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James Joyce’s A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man

1989 words - 8 pages

The need for the protagonist, Stephen Dedalus’ artistic expression is emphasized in James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Joyce juxtaposes Stephen Daedalus’ creativity with a commitment to his catholic religion while on his odyssey to find his identity. Which calling will he answer to—artist or priest? The text follows the protagonist through both his positive and negative experiences with priests and his early revelations of artistic talents. Stephen is surrounded by financial, political, and religious tensions in his family and reveals to Stephen how paralyzing these influences can be on one’s life. Joyce conveys the artistic manifestation that seems inherent in Stephen throughout his journey, whereas, portrays Stephen in a constant battle to accept the priesthood while often in doubt about the importance of religion. Joyce delivers a narrative of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man that believes that art is higher than religion. This idea embodies the description in Stephen’s love for art versus his apprehension for theology points to a plot that hints that art is better than religion.
Stephen grows up in a family that is Catholic, with his mother and nurse Dante, being the most devout; this sets up the tension between Stephen’s double calling to art and theology. From early on we see the world through the eye and mind of young Stephen and realize that he has a very imaginative mind. While his father tells him a story, his imagination kicks in, and he thinks, “He was baby tuckoo. The moocow came down the road where Betty Byrne lived: she sold lemon platt” (3). Stephen already shows the artistic qualities that he will continue to develop on his journey to manhood. Stephen also has his first experience with the condemnation one undergoes because of expression against the Catholic beliefs. He proclaims that he will marry Eileen, a protestant, and the family is appalled; his mother and Dante want him to take back what he said because surely he does not mean he will marry a Protestant, “His mother said: ‘O, Stephen will apologize.’ Dante said: ‘O, if not, the eagles will come and pull out his eyes’” (4). Even here, Steven uses the words of the warning into a song, “Pull out his eyes, /Apologize, /Apologize” (4). Even through disapproval, because if his family’s religious beliefs, he still finds the beauty of words to form songs and rhythmic poems. Both the expression of art and implementation of harsh judgment of religious beliefs are introduced in these scenes.
Joyce portrays Stephen as wanting something different; Stephen has an urge to create something truly artistic. While at Clongowes he drifts into insolation and feels lonely. Stephen is not an athletic boy and so he is pushed around and ridiculed because of his name. Joyce writes, “He was caught in the whirl of a scrimmage and, fearful of the flashing eyes and muddy boots” (5). He finds refuge from the cruelty and seclusion of school life in the...

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