It is only when society becomes complex enough to support a division of labor do artists emerge-first as shamans, then as the painters, singers, writers, etc., that we usually think of today. Society, then, creates the artist, but it can also destroy him. In A Portrait of the Artist as A Young Man, James Joyce describes the particular development of Stephan Dedalus that led to his becoming an artist. Pink's development in Pink Floyd's The Wall, mirrors that of Stephen yet concludes in the destruction of the artist.
An important similarity between them is their isolation. Joyce believed that the separation from society is important for an artist in order to see society clearly. Common people are easily swayed by authority figures, as Dante and other Irish Catholics are against Parnell by the church's condemnation, or by other trendy movements such as the peace testimonial, all of which are rejected by Stephen in the end. When Stephen in his discourse on beauty describes the basket, he says "your mind first of all separates the basket from the rest of the visible universe which is not the basket. The first phase of apprehension is a bounding line drawn about the object to be apprehended" (212). Thus, by extension, if an artist is to apprehend the society, a line must be bound around society separating the artist from it in order to view it; it is difficult in a maze of hedges to comprehend the pattern, but when viewed from above the paths in and out become clear. The artist must stand outside the changeable mindset of the average human being in order to discover the universal that keeps people still reading Greek myths or Shakespeare after centuries.
Pink Floyd makes this separation into the metaphor of the brick wall that plays a role though out the rock opera. Pink Floyd focuses entirely on its destructive side while James Joyce only touches on its negative aspects as he portrays the artist's development and concludes with the constructive side of the separation.
The separation begins in both artists while they are very young and becomes most evident in their interactions with their peers and members of the opposite sex. A contributing factor to the development of their separation is the manner in which they were educated. School, a place that is supposed to nurture the minds of children, has devastating effects on the young artists. The teachers, who are supposed to guide their students in unlocking their potential, are harsh and authoritative. Stephen is punished unfairly for having broken his glasses, and Pink's poetry is mocked before the class. Pink expresses his opinion of the education he received in the album's most well know song:
We don't need no education
We don't need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the...