Friday, March 28, 2008

A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man

A theme that was apparent within the novel was the theme of flight. I discovered through some research on this novel that Stephen Dedalus's very name involves the idea of flight. A figure from Greek Mythology was named Daedalus. Daedalus was known for the designing of the Labyrinth of Crete for King Minos. Daedalus was imprisoned along with his son Icarus by Minos, however Daedalus created wings out of feathers, twine, and wax for means of escape. Daedalus escapes successfully, but his son dies from flying too close to the sun. In the novel, Stephen can be seen in both Daedulus and Icarus. Throughout the novel, the theme of balance is also apparent. Stephen learns that he must balance his desire to escape Ireland's political and religious restrictions while staying true to himself. He endures many ups and downs trying to find this balance. He starts out at following his family's opinion of religion and politics. He then goes to one extreme where he commits sin knowing that it is against the church. He soon follows with the other extreme of pure dedication to the church. He soon sees that both ways of living are unhealthy. After spending sometime at the University he realizes that it is his time to leave and go into exile to develop his ideas of being an artist. The birds that appear to Stephen in the third section of Chapter five signal that it is finally time for him, now a fully developed artist, to take flight himself.

I actually enjoyed this novel in the beginning. However as the novel progressed and the words continued to get more and more wordier, that enjoyment slowly disappeared. I liked the beginning because I enjoy reading stream of consciousness type writing when it is in simple terms. An example of this is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. It is a whole lot easier to just let go and read the novel. Once the words lose their simpleness, which in this case was as he matured and discovered listening to his individual thoughts, it really just became a different, complicated novel. When reading, it took me forever to get past one page because I would have to keep re reading and re reading everything to understand what Stephen was saying. I also did not like the mature, grown up Stephen's character. He was seemed to be thinking only about himself and appeared to be a little obnoxious with his opinions on religion and Ireland as a whole. All in all I would rate this book a six. The beginning was great; the end and the character of Stephen Deadalus, not so much.

"26 April: I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.
27 April: Old father, old artificer, stand me now and ever in good stead"

The quote above if from the very end of the novel where Stephen decides to become an artist for the rest of his life. He strives to be an artist whose individual consciousness will be the foundation of all of his work. He wants to create a voice for his community. Stephen's mission is reinforced by the words "old father" and which represents Ireland's past. His role in art is emphasized with the words "old artificer". Stephen hopes that through his art, he will be able to benefit himself along with his community whom is now getting a voice. I chose this quote because I really liked the language James Joyce incorporated. There are so many other words he could have used to write this, but they would not sound as "nice" or flow as smoothly as the words he chose here. I also liked the vast contrast between this page versus the first page of the novel. It made me laugh to think about how the novel started off with "moo cows" and bed wetting and then ended with such deep thoughts.


Diego said...

Actually, I love Stephen's character at the end. Why? Because he is RIGHT. I hated him throughout the beginning and part of the middle of the book because he was just so blindly complacent and conformist. He had no mind of his own. He didn't stand up for himself or his beliefs. He basically lived a lie for the first three quarters of the novel. I loved him at the end; I loved how he could rise above the oppression of his society and become his own person, without a care for others' opinions. I would compare him to a white southerner during the Civil War era who was against slavery and freed his slaves--Of course I'm exaggerating a bit, but you have to respect that he stood up for what he believed in, while the rest of his country rejected his thoughts and views.

Mr. Klimas said...

I think you missed some of the depth of the work in your reflection.