From James Joyce's Stephen Hero To "After The Race" Blending Narrator And Character

1402 words - 6 pages

From James Joyce's Stephen Hero to "After The Race" - Blending Narrator and Character

James Joyce's fragment of a novel, Stephen Hero, leaves the reader little room to interpret the text for themselves. The work lacks the narrative distance that Joyce achieves in his later works. Dubliners, a work Joyce was writing concurrently, seemingly employs a drastically different voice. A voice which leaves the reader room to make judgments of their own. Yet it is curious that Joyce could produce these two works at the same time, one that controls the reader so directly, telling not showing , while the other, Dubliners, seems to give the reader the power of final interpretation over the characters it portrays.

By changing voice from a narrator who tells the reader to a narrator who shows the reader in Dubliners, Joyce has seemingly relinquished considerable control over his vision of Dublin. However, Joyce's change of narrator yields him alternative forms of authorial sovereignty. In fact, Joyce guides the reader in a much more powerful way in Dubliners; without the reader's knowledge. Through quick shifts in point of view and interjections that seem to be the voice of a character, yet are not directly linked to it, Joyce controls the stories in Dubliners more subtly and with more effect than the bold declarations in Stephen Hero ever do.
In her essay "'Oh She's A Nice Lady!'": A Rereading of "A Mother" Jane E. Miller addresses the issue of judgment in the story.

Although told in an aloof and anonymous third-person, the narrativeis always shifting, almost imperceptibly, from an objective stance to less neutral observations which, because of their perspective or particular choice of words, appear to be those of Mrs. Kearney. (Miller, pg. 364)

Miller then states that much of this story is about "how to judge" Mrs. Kearney and that through "the language of the narration, the narrative voice quietly abdicates its neutrality" and the reader is "given important directions for reading."(Miller, pg. 365).

Miller goes on to perform a close reading of "A Mother" which reveals the language of judgment that Joyce uses to give the reader "important directions for reading". By examining another story, "After the Race", one can view another form of authorial manipulation. A form which owes its roots to the heavy handed narrator of Stephen Hero.

In Stephen Hero, the narrator makes the reader privy to his every thought. This is not to say that Stephen Hero lacks complexity. The novel offers several different views of Stephen as an artist, sometimes effacing him and sometimes lionizing him. Wayne Booth says: "we find an extremely complicated view, combining irony and admiration in unpredictable mixtures."(pg. 465). This complicated view can be attributed in some ways to the narrator's voice. Sentences such as "...When he wrote it was always a mature and reasoned emotion which urged him." and "he was nothing in the world so much as an amateur artist."(Hero, pg....

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