AD's English Literature : Epiphany in James Joyce’s A portrait of The Artist As a Young Man

Epiphany in James Joyce’s A portrait of The Artist As a Young Man



Critics  have variously interpreted the experience of the modern novelist as tolling the death of story. The words are a proven truth for James Joyce. His expression of experience took a different turn as also a different form. The early years of his life were passed in Dublin. Joyce was almost blind from his childhood, and he lived in the world of sounds; in that glamorous town of Dublin, Joyce wanted to express the immediate and the present he called it ‘an epiphany’(Greek epiphaneia, “appearance”). Unlike roust he wanted to express the immediate consciousness as reality. Joyce’s A Portrait of The Artist As a Young Man clearly demonstrates such epiphanies to signify the moment when all of a sudden the personae probes into the heart of things and experiences a sudden spiritual manifestation. In the present novel it is used to resolve and resolute a conflict the to be an artist face with. 

Stephen’s spiritual manifestation and his aesthetic satisfaction is presented through the epiphanies which is a sudden revelation of the inner truth by paralleling a visual moment. The journey of Stephen from his very tender infancy till he becoming an artist is presented through certain epiphanies to express the inflow of Stephen’s conscious and its changing schedules. In the artistry of literary device Stephen’s rejection of priesthood, his peeling of nationality, his self search in an artist in exile are presented through certain revelation meticulously and forcefully.

In facet at the end of the each chapter epiphanies are skillfully used. In Chapter-I Stephen at in childhood meets certain conflicts that makes in confusion. With the baffling impressions Stephen perceives the world of elders. He oscillates and vacillates over the implicit faith on the elders and his helpless insecurity. He has absolute trust, justice and morale from his elders yet how they quarrel over political and religious matter he can not understand. So, naturally there is marked difference between the expectation and reality. But ultimately Stephen triumphs when he gets rustic at school and he is being hailed as hero. Thus at the end the finality of resulting the conflict and achieving justice is marked by epiphany. 

In chapter-II we pass into Stephen’s adolescence where a few of the family problems disturbs him. In school, his essay is accused of heresy and his school mate’s unfriendly attitude to him hurts him dearly. But more distressfully increasing hatred for father on the part of Stephen widens. Interestingly enough, Stephen’s ideal shed beauty and notice of purity transits into a vague erotic fantasy of the girl Mercedes who often comes into dreams. So torn in disputes, ultimately resolving into an epiphany towards a learning experience. Stephen’s dream of Mercedes is united with the embrace of a whore. Thought it is an absolute sin, Stephen passes into an emotional learning and resolution:
          “Tears of joy and relief shone in his delighted eyes.
            In hat arms he felt that he had suddenly become strong and fearless and sure of himself.”
 Extending the same conflict, Stephen in Chapter-III finds himself frequently in the embrace of whores. Stephen’s moral dilemma and sinned meeting the world of religion and doing the epiphany provides him immense relief:
          “He had confessed and God had pardoned him. His soul was made for and holy once more, holy and happy. The past was past. The ciborium had come to him.”

The journey of Stephen to be an artist born is narcissism and it is proving truth by the epiphany of muse at sea beach in chapter-IV. More complex than any other is the description of the figure of the girl on the beach after the vision of the hawk like man flying sun ward above the sea, and the suggestion of all the emotional associations which radiate from the glimpse of her. The vision of mysterious, birdlike, mythical figure is the certitude of Stephen’s vocation of an artist. It is the message he receives from the spy, heavenly yet flow of life. It is religiously ammunition and a voice of divinity. In romantic ecstasy Stephen learns the truth of beauty and art and an artist is born. 

Finally in chapter-V Stephen wishes to encounter ‘the reality of experience’ and invokes the mythical Daedalus to air him in that purpose. To note further, it is to be mentioned that there are many other epiphanies which contribute to a certainty in developing Stephen and his journey to an artist. Such as ‘tower of ivory’, ‘house of gold’, ‘fetus’ etc. are few examples. So, in conclusion, it is fair to say that epiphany is used to experience both the world of Stephen and Joyce as an artist in A Portrait of The Artist As A Young Man.

 Ardhendu De  

Ref: 1. Trueman's English Guide
         2. Aspects of English Novel: Dr. C. K. Ahid
      3.IGNOU Study Guide



  Now give short answer of the following questions:

a. What is the seasoned hacking chestnut’ in A Portrait...? What incident happens centering it?
b. What do ‘A.M.D.G.’ and ‘L.D.S.’ stand for in A Portrait..?
c. What does Father Arnal call a twofold enormity’?
d. What for does Stephen go to Cork? What word in the Queen’s College appears before him with a shock?
e. What for does Heron beat Stephen on the Whitsuntide night?
f. What is the last entry in Stephens’s diary?
g. What is fictionalized autobiography? Can you consider A Portrait.. as an example of the same?  
h. What myth is alluded to in the epigraph of A Portrait..? How is the myth connected with Stephen’s development?
i. Discuss the significance of the opening section of A Portrait... What is the significance of Stephen’s father telling a story to Stephen?
j. What are the three qualities of universal beauty? Define and explain the first two qualities.  
k. What is the Father Dolan affair? What lesson does Stephen take from it?
l. What incident urges Stephen to write the poem To E-C-? What is the subject matter of his poem?

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