Thursday, February 21, 2008

Portrait Model Paper # 2

The Artistic and Maternal Connection in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Angela S.....
English Honors Period 5

Art and language are two things in life which allows one to communicate fears and confront issues that otherwise would be unmanageable to deal with. Art and language also change and evolve with one’s growth and experience. In A Portrait if the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce suggests that the main character Stephen transitions from child to adolescent artist due to his longing and fixation with the womb and maternal figures. Stephen’s unconscious reason for becoming an artist is due to his fears of leaving the “womb” and wanting to be nurtured and comforted by his mother. Joyce suggests this by having Stephen write or recite poetry when he has fears concerning his mother. According to psychoanalytical psychologist Freud’s theory of repression Stephen uses his consciousness to discard of unconscious thoughts which are unacceptable. According to feminist critics, Stephen’s passionate unconscious thoughts about his mother cause him to feel guilty and fearful, and therefore produce art. Stephen uses his art to avoid his fears and tries to separate his desire for women and art, though they are very much connected. The following passages reveal different stages of Stephen’s evolution: during his youth when his fears are unnoticed, during his early adolescence when he actually uses poetry to ease his fears which concerns his mother, and finally, Stephen noticeably uses art in connection with the longing for the womb and his mother.

The first passage begins the first chapter. There is a quotation before the first paragraph which states, “Et ignotas animum dimittit in artes”(20) which translates to “And he applies his mind to the unknown arts.” The rest of this line, which is not written in the book, is “…and changes the law of nature”. This quotation suggests that Stephen will use his art as a way to “marry his mother”. This is act of incest is against the laws of nature and is not meant to occur. Through his writings and poetry Stephen can unconsciously access his feelings towards his mother. Also, psychoanalytic psychologist Freud believes that the artist is “one urged on by instinctive needs that are too clamorous”(Freud 314). According to Freud Stephen is an artist due to his unresolved maternal issues. The first passage begins with “Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming…down along the road…his father told him that story”(20). Stephen is a little boy in this passage and this story is read to him by his father. The male parent is “…awakening a sense of individual identity at a moment when language establishes a gap between subjective desire and self -representation”(Henke 318). Stephen’s father reads him this story and in a way opens him up to the world, which reveals to Stephen that his father has a certain level of power and authority over him. Stephen’s father than “looked at him through a glass: he had a hairy face”(20). Stephen than observes the difference between his “hairy” father and his “nicer smelling” mother. Stephen establishes a distinct difference between the paternal and maternal figures. Stephen “was baby tuckoo…he sang that song. That was his song”(20). Many feminist critics believe that, “by virtue of receiving a forename Stephen is able to enunciate himself as a subject of discourse and to gain access to narrative representation”(Henke 318). Stephen discovers for the first time, the power of words and it allows him to establish his place in the world and in a sense is the first time that he becomes independent of a parent figure, without knowing.

Stephen then reflects on song lyrics about “…the wild rose blossoms on the little green place”(20). This silly song about roses and grass is a way for Stephen to express himself and push out the unconscious fear of his paternal figure. This song allows Stephen to be a child and not be concerned with any other issues in his life. Stephen then remembers the first time he “wet the bed”(20) and the “queer smell”(20) after his mother put on an “oilsheet”(20). Stephen is now old enough and “ has passed beyond being changed , but he wants to return to it”(Brivic 280) he wants to have his mother “wipe off his parts, an action that is omitted but inevitable” (Brivic 280). Stephen unconsciously wants to be taken care of and nurtured by his mother. His mother, who had a “nicer smell than his father”… “played on the piano the sailor’s hornpipe for him to dance”(21). Stephen’s mother is clearly a nurturing female but is also “…one of the women principally responsible for introducing him to a hostile external world…”(Henke 318) which Stephen discovers later in his life. Stephen than dances and sings “Tralala lala tralala tralaladdy”(21). The nonverbal language of Stephen’s singing reveals that he is in “…the preoedipal stage, in which the child at first does not even recognize its independence from its mother” and “ is also a preverbal stage, one in which the child communicates without the medium of language…”(Lacan 268-269). As stated above Stephen is using these words and silly rhymes to unconsciously detach himself from his mother. James continues to describe another one of Stephen’s memories about his childhood.

Stephen also remembers Uncle Charles and Dante as they clapped with the music and also reflects about his neighbor Eileen. When they “were grown up he was going to marry Eileen”(21) than Stephen “hid under the table”(21) and his mother said, “O Stephen will apologise” (21). Although not clear to the reader, “Stephen is being punished for wanting to play the role of the father…the minor relationship with Eileen serves as a screen for a deeper mother love…”(Brivic 281). Dante, a maternal figure, then begins to tease him and says, “O, if not the eagles will come and pull out his eyes,”(21). Freud believes that “the loss of eyes is an image of castration, having been established by Oedipus himself”(Brivic 281). Dante is threatening him and he is now afraid of her. Also, “…the idea of castration starts to be important during the phallic or oedipal stage…the child at this stage develops a strong desire, for genital contact with the parent of the opposite gender, desire that is forced out of consciousness by the fear of castration”(Freud 281). Stephen turns this maternal threat into a rhyme, “Pull out his eyes, Apologise, Apologise, Pull out his eyes…”(21). Stephen “ …deals with his threat by turning it into poetry, focusing on the formal qualities of language…”(Helene 281). Stephen officially uses words and poetry to push out his fear of castration and not being comforted, but rather scolded by his mother and Dante. In the next passage Stephen will find a deeper connection with his art after his loss of innocence and uses poetry to avoid maternal fears and sadness.

The second passage takes place during Stephen’s adolescence. He is more experienced and has felt new emotions and desires. Stephen is at a bar with his father and some of his father’s childhood friends. Stephen watches, “as his father and his two cronies drank to the memory of their past” (94). Stephen observes his father drink and socialize, when in the first passage his father was reading him a story about a “moocow”. The innocence that Stephen use to have is gone and the relationship between him and his father is tarnished, now that he knows that his father too was once a young boy who lost his innocence. Stephen feels that “his mind seemed older than theirs…”(94) and “no life or youth stirred in him as it had stirred in them”(94). Stephen realizes that he has never had friendships or “filial piety”(94) like his father has and feels that he is older than his father and his friends. He has always been consumed with the art of writing and school and has not formed close friendships. Stephen’s “childhood was dead or lost and with it his soul capable of simple joys…” (94). Stephen has lost his innocence and the ability to love the simple things in life such as silly children’s songs and his father’s stories which brought him joy as a child.

Stephen feels like he is “drifting amid life like the barren shell of the moon” (94). Joyce compares Stephen to the moon to suggest that he is lonely and his emotions are forever changing similar to the cycle of the moon. Stephen than recites the first three lines of a poem and says, “Art thou pale for weariness/Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,/wandering companionless…?”(95). The three verses of this poem connect with Stephen and his place in the world at this very moment. Stephen once again, similar to the first passage uses poetry as a way to escape his unconscious fears, but this time on a deeper level. He fears the power of his father and feels alone and distanced from his mother. Stephen unconsciously believes that he is closer to returning to the care of his mother but “he senses dissatisfaction and emasculation arise linked to father figure …”(Brivic 290). These three verses suggest that Stephen “is pale for weariness” because he has climbed “heaven” and gazed on the earth or rather has seen the world from a beautiful place, but now knows that the world is filled with sinful things which have caused him to lose his innocence and want to return to his mother for comfort. Stephen repeats these lines “of Shelley’s fragment”(95). This poem is titled “To the moon” and Stephen finds comfort in this poem because it is relating to the moon which represents a maternal figure. Stephen has always had his mother to care for him but now his father is drinking with friends and he is left alone. Stephen no longer is being nurtured by his mother and feels lonely without the comfort of a maternal figure. The poem’s “alternation of sad human ineffectualness with vast human cycles of activity chilled him: and he forgot his own human and ineffectual grieving”(95). This sentence reveals that this poem makes Stephen realize how lonely and purposeless human’s lives can be, yet the poem allows him to forget about his own grieving and sadness and serves as a maternal substitute. This form of art or poem takes him to a new place and allows him to forget the feelings of sadness in his life. He has now come full circle and his passion for the art of words is now realized, compared to the first passage when it had just begun. In the third passage Stephen’s ideas about women and art become noticeable and even more connected.

The last passage begins with Stephen awaking, hearing music with his soul “all dewy wet”(193). In the passage previous Stephen encounters a girl whom he is attracted to and the next day awakes in such a manner which suggests that he has had a sexual dream. It is interesting that Stephen hears music when awaking from this erotic dream because he often describes poetry and words with music. This suggests that “his ideas are dictated by his desires to build an intellectual edifice to shelter him from neurotic anxiety, an art to fulfill a maternal function”(Brivic 293). Although Stephen often argues that art does not trigger desire or a kinetic emotion, in this case it seems as though he feels the same way about art as he does about females: desirous.

Stephen “lay still, as if his soul lay amid cool waters, conscious of faint sweet music”(193). Stephen is clearly content and at peace with himself. Stephen’s “soul was waking slowly, fearing to awake wholly”(193). This quotation alludes to Stephen’s feelings of comfort and warmth of his mother’s womb. When babies are first born they cry because they are exposed to the air and are uncomfortable, and Stephen “fears” leaving this dreaming state or “womb”. Stephen than says that “The night had been enchanted”(193) and “he had known the ecstasy of seraphic life”(193). He than asks himself: “Was it an instant of enchantment only or long hours and days and years and ages?(193). These quotations also suggest that Stephen is symbolically leaving the womb due to the fact that it was night time and dark which relates with the womb. Also, the fact that he remembers this feeling from years or ages ago suggests that he remembers this feeling from when he himself was in his mother’s womb. Stephen is than struck with inspiration and says “O! In the virgin womb of the imagination the word was made flesh” and “an afterglow deepened within his spirit, whence the white flame had passed, deepening to a rose and the ardent light”(193). Stephen alludes to the Virgin Mary, the purest of all females and states that words were created within her womb, revealing that his love for words is deeply connected with his mother and her womb. He is “lured by that ardent roselike glow the choirs of the seraphim were falling from heaven”(193). He than listens to the choirs of fallen angels and states verses of poetry: “Are you not weary of ardent ways lure of the fallen seraphim? Tell no more of enchanted days” (193). In these verses Stephen is “calling on women to give up their traditional role of temptress and free themselves to face reality”(Brivic 294). Stephen wants to be able to have a normal relationship with a woman because in the past and present he is has difficulty understanding women and the role they play in his life. These “verses passed from his mind to his lips, and, murmuring them over, he felt the rhythmic movement of a villanelle pass through them”(193). Stephen once again finds a connection between his desire for art and women, more specifically feelings of the womb and his mother. Stephen continues to recite the poem: “Your eyes have set man’s heart ablaze and you have had your will of him. Are you not weary of ardent ways?”(194). The reference to eyes, according to Richard Wasson has “phallic value… throughout the novel generally being either aggressive and piercing or defeated and downcast”(Wasson 283), suggesting that woman’s intimacy and maternal characteristics have also hurt Stephen and “set his heart” on fire because he has become too dependent on them. As mentioned in the first passage, Stephen now also views his mother as “…one of the women principally responsible for introducing him to a hostile external world…”(Henke 318) and he finds it difficult to live independent from his mother. Eventually the rhythm dies away and “Above the flame the smoke of praise goes up from ocean rim to rim tell no more of enchanted days”(194).

Then Stephen’s “lips began to murmur the verses over and over again; then went on stumbling through half verses, stammering and baffled; then stopped. The heart’s cry was broken”(194). This passage reveals that after Stephen has symbolically left the womb he is somewhat agitated and uncomfortable. In order to relieve himself of his discomfort he recites the lines to himself over and over , similar to the way that a mother rocks a baby when they are crying. Stephen uses his art or rather words to substitute as a maternal figure which calms him and stops his “crying”.

In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce reveals that Stephen has transitioned from child to artist due to his fixation with maternal figures and the womb. At first Stephen is a young innocent boy who finds joy in reading stories yet as he grows older his unconscious fears related with his parental issues take control of him and he uses art to avoid these fears. As Stephen grows his art becomes more and more apart of his daily life. More experiences with women lead to more suppressed unconscious fears which lead Stephen to immerse himself completely in his art.

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