James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young: The epigraph, Bildungsroman,The Christmas dinner, Episodes in the early life of Stephen, Daedalus myth, Charles Stewart Parnell, Stephen’s mother

 The epigraph of A portrait of the Artist As A young Man:

This Latin epigraph is taken over from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, VIII, 188 means ‘And he applies his mind to obscure arts’.
The epigraph sums up the theme of the novel. The mythic Daedalus escaped himself from the labyrinth of crete forming wax wings. Stephen Dedalus, too, is out to emancipate himself from labyrinth like Ireland with which he is disgusted. Evidently he will escape himself from there not by was wings but by ‘viewless wings’ of imagination. So the aim of the mythic Dadalus and Stephen Dedalus are alike.

Significance of the name Stephen Dedalus:

The name Stephen Dedalus conjoins the first Christian martyr St. Stephen, stoned to death outside Jerusalem in 34 A.D. and the great pagan artificer – artist hero, Dedalus. Like St. Stephen, the hero of the novel is or at least sees himself as, a martyr, a person whose potential spiritual dedication is thwarted by Ireland. His surname, however reminds us of the cunning artificer Daedalus who built for himself wings of wax and escaped from the labyrinth of Crete. Stephen will also emancipate himself from the prison which Ireland has become to him. And he will do this not literally by going abroad but also spiritually soaring on the wings of art into the air (which is the medium of intellect and inspiration). While the reference of St. Stephen relates the martyr like condition of Stephen, that of the fabulous craftsman expresses his desire to release himself from the choking atmosphere of Ireland.

Stephen identifies with the classical hero whose name he bears, but he is more like the son Icarus, who flew too close to the sun and came crashing down into the sea, than the father Daedalus, whose cunning enabled him to forge the wings that permitted his escape from Minos’s prison.

Stephen’s mother:

Stephen’s mother is a dim presence in the novel, but an important one for what she reveals about her son: his lack of basic kindness and his cruelty born of a sense of his own superiority. She also figures prominently in the beginning of the book; however, this, too, is a relationship that will fade, as Stephen grows older. The Catholic beliefs to which she faithfully adheres become a barrier between mother and son after Stephen vehemently rejects that faith. His education further distances him from her, making her mistrustful of him. However, while Stephen’s father is portrayed in increasingly negative terms, his mother remains a sympathetic figure, whose attempts to keep the peace during the Christmas dinner battle between Simon, Dante, and Mr. Casey are suggestive of her lifelong struggle with a difficult husband in trying circumstances.

 Dante ‘a spoiled nun’; Parnell ‘a bad man’:
Mrs. Riordon, the governess who looked after the children of Mr. Dedalus. As is the case with his parents, the fond portrait of Dante with which the novel begins is sharply revised later on.

Although Parnell was an unquestioned hero towards the beginning of his career, towards the end his affair with a married woman Katharine O’shea led him to be abandoned by a considerable section of the Irish population. The priests, who had been long smarting under his verbal attack on them, took this opportunity to peach against him and thus caused his ruin and death.

Stephen has heard his father says that Dante had initially desired to be a un had given up her religious ambition when she became heir to a large property after the death of her brother.

Stephen believed that Dante knew a lot of things. She had taught him where the Mozambique chanel was and what was the longest river in America and what was the name of the highest mountain in the moon.

Stephen’s earliest recollections are of a generous, motherly figure, but her two velvet-backed brushes, maroon for Michael Davitt and green for Parnell, foreshadow the religious and political strife that will disrupt the family’s Christmas dinner a few years hence. In that scene, Dante appears cruelly inflexible in her rejection of the fallen Parnell and her adherence to the church that helped bring him down.

Charles Stewart Parnell:

 Charles Stewart Parnell, the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, was a key figure of contemporary Irish Home Rule movement whose public disgrace and ensuing death coincide with the first chapter of Joyce’s novel. In 1889 the Protestant Parnell was named as co-respondent in a divorce case; the ensuing scandal turned many Catholics against him, including Michael Davitt, the one-time nationalist ally of Parnell. The proceedings also deeply divided the Nationalist movement at a crucial moment and Parnell’s death in 1891 signaled the death of their dreams of Home Rule. Stephen idolized him as did James Joyce in his real life.

Different type of roses:
 Roses in general symbolize the world of beauty, poetry and creativity.

 Wild roses symbolize the untamed spirit, the rebelliousness which would lead Stephen to ultimately transcend or rebel against the boundaries of religion and nationalism.
 Green roses symbolize something unique, something that has no parallel. It is the artists’ prerogative to create things which can never be sun in land or sea. To a certain extent this theme corresponds to the Aristotle’s concept of the poet creating not only that which exists but also that which is possible on probable.

Stephen’s writing of his address on the fly leaf of the geography book:

 It possibly signifies three things. The first is Stephen’s quest for identity. The second is his quest for the ultimate. And the third is his artistic delight in arranging phrases.
 The prayer in College – Chapel:

The significance of this prayer is that it is wholly insignificant. Stephen makes only a passive verbal response and his mind does not participate in this prayer. Ultimately he would realize that the religion is against his nature and that he must abandon religiosity for poetry.

Daedalus myth dominates the novel:

The classical myth of Daedalus dominates the novel. He was the builder of the Cretan labyrinth and was put by Minos into the labyrinth but escaped by means of artificial wings. [Actually labyrinth was made to protect the city from the monster, Minotour].

  There are similarities between Stephen Dedalus and the mythical Dedalus. The first point of similarity between the 20th century Dedalus and mythical Daedalus is both are creators or aspiring creators.

  The second point of similarity is that both have to overcome man built obstacles and fly from the places where they have originally been. [Daedalus from create and Stephen from Ireland at the end of the novel].
  In this aspiring soaring ambition Stephen is also like the unfortunate Icarus who plunged to his death although in Stephen’s case he is able to reign in excessive ambition. Icarus was the son of Daedalus. He also flew with his father out of create into Sicily; fell into the sea, since called the Icarian sea.

 Stephen identifies with the classical hero whose name he bears, but he is more like the son Icarus, who flew too close to the sun and came crashing down into the sea, than the father Daedalus, whose cunning enabled him to forge the wings that permitted his escape from Minos’s prison.

The important episodes in the early life of Stephen:

a) His learning of the distinction between Catholicism and Protestantism.
b) The growth of self-consciousness, sense of infirmity and quest for identity.
c) His initiation into a world of competitiveness and violence through fellow students like Wells.
d) His unpleasant ant initiation into the violence ridden adult world of politics and religion.
e) His experience of unjust punishment and his development of the courage to standup against such injustice.

 The Christmas dinner:

The bore of contention between Mrs. Riordon (Dante) on the one hand and Mr. Casey and Mr. Dedalus on the other is primarily that between the priest having a say in politics and politics being separated from religion. Also while Dante is intolerant of Parnell and abuses him for becoming involved with married woman (Kitty O’shea), Mr. Dedalus and Mr. Casey continue to regard him as their hero.
 ‘Tower of Ivory’ and ‘House of Gold’:

These two phrases are used in the litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary by the Catholics.
The young child is unable to express the phrases and looks for a sensory explanation. Noticing the hands of his childhood sweet heart Eileen Vance to be long and white he comes to the conclusion that the phrase. Tower of Ivory must be referring to hands like this similarly when he sees her golden hair streaming he feels that the phrase ‘House of Gold’ must be referring to the hair.
Stephen find in the table of the rector :

When Stephen visited the rector Father Conmee to complain against the unjust punishment mated out to him by Father Dolan, he found skull on the table of the rector. The skull is a reminder that death is inevitable and that man must therefore lead a sinless life so as to have a better after life. It is this morbid, concerned with death of the Jesuits which would later prompt Stephen to reject the priestly vocation for a profession concerned more with life.
In the second chapter Stephen will move from the age of 11 to 14, from clongawes Wood College to Belvedere College, from relative prosperity to poverty from innocence to sexual sin.

 Book of a French author:

 Stephen heeds his romantic nature upon Alexander Dumas’s famous adventure novel The Count of Monte Cristo (1844). Its hero is Edmond Dantes who is prevented from marrying the heroine Marcelles. The dark avenger is the hero Edmond Dantes, who escapes from jail and as the count, sets forth to avenge the wrong done to him.

Marcedes ultimately comes to live in a cottage in Marceilles.
Stephen too feels himself to be somebody like Edmond and dreams of his own Marcedes who is E.C. or Emma Clery.

 “There’s a crack of the whip left in me yet, Stephen”:

Stephen’s father, Simon Dedalus says this to his son when they move out from Blackrock to Dublin.
 Embarrassed at the fact that his old home have to be sold to pay for his status, Simon Dedalus boasts that he still has the strength to regain his social position. This is his empty boast since one finds that he is never to recover his own social and financial status and that he is too lazy to go about it.
A bildungsroman or as aesthetic autobiography

A Portrait can be seen as a bildungsroman and as ‘aesthetic autobiography’. In the matter of stationing himself, Joyce keeps varying his distance from Stephen but never does so drastically. What happens in A Portrait is that the autobiographical element which is otherwise its very significant ingredient is consciously and painstakingly recast into a mode of depersonalization, objectification and mystification. 

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