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The Complexity Of Language Increases In Proportion To The Protagonist's Development In Joyce's "A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man"

2158 words - 9 pages

The following passage from A Portrait occurs in Chapter 1 of the novel, just after the protagonist Stephen Dedalus begins his schooling. He is walking with a group of his schoolmates, one of whom speaks to another boy, Simon Moonan. Young Stephen hears a speaker's sentence, and his mind immediately picks up on the word "suck", declaring that it is "a queer word" (l.2).Ugly sound- We all know why you speak. You are McGlade's suck.Suck was a queer word. The fellow called Simon Moonan that name because Simon Moonan used to tie the prefect's false sleeves behind his back and the prefect used to let on to be angry. But the sound was ugly. Once he had washed his hands in the lavatory of the Wicklow Hotel and his father pulled the stopper up by the chain after and the dirty water went down through the hole in the basin. And when it had all gone down slowly the hole in the basin had made a sound like that: suck. Only louder.To remember that and the white look of the lavatory made him feel cold and then hot. There were two cocks that you turned and water came out: cold and hot. He felt cold and then a little hot: and he could see the names printed on the cocks. That was a very queer thing.And the air in the corridor chilled him too. It was queer and wettish. But soon the gas would be lit and in burning it made a light noise like a little song. Always the same: and when the fellows stopped talking in the playroom you could hear it. (7-8)Joyce's text presents Stephen's consciousness in its early stages of development characterized by simplicity of language and ideas. Joyce is consistent in style throughout the novel, using various literary and poetic devices that reflect the protagonist's experiences, except that language "gradually becomes more articulate and analytic as Stephen's intellect and capacities for abstraction develop" (Milesi, 2). For example, the very beginning of the book is narrated in baby talk: "[...] There was a moocow coming along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo" (p.3). It contrasts the Ugly Passage's more comprehensible prose: "But soon the gas would be lit and in burning it made a light noise like a little song" (l.11). In the latter example Joyce uses tactile - "lit" (l.12), "burning" (l.12), - and auditory imagery - "song" (l.12). These devices represent Stephen's sensory experiences and verbal associations he makes between them.After hearing the word "suck" (l.2), Stephen responds its sound: "But the sound was ugly" (l.4). This recollection of the unpleasant sound immediately brings out in his mind the instance when he "had washed his hands in the lavatory of the Wicklow Hotel and his father pulled the stopper up by a chain after and the dirty water went down through the hole in the basin. And when it had all gone down slowly the hole in the basin made a sound like that: suck" (l.3). The sound of the word "suck" in being similar to the noise that drain hole made...

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