A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Ma1

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   A Portrait of the Artist as a Young ManSilence, exile, and cunning. - these are weapons Stephen Dedalus chooses in A Portraitof the Artist as a Young Man. And these, too, were weapons that its author, JamesJoyce, used against a hostile world.Like his fictional hero, Stephen, the young Joyce felt stifled by the narrow interests,religious pressures, and political squabbles of turn-of-the-century Ireland. In 1904, whenhe was twenty-two, he left his family, the Roman Catholic Church, and the dull torpor of Dublin for the European continent to become a writer. With brief exceptions, he was toremain away from Ireland for the rest of his life.It was a bold move for several reasons. In spite of his need to break away fromconstrictions on his development as a writer, Joyce had always been close to his family.He still admired the intellectual and artistic aspects of the Roman Catholic tradition thathad nurtured him. And the city of Dublin was in his soul.(Asked later how long he had been away from Dublin, he answered: Have I ever leftit? ) But Joyce did achieve his literary goal in exile. The artistic climate of continentalEurope encouraged experiment. With cunning (skillfulness) and hard work, Joycedeveloped his own literary voice. He labored for ten years on Portrait of the Artist, thefictionalized account of his youth. When it appeared in book form in 1916, twelve yearsafter Joyce's flight from Ireland, it created a sensation.Joyce was hailed as an important new force in literature.Portrait of the Artist is usually read as an autobiography, and many of the incidents in itcome from Joyce's youth. But don't assume that he was exactly like his sober hero,Stephen Dedalus. Joyce's younger brother Stanislaus, with whom he was very close,called Portrait of the Artist a lying autobiography and a raking satire. The book shouldbe read as a work of art, not a documentary record. Joyce transformed autobiographyinto fiction by selecting, sifting, and reconstructing scenes from his own life to create aportrait of Stephen Dedalus, a sensitive and serious young boy who gradually defineshimself as an artist.Still, Joyce and Stephen have much in common. Both were indelibly marked by their upbringing in drab, proud, Catholic Dublin, a city that harbored dreams of being thecapital of an independent nation but which in reality was a backwater ruled by England.Like Stephen, Joyce was the eldest son of a family that slid rapidly down the social andeconomic ladder. When Joyce was born in 1882, the family was still comfortably off. Butits income dwindled fast after Joyce's sociable, witty, hard-drinking father, JohnStanislaus, lost his political job- as Stephen's father Simon loses his- after the fall of theIrish leader and promoter of independence Charles Stewart Parnell. Although the loss of the post was not directly related to Parnell's fall, Joyce's father worshipped theuncrowned king of Ireland and blamed his loss on anti-Parnell forces like the RomanCatholic Church. (Joyce portrays the kind of strong emotions Parnell stirred up in theChristmas dinner scene in Chapter One of Portrait of the Artist.) Like Simon Dedalus, the jobless John Stanislaus Joyce was forced to move his family frequently, often leavingrent bills unpaid.  Joyce, though, seems to have taken a more cheerful view of his family problems, and tohave shown more patience with his irresponsible father, than did his fictional hero. Heseems to have inherited some of his father's temperament; he could clown at times, andhe laughed so readily he was called Sunny Jim. He also inherited a tenor voice goodenough to make him consider a concert career. Many believe that musical talent isresponsible for Joyce's gift for language.Joyce's father was determined that his son have the finest possible education, andthough precarious family finances forced the boy to move from school to school, hereceived a rigorous Jesuit education. In Portrait of the Artist Joyce relives throughStephen the intellectual and emotional struggles that came with his schooling. Joyce'sclassmates admired the rebellious brilliance that questioned authority, but- like somebright students whom you may know- he remained an outsider, socially andintellectually.The religious training he received in the Jesuit schools also shaped Joyce, giving himfirst a faith to believe in and then a weight to rebel against. Like Stephen, he was for atime devoutly religious- then found that other attractions prevailed. By age fourteen hehad begun his sexual life furtively in Dublin brothels, and though he was temporarilyoverwhelmed with remorse after a religious retreat held at his Catholic school, he soonsaw that he could not lead the life of virtuous obedience demanded of a priest. Instead,he exchanged religious devotion for devotion to writing. As a student at University College in Dublin, Joyce studied Latin and modern languages. Although the Gaelic League and other groups were hoping to achieve Irish culturalindependence from Great Britain by promoting Irish literature and language, thenonconformist Joyce spurned them. He felt closer to the less provincial trendsdeveloping in continental Europe. He memorized whole pages of Gustave Flaubert, theFrench pioneer of psychological realism and author of Madame Bovary, whose precisionof style and observation he envied. He also admired the Norwegian playwright HenrikIbsen, who shocked the world by introducing previously forbidden subjects like venerealdisease and immorality among respectable citizens in his works. Both these writersdrew, as Joyce would, on all parts of life- the beautiful, the sordid, and thecommonplace.But realism wasn't the only influence on the young Joyce. The subtle and suggestivepoetic imagery of French poets like Stephane Mallarme and Arthur Rimbaud, who usedsymbols to convey shades of meaning, appealed to his love for the musicality of wordsand for the power of words to evoke unexpected psychological associations. Their example, too, is followed in Portrait of the Artist.Before Joyce had left the university he had already written several essays- one of themon Ibsen- and he had formulated the core of his own theory of art, atheory similar to Stephen's in Chapter Five. The renowned Irish poet William Butler Yeats was impressed by the unkempt but precocious youth, and tried to draw Joyce intothe ranks of Irish intellectuals. But once again the arrogant newcomer rejected hishomeland, choosing to stay aloof because he felt Yeats and his group viewed the Irishpast too romantically and viewed its present with too much nationalism.  Instead, at the age of twenty, Joyce did what Stephen Dedalus is about to do at thenovel's end, and turned away from his family, his country, and his church. He ran off tothe continent. In 1903 he returned to Ireland to visit his dying mother, but soon after her death (1904) he was again bound for Europe, accompanied by the chambermaid withwhom he had fallen in love, Nora Barnacle. The uneducated, sensual Nora seemed anunlikely mate for Joyce, but she proved (despite Joyce's cranky suspicions of her) to bea loyal, lifetime companion.In Trieste (then a cosmopolitan city of Austria-Hungary), Joyce wrote incessantly andeked out a living teaching English. He put together Dubliners, a group of stories basedon brief experiences he called epiphanies. For Joyce, who believed in the significanceof trivial things, an epiphany was a moment of spiritual revelation sparked by aseemingly insignificant detail. A chance word, a particular gesture or situation couldsuddenly reveal a significant truth about an entire life.He also continued work on a novel he had started in Ireland. The first, brief version of what we know as A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man had beencurtly rejected in 1904, before Joyce left Ireland. I can't print what I can't understand, wrote the British editor who refused it. Undaunted, Joyce expanded the story to nearlyone thousand pages. It now bore the title Stephen Hero, and was a conventionalBildungsroman- a novel about a young man's moral and psychological development.Other examples of such novels might include D. H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers (1913)or Samuel Butler's The Way of All Flesh (1903). (Some critics would be more specificand call Stephen Hero and A Portrait of the Artist Kunstlerromane- novels about thedevelopment of young artists.) Then, dissatisfied, Joyce decided to recast his novel intoa shorter, more srcinal form. The final version of Portrait of the Artist was stalled byBritish censorship and it was not until 1914 that Joyce, with the help of Yeats and the American poet Ezra Pound, was able to get it printed in serial form in a little review, The Egoist. Dubliners, long delayed by printers' boycotts because of its supposedoffensiveness, also appeared the same year. In 1916 Portrait of the Artist was publishedin book form in England and the United States, thanks only to the efforts of HarrietWeaver, editor of The Egoist, and Joyce's faithful financial and moral supporter.When Portrait of the Artist did appear, critical reaction was mixed. It was called garbage and brilliant but nasty, among other things. Some readers objected to thegraphic physical description, the irreverent treatment of religious matters, the obscurityof its symbolism, and its experimental style. But it was alsopraised by others as the most exciting English prose of the new century. Joyce, who hadfled to neutral Switzerland at the outbreak of World War I, was hailed as a new writer with a new form who had broken with the tradition of the English novel.What sets Portrait of the Artist apart from other confessional novels about thedevelopment of a creative young man, like D. H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers andSamuel Butler's The Way of All Flesh is that the action takes place mainly in the mind of the central character. To portray that mind, Joyce began to develop a technique calledthe interior monologue, or stream of consciousness, in which he quoted directly therandom, unshaped thoughts of his hero. Joyce used this technique sparingly in Portraitof the Artist; he exploited it more fully in his later novels.  Portrait of the Artist also differs from more conventional novels because it doesn't showStephen Dedalus' development in a straightforward chronological progression. Nor doyou see it through easily understood flashbacks to the past.Instead Joyce presents a series of episodes that at first may seem unconnected butwhich in fact are held together by use of language, images, and symbols. Joyce'slanguage changes as Stephen moves from infancy to manhood. The boy who is nicenslittle baby tuckoo becomes the proud young artist who writes in his diary brave promisesabout forging the uncreated conscience of my race. Images and symbols are repeatedto reveal Stephen's innermost feelings. For example, a rose, or rose color, represents ayearning for romantic love and beauty; the color yellow a revulsion from sordid reality;and birds or flight, an aspiration to creative freedom (and, less often, the threat of punishment and loss of freedom). Such images often relate to larger motifs drawn fromreligion, philosophy, and myth. Joyce framed his novel in a superstructure of myth (seethe section on the Daedalus myth) to relate his hero's personal experience to a universalstory of creativity, daring, pride, and self-discovery.This constellation of words, images, and ideas gives Portrait of the Artist a complextexture that offers you far more than a surface telling of Stephen Dedalus' story ever could. It's not easy to explore all the layers of the novel.Joyce removes familiar guideposts. Cause and effect is lost; scenes melt into oneanother, and the passage of time is not specified. Joyce doesn't explain the manyreferences to places, ideas, and historical events that fill Stephen's mind. It's up to you tomake the connections. But if you do, you'll find the effort worthwhile.You'll be participating with Stephen Dedalus in his journey of self-discovery. After Portrait of the Artist, Joyce went even further in transforming the novel in his later works, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. Both are virtually plotless and try to reflect theinner workings of the mind in language that demands much from the reader. StephenDedalus appears again, though in a secondary role, as a struggling young writer inUlysses. This epic novel connects one day's wanderings of Leopold Bloom, a JewishDubliner, with the twenty-year wanderings of the ancient Greek hero Ulysses recountedin Homer's Odyssey.Ulysses is in some ways a continuation of Portrait of the Artist. Again, no English publisher would print Ulysses because of its sexual explicitness andearthy language. It was printed privately in Paris in 1922. Although its early chapters were published serially in the United States, further publication was banned and it was not legally available in the United States again until1933, when a historic decision written by United States District Judge John Woolseyruled that it was not obscene.By then Joyce was living in Paris, an international celebrity and the acknowledgedmaster of the modern literary movement. But even his warmest admirers cooled whenFinnegans Wake was published in 1939. He was disheartened by the hostile reactions tothe extremely obscure language and references in what he felt was his masterwork, thedepiction of a cosmic world, built from the dreams of one man in the course of a night's
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