Conflicting Desires in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Essay by peacerabbitCollege, UndergraduateA, February 2004

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In the story, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, written by

James Joyce, the main character Stephen Dedalus has many encounters with

women. Women and sexuality are major influences on Stephen's adolescent

life. Another major factor that has an influence on Stephen's life is the

Church. Women and sexuality conflict with the Church and its beliefs, and

that is one of Stephen's major problems thus far. Stephen is having a very

big identity crisis, from being a God fearing Catholic to a very hormonal


As Stephen sits at the "adults" dinner table for the first time,

his father, Mr. Casey and Dante are fighting about religion and politics in

Ireland. As they are arguing, Stephen's train of thought leads him to think

about Eileen. Eileen Vance was the little girl that Stephen wanted to marry

when he was younger. She is described to have ivory hands and golden hair,

which confuses Stephen with the phrases, "Tower of Ivory" and "House of

Gold" which is part of the Roman Catholic Litany of Our Lady.

Later when

Stephen is at school, he again thinks about Eileen. Stephen gets his first

sensual experience from Eileen when she puts her hand into his pocket and

touches his hand. Stephen gets quite confused with the terms of the Litany

of Our Lady so he starts to associate the "Tower of Ivory" and "House of

Gold" to Eileen. The way James Joyce describes the scene, "She had put her

hand into his pocket where his hand was and he had felt how cool and thina

and soft her hand was."(43) gives the reader the idea that Stephen enjoyed

the feeling. The only problem with Eileen was that she was a Protestant and

Stephen was a Catholic. Stephen also associates women with...