Thursday, May 22, 2008
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
In the novel “A Portrait of the artist as a Young Man”, the evolution of Stephen Deadalus as a character is interpreted through the conscious and unconscious decisions and thoughts that he makes throughout the novel. Through different portions of the novel Stephen’s conscious is tested within its limits, but finally achieves a conclusion in which brings him a new artistic vision. In the psychoanalytic criticism much of what lies in the unconsciousness part of the mind has been situated there by the conscious part of the mind. This part acts as a censor to dispose of the thoughts that seem to be undesirable and unacceptable. There lies the balance. Stephen achieves this many times in the book but eventually ends up going back to the Oedipus complex, relying on his mother. Stephen does achieve a bildingsRoman through many instances throughout the novel but there are events that pull him back in the other direction, towards who he was before. His innocence can be traced in many places in the novel. Stephens’s stream of consciousness is different from the other characters because his thoughts are progressed logically. In the end his thoughts produce an artist. He has evolved form a little innocent boy to an artistic individual. Through this, tone and diction Joyce creates a character that ultimately at the end achieves creation.
In the passage where Stephen is outside with the other students at Clongowes, Joyce’s use of diction displays a complex which is symbolized in other parts of the novel. Joyce writes “Tell us Deadalus, do you kiss your mother every night before you go to bed...I do” (Joyce 26-27). This passage is essential to the novel and the evolution of Stephen. Stephens approach to the question seemed to be more important than his answer. The question seemed to perplex Stephen because his response “I do” seemed to have initiated a thought by Stephen. While the students mocked Stephens answer, Stephen started to feel embarrassed. So he then changed his response to “I do not” which caused the other students to continue their laughter at him. The reason he changed his response is important because Stephen knew that whatever response he gave was not going to be enough to stop the laughter. He said his answer without hesitation and this could have caused the students to mock him even more. Stephen responded as quickly as he did because he felt that was the right answer. After this incident Stephen questions the way he views his mother and if this view is the appropriate way a son should view his mother. Stephens tone also seems very sure and certain at the beginning but after his second response the tone changes dramatically to fear and uncertainty.
This passage presents the Oedipus complex which is one of the main answers to Stephen’s way of thinking. The Oedipus complex refers to the myth of Oedipus. In the myth the main character Oedipus killed his father and married his mother. Both Stephen and Oedipus are alike because both felt shame and disapproval after each one of their events. Stephen is alike in his response and Oedipus in his marriage to his mother. Stephen was made fun of his innocence because of his response. In that sense he felt like he was losing his masculinity or what was left of it. Oedipus also felt a sense of loss of masculinity because he married his mother. This embarrassment plays with Stephens mind. He debates what the right answer is and if what he said the first time changes his view of his mother. Stephen is dependent on his mother throughout the novel. He sets her up on this pedestal of pureness which proves to be false. It proves to be false because Stephen thinks his mother is pure and a virgin, which is not true. This causes Stephen to contemplate every thought he has. An example of the Oedipus complex is when Stephen comes home from Clongowes and is in the bathroom. At this point in the novel Stephen has committed sins that are excusable. Stephen say’s “When the enameled basin had been fitted into the well of the sink and the old washing glove flung on the side of it he allowed his mother to scrub his neck and root into the folds of his ears and into the interstices at the wings of his nose…(Joyce 157). Having his mother wash him, Stephen is redirecting himself toward innocence. This event occurred after Stephen committed the sins so in biblical terms he is washing away his sins. Stephen is symbolically being baptized. Stephens mother at this moment in the novel represents the Virgin Mary because to Stephen his mother is both pure and a virgin even though it is not true. This quote is essential to understanding Stephens mind and it relates to the Oedipus complex which is portrayed in certain places throughout the novel.
This passage relates to the criticism made about a passage mentioned in novel.
In the Psychoanalytic criticism essay, Sheldon Brivic uses the loss of eyes as an image of castration. In the Oedipus myth, Oedipus pulls out his eyes after he has learned of the terrible thing that he has done. This castration is also a loss of masculinity like Stephen’s situation with the other students. At the beginning of the novel Stephen told his family that he was going to marry the girl next door, Eileen. Dante’s response is“O, if not, the eagles will come and pull out his eyes...”(Joyce 21) to Stephen. Dante is telling him to pull out is eyes in which strikes fear into him. His fear of castration slows down the evolution of Stephen. In a way the castration displays loss of masculinity. This would make him less of a man in his eyes and other people’s eyes. According to Freud castration starts to become important to children during the Oedipus stage of their life ages four to five. This is the age of Stephens’s eagle epiphany. In that portion of the essay Brivic associates Stephen’s fears with his writing. The writing helps to push out Stephens unconscious fears. He deals with his threat from Dante by writing poetry. Overall even though Stephen fears castration, a good thing has come out of it. Stephen seems to feed off of his fears and desires that are in his mind. They seem to be the inspiration and spark in Stephens mind.
In the passage from the Psychoanalytic criticism portion of the novel, the author is insinuating that Stephen’s desires result in art. Sheldon Brivic say’s:
Nor it is true that art “cannot awaken…” an emotion which is kinetic”: there is no such thing as nonkinetic emotion, only emotion whose kinesis is relatively weak or indirect. Art is built on the same drives, conscious and unconscious, that operate in life….The peace of stasis is arrived at by balancing opposed psychic forces in a pleasing way. If this balance is not achieved and drives obtrude in such a way that they violate truth, mortality, or some other function of psychic balance… (Brivic, Joyce 293).Everything in Stephens’s life is a tool that he uses to achieve his artistic nature. His desire for his mother and shear fear of his father plays into the creation of art. According to this passage art is similar to life. It is driven by the same forces. These drives can be conscious or unconscious. This is true for Stephen in the novel. He experiences things that are different but the two opposed forces need to be balanced. Without this balance then it is not true or moral and it is dismissed as inappropriate. This is shown through Stephens’s desire for his mother and the fear of his father. His mother is the ideal and his father is the reality. Stephens’s mother is the ideal because she represents an idea of what he wants in a woman which is pureness instead of a woman who acquires strumpetness. Stephens’s father is the reality, what he hopes not to become. He doesn’t want to become this moral less human being like his father is. These features are very opposite each other and so it results in a balance. The two forces are an idealized figure vs. a non-moral figure. Stephen has in actuality created a world and what is reality. The world is in his mind while the reality is presently occurring. Here in this passage Stephen shows some improvement in his evolution from the first quote where he felt scared and embarrassed.
This passage also connects to a moment in the book where he experiences his desire and in turn writes a poem about the imagery that was around him that night. Stephens encounter with Mercedes was not real. She is just a figment in Stephens mind but he fulfills his sexual desire and as a result he gets the inspiration to write. Stephen say’s “There remained no trace of the tram itself nor of the trammen nor of the horses: nor did he and she appear vividly. The verses only told of the night and the balmy breeze and the maiden luster of the moon” (Joyce 74). As he remembers that night that he experienced with Mercedes, he doesn’t recollect her and or himself but he vividly remembers the scenery. Stephen felt so much inspiration from that moment that he started to write a poem. Here Stephen is starting to evolve as a person and is starting out his artistic nature.
In the passage towards the end of the novel Stephen has a dream that culminates an artistic response. The passage is analyzed by a feminist critique named Suzette Henke. She writes:
The moment of mental conception simulates a sexual process culminating in erotic ecstasy. In a strange instance of transsexuality, Stephen envisions his own aesthetic impregnation by the Holy Spirit., an experience modeled on the Virgin Mary’s biblical gestation of the word of God. As the artist falls into a vision of rapturous enchantment, he conflates ingenuous Emma with Mercedes and the bird-girl, then he recreates this female figure in the awesome, uncanny form of eternal temptress- a seductive Lilith luring the seraphim heaven. His courtly villanelle is inspired by a shudder in the loins… (Henke, Joyce 323)
The dream was a huge moment in the book where Stephen compares himself to the Virgin Mary. In his dream he becomes pregnant which right away Stephen adapts to a female. This act of impregnation is an art. His sexual desires turn into art. So the art that he is creating is symbolically his child. Towards the middle of the passage Henke mentions the Virgin Mary. The Virgin Mary in Stephens’s eyes symbolizes the woman he wants. She is pure as well. In this passage Stephen is Mary and like Mary he becomes impregnated by God. God impregnated Mary through God’s words. The same happens for Stephen. The art is produced in the same process that Mary went through in creating Jesus. In Stephens mind God means the father figure which essentially goes back to the paternal threat. God is not only the paternal threat but Stephens’s threat of religion as well. In the end he turns the idealized girl into reality. Overall longing for someone can produce and create or it can start this feeling of guilt and jealousy like for example Helena of Troy. A war was started because of the jealousy and love for her. Finally the passage shows the fully evolved Stephen. He used to dreams and his mind to fully produce and create art.
In conclusion Stephen evolves throughout the novel. As a bildingsRoman, Stephen achieves the artistic nature of his mind. His mind evolved with some roadblocks along the way. He came to realizations about himself that he didn’t seem to know before. Stephen establishes that his stream of consciousness is essentially different from the other characters in that it is more controlling than real life. Like Freud said the thoughts that are not conscious and unconscious are disposed which results in a balance. The conscious and unconscious rely on each other to become whole. They fill avoid in Stephen’s mind. In the end Stephens thoughts produce an artist.