Motifs in "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young man"

Essay by seapearlB, March 2005

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The Portrait concentrated on stating themes, arranging apparently transparent words into configuration of utmost symbolic density. For example during the passage where the director proposes Stephen to enter priesthood , words like "the looped cord", "the shadow"," the skull , twice emphasized waning daylight , "cross blind, "blind to the cross","blinded by the cross" all convey the denial of nature and entrapment for Stephen which the Priest's office represent for Stephen.

The central image, the epiphany of the interview is the contained in the movement of the priests fingers: "slowly dangling and looping the cord of the other blind". that is to say ,coolly proffering a noose. (pg.175)

The contrapuntal opening

The first two pages, the story his fathers tells to Stepehn, is an Aristotelian catalogue of senses, faculties, and mental activities played against the unfolding of the infant conscience.

Throughout the Joyce's work , the senses are symbolically disposed.

Smell is the means of discriminating empirical realities. sight corresponds to the phantoms of oppression, hearing ti the imaginative life. Touch and taste together are the modes of sex.

The dawning consciousness of his own identity where he identifies himself with the moocow leads to an artistic performance, where by dislocating the spellings and changing the red rose to green , he makes the song his own. This is hugely expanded in chapter five:

"now , as never before, his strange name seemed to him a prophecy ... of the end he had been born to sever and had been following through the mists of childhood and boyhood, a symbol of the artist forging anew in his soaring impalpable imperishable being."

The overture ends with Stephen hiding under the table awaiting the eagles which will pull out this eyes. He is hiding under something most to the time , bedclothes,