Conflicting Desires within a Doctrine in "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," written by James Joyce

Essay by Jo HwangCollege, UndergraduateA+, October 1996

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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 teenager.

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 thin 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...