In “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” by James Joyce the novel is about a boy’s growth to adulthood. The novel gives intimate details of the protagonist and how he has come to terms with his separation of childhood into manhood. The novel describes the personal and intellectual growth of a child into an artist. The life of Stephen Dedalus begins with the interests of words, then the realization of external pressures, and finally the actions made to escape the body. Stephen’s life is analyzed psychoanalytically to reveal the hidden emotions that are revealed by the subconscious to allow personal growth of character which helps him pursue a life as a writer, an artist.
Early in Stephen Dedalus’s childhood he desires to search for a meaning to his life. He is searching for a life that has not already been planned out by his family or any other social influences; his Roman Catholic faith and his Irish nationality are both intertwined with each other at the time since Ireland is struggling to be independent from religion. Stephen is greatly influences by religion at a young age at Clongowes Wood College and is still influenced at Belvedere College, which the Roman Catholic faith has rooted it is beliefs into Stephen’s mind. Religion has such an effect on Stephen that his beliefs cause him much guilt and shame for his lust of the flesh which was deepened by Father Arnall’s lessons of hell; his actions with a strumpet surfaces as Father Arnall makes Stephen question his morality. For a time Stephen appears that he is going to pursue a life in the priesthood for his dedication in school and his sensitivity to his emotions.
Stephen’s sensitivity to language is evident since his childhood. When he sings a tune he expresses a great deal of emotions which shows the person Stephen is. The song holds meaning hidden within the words he recites, because it is colors in symbols and imagery.
Dingdong! The castle bell!/
Farewell, my mother!/
Burry me in the old churchyard/
Beside my eldest brother./
My coffin shall be black,/
Six angels at my back,/
Two to sing and two to pray/
And two to carry my soul away./ (35)
When Stephen recites this song he sees “how beautiful the words,” are and feels sadness at the same time, “he wanted to cry quietly but not for himself; for the words, so beautiful and sad, like music. The bell! The bell! Farewell! O farewell!” The author references bells with “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by John Donne. The bells represent the uncertainties of life and so the destiny fate create are already set in motion. The only event that is certain in life is death and that it can happen to anyone at anytime resulting Stephen to cry at how the words express that no matter what is done death is inevitable.
The eight-line stanza rhyming in an abcbddee pattern is a song that has been triggered by the “church bell” tolling in his mind. The first stanza calls the attention of the reader with “dingdong!” and is quickly followed by an image that produces the noise in exclamations. The second stanza switches from excitement of the bell to poignancy; since Stephen must leave his mother’s physical body he says good-bye to her. His mother is a central figure in the Stephen’s life and under the Oedipus Rex complex he is looking for a woman that parallels the trait of his mother. As the tone shifts to sentimental, Stephen wants to be close to brother and as the angels are carrying him the tone changes again. He thinks of himself dying in a black coffin which not only denotes color but also the somber tones of the song.
There are indications that Stephen Dedalus is destined to becoming a writer and not a priest. Stephen as a young boy always had an interest in language; he would study the diction of rhymes and see the vivid expressions of images that are said. He does not just see the regular denotations of words but understand the connotations associated with them. His interest in a word’s etymology allows him to ask questions to help him understand language; it allows him to understand himself. It is no wonder why Sheldon Brivic of “The Disjunctive Structure of Joyce’s Portrait” would say, “words are Stephen’s major weapon and uses the “rapier point of his sensitiveness” to thrust and parry in the dialogues of the final chapter (289).” Brivic’s tone is climbing into enthusiasm in describing his metaphor of Stephen’s words as a weapon, and how Stephen’s acute awareness towards words are as sharp as a dagger’s point. The word that is use, “rapier” instead of dagger personifies his idea because rapier has characteristics to the word rape; it creates an image of Stephen’s senses jabbing at words more keenly than others and allows him to feel the passion of words that others do not dare to cross.
Stephen is an intellect and his “treasury” of words is his weapon. Stephen does not have physical body strength so he makes it up by his mastery of language. In the psychoanalytical essays men feels that their lives are not as meaningful as a women’s. The reason for this is that women can bring life into the world and men do not have anyway of knowing the child that is born is theirs. The way men try to satisfy their purpose is by physical actions such as violence or to channel their creativity and emotion into art form. These acts can be seen and felt which allows men to see the physical form of their own creation. Stephen uses words to breed his thoughts and ideas into the world of reality. He wants to “mirror” his “unconscious” to express his feelings and by doing so it allows him to put his life into perspective and to see that his current state of living is within a cage-like state, kept away from freedom. Also from a psychoanalytic view, the author’s emotions and desires can be seen in their words. By reading “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” one is seeing the James Joyce’s biography of unconscious feelings. It is his choice of words and how he express his ideas that give the reader an idea of what Joyce’s hidden feelings are.
Stephen Dedalus’s path is clear to the reader that he will become a writer, an artist. It is evident that Stephen has a strong interested in words. He sees literature beyond its textual meaning and has a natural curiosity of the origins of words which makes him a natural candidate to be considered a young man on a road to becoming a writer.
At Clongowes Stephen starts to realize the burdens that are places on him. As mentioned before Stephen is looking for his own path in life, one without the social influences of family, faith, and nationality. In the process he comes to the realization that he is being molded into what the people around him wants to be.
Stephen has a hard time maintaining the image of a good Catholic as well as a respectable person, but he must also aid Ireland in its independence. These three influences play a major part in Stephen’s life. The family values that are taught to Stephen are to be respectable, or appear as a gentleman. Also Stephen must remain true to his faith, such that he must follow the Roman Catholic rules and abide to their way of living. This includes not marrying his protestant neighbor Eileen Vance, because of her religious background clashing with the Roman Catholic faith. This situation shows the constant struggle Stephen faces with listening to his feelings and listening to his faith, as well as maintains a respectable image for his family.
And it was the din of all these hollowsounding voices that made him halt irresolutely in the pursuit of phantoms. He gave them ear only for a time but he was happy only when he was far from them, beyond their call, alone or in the company of phantasmal comrades (85).
Stephen hears the voices of his major influences but he does not put much weight in to what they say as the word are “hollowsounding” meaning words have sounds but the meaning of those sounds are emptiness to Stephen. Rather than listening to social influences Stephen is learning how to grasp the understanding of his emotions. He prefers to be alone with his thoughts and emotions, because he knows that these abstracts ideas are his only comrades that are true to him. The author uses the word “comrades” to characterize Stephen’s abstract concepts of thoughts and emotions; it creates an image that social influences are enemies that can not be trusted while the only “people” that can be trusted are one’s own thoughts and emotions as feelings are the only abstractions the a person knows in their heart. In turn it makes Stephen appear to be alone in this world because this statement makes everyone against him after all everyone is against him.
Although Stephen does not know what he is feeling, his actions to not listen to social voices mark his freedom from the images people created for him. He burned to appease the fierce longing of his heart before which everything else was idle and alien. He cared little that he was in mortal sin, that his life had grown to be a tissue of subterfuges and falsehood. Beside the savage desire within him to realize the enormities which he brooded on nothing was sacred (97).
The metaphor of falsehood and deceptions is comparable to the body’s skin “tissue”. Stephen’s life is surrounded by “subterfuges and falsehood” which is personified by the surface of beauty, which is skin-deep. A body is covered in skin and it is common that it will collect dirt over time as a human sheds its skin on a daily basis, the dirt is the lies that Stephen has collected over his life and it is his desire to wash the lies away. Now Stephen is starting to get past the beauty and starting to see himself within. He realizes that nothing of the superficial “beauty” of family, religion, or faith is as important as his raw feelings that he craves to understand because in his mind beauty is in understanding one’s own self.
In a psychoanalytical manner Stephen is learning how to express his “id” without a lot of restrictions from his “superego.” He wants to adjust his “ego” so that it would allow him to show more of his “id.” When Stephen realizes the social influences of family, friends, faith, and nationality that restrictions him, he struggles to try to find a perfect balance between the “id” and the “superego.”
Stephen begins to realize that he is trapped in a cage like the soul in a body. He is slowly learning how to escape his cage by dropping his idea of family, religion, and nationality and to replace it with the single purpose of understanding his body and emotions above all else so that can be true to himself and be free from restrictions.
The body is a cage that restricts the spirit. This can be said about Ireland. Ireland is a body that Stephen is trapped in. He is trapped under the social pressures of his family, religion and nationality. These pressures prevent him to follow his true emotions as explained by the principle of the “id, ego, and superego.” The id acts out a person’s desires while the ego mediates the superego of society’s morals and rules. He is free by relinquishing his social pressures and finally being free from the hold women have on him.
Stephen Dedalus learns how to venture out from his cage and into the new world. He escapes the entrapment of Ireland and frees himself from his external influences by leaving his past behind. This act is displayed by Stephen leaving his family, friends, and faith to be replaced with the feelings of his heart.
She prays now, she says, that I may learn in my own life and away from home and friends what the heart is and what it feels. Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race (223).
His mother responds to Stephen’s venture to the world outside family, friends, and faith. He will have to learn to make new friends and make for himself a new life. She hopes that Stephen will learn how to listen to his emotions and follow them. Stephen’s excitement is clear by an exclamation mark. The three word sentence, “welcome, O life!” expresses the level of excitement Stephen feels, for those three words makes the statement bold due to it is brevity between the long sentences before and after it. He will be thrown back into reality and make anew a life that follows his feelings which are not muddied by his family values, his religious code of living, and his sense of duty to country.
Stephen finally has control of the tools to forge his own life. He uses the words “forge” and “smithy” to create an image of a smith controlling the blow of his mallet to shape raw metals into his own desire. The author creates the image of Stephen having all the necessities to make the life he has into his own. Stephen is hammering his soul to what he wants it to be and not allowing others to mold it into something he does not care for. He wants to live life by following his true desires and to understand his unconscious by allow his “uncreated conscience” to take shape. The “uncreated conscience” is the unconscious, the “uncreated” means the part of the conscience that has been repressed.
The novel ends with Stephen as a matured writer who has moved out of the Oedipus Rex complex. Stephen is able to have a conversation with Emma without any distractions. All of his past inhibitions of women appear to have gone away in his conversation with Emma. This event shows that Stephen is no longer distract by women. He is free from his mother’s influences as she no longer controls his actions at home. He also does not seek the Virgin Mary to guide him in life, and this is separation of faith. The fact that Stephen can have a conversation with Emma shows that woman does not have a hold on him as it once did. Women are no longer his idol, which allows him to see them past their temptations and their effects they once had on him has finally disappear.
Stephen has escaped his cage to find his freedom away from social influences. He is free of women and sees them as equals and not as idealized idols. His life is not run by women any longer as well as his past influences of family, faith, and nationality. This in turn shows that Stephen is finally free from the influences that has been keeping him from his freedom of expression
Stephen Dedalus as a young boy displayed the Oedipus Rex complex and learns to overcome this unconscious feeling. When Stephen learns to feel the emotions of words and view texts and words in abstracts ideas he learns to see the world and his feelings. The emotions that Stephen sees in his words lead him to see his life being controlled by external influences that keep his true feelings from appearing. This problem starts to be corrected when he admits that he has an issue and so when Stephen see’s that he is not on the driver’s seat he correct this by seeing women as equal and not as divine beings.