Thursday, March 27, 2008

Feminism in The Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man.

James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was once a nearly completed rewrite of the original abandoned novel “Stephen Hero.” Joyce original script was partly destroyed in a fit of rage during an argument with Nora, James Joyce’s love, companion, and wife. Nora, resident to the land of Ireland, asserted that Joyce’s novel would never be published. However, the opposite thing happened, since Joyce’s novel was indeed published. This achievement symbolizes Joyce’s ability of creation, just like a woman. In this bildungsroman novel, Joyce depicts a gifted young man who is trying to find himself in the streets of Ireland, encompassing him are women, male authority and the roman catholic church. The main character, Stephen Daedalus, is based upon Joyce himself for Stephen who is trying to stand up for its beliefs. The feminism power that he knows he possesses.

Stephen bildungsroman comes from the impact of woman in his life as he tries to find a way through politics, religions and the influential people of Ireland. As the novel comes to life, Stephen is able to control his emotion, except when it comes to women. In their company, Stephen turns up his “ valve” at once and “opened the spiritual-heroic refrigerating apparatus.” (Henke330) Stephen is able to freeze up his emotions, finding a way to control them. As Stephen becomes older, disappointment arises as he notices the way his mother chose to let him go. Stephen fears of rejection, results from his shyness towards women. Stephen knows what lies ahead; nevertheless, he is fascinated by the image of women, for he cannot bring himself to stop thinking about them. Often during moments of darkness, and struggles, Stephen finds himself thinking of the comfort and the care of his mother. Other times, Stephen finds himself in the bed of a prostitute whom he knows would never reject him. Stephen searches for the mother figure in himself and all his fantasies.

The book initiates with Stephen trying to understand life but finding himself trapped in a dichotomical environment. At a very young age, Stephen finds himself encompassed by the different views and opinions leading him to start labeling people and what goes around him: the roles of father and mother, the idea of religion and politics, and the two sides of a woman: a pure women or an object of desire.

As a young man, Stephen is comforted by the presence of his mother around him since she is the one who gave birth to him. She protected and loved him. Stephen feels safe around her for the comfort that he receives from her. However as young boy, Stephen goes through the phallic stage. It is where Stephen realizes his mother’s differences. With the phallic stage, comes the idea of castration based on the Psychoanalytic Criticism and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, “…Around ages of four and five, the child 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”(Brivic281). The fear of becoming less of a man frightens Stephen. Even after he left his mother’s wings and inscribes in one of the best Jesuits school in Ireland, Stephen perception of castration did not come to an end.

In school, Stephen often finds himself in the dark because of him feeling emasculated by being bullied. It is during those moments of darkness that Stephen looks for protection and comfort. After many of those bad episodes, Stephen finds himself thinking about his dearly loved mother. Stephen knows it was only when he was in his mother’s womb alienated, that he truly felt safe. He decided to alienate himself to avoid everything that stops him from succeeding as an artist. Throughout his college year, Stephen finds himself alienated by his fellow classmate.

One of Stephen isolation occur when his fellow classmate were making fun of Simon Moonan for being a teacher’s pet, Stephen finds himself in the “white” laboratory paying close attention to his body parts. The laboratory makes him feels “cold and hot” (24), an uncomfortable and uncontrollable feeling. Stephen goes noticing the two knobs that can be turned and the water that comes out: “cold and hot.” James Joyce, with a simple understanding of the world, is able to make Stephen pay attention to the smallest details of life. In time, Stephen can see the name printed on the corks and “that was a queer thing.”(24) Seeing the name printed on the corks is an example of explaining how Stephen is aware of his mother opposite gender. Since Joyce clearly shows that Stephen’s mother did not have a cork, therefore the name printed on the corks was not her name. Stephen now knows the difference between a man and a woman since he notices how “queer” for pointing out the body parts of individuals.

To continue, Stephen feels the air of the corridor chill him and Stephen explains that he feels “queer and wettish” (24). This idea can be seen as Stephen makes his way out of his mother’s womb where “ the air of the corridor” the air in mid way got him since the corridor of the mother is spreading like a blooming flower. “But soon the gas would be lit and in burning it made a light noise like a little song” (24) just as the other forcing herself by pushing the being within her and as the baby makes its apparition, “it makes a light noise like a little song.” The “little song” can only be heard by people near Stephen, from individual surrounds him. It is only when the “fellows stopped talking” that you could hear the light noise. Stephen is aware of how strongly his mother affects him and the importance of her in his life.

As Stephen becomes older, Stephen finds himself behaving to what is morally right and wrong. Those lessons were captive by him from the persistence of his mother. “O Stephen will apologise” (21) She always says. Apologizing to an individual is not a very manly thing one often does, but Stephen’s morality and good judgment keeps him away from alcohol as he stares at his father and his friends getting drunk.

As Stephen watches over his father and “his two cronies drink to the memory of their past” (94) Stephen chooses not to drink because the idea of being drunk doesn’t please him. He knows when someone is drunk, that individual no longer has control of himself or herself. His mind seems older than theirs at that moment for it shone “ coldly on their strifes and happiness and regrets like a moon upon a younger earth.” (94) Stephen can no longer think of the last time he was happy or the last time he regretted something because Stephen has been vigilant of everything. Like the moon shone upon a younger earth, Stephen shone upon his father and his father’s friends, even though younger “ no life stirred in him.” Since Stephen has been refrigerated his feelings, emotions, by wanting to control every move that he makes. Stephen, no longer was living life like normal people, he found himself controlling it. From being more aware as Stephen has become of life, he did not know neither the “pleasure of companionship, or the vigour of rude male health nor filial piety.”(94) Stephen resented the companionship of a woman for he knows that he could not resist them. Stephen remembers how it was only the “cold and cruel and loveless lust that could stirred within his soul.” That is the reason why Stephen has chosen to create his own bird -lady. In his imagination, Stephen dreams of Mercedes, a character in the book of The Count of Monte Cristo. Since the female icon in his dream remains mute says Suzette Henke in the bird-Girl: Aesthetic muse from Suzette Henke Stephen Dedalus and Women: a Feminist reading of Portrait stated that the perfect women for Stephen should be “mute, fetishzed, perpetually mediated object of desire” (330) Stephen did not know either the rude male health since most rich man where into politic or other business, Stephen chooses not to take part with them. He also did not feel or have any dutiful respect towards his parents since they did not protect him when he needed it. Stephen no longer knew how to be a child given that “his childhood was dead or lost and with his soul capable of simple joy.” Stephen was wandering amid life like a “ Barron shell of the moon.” (94) Stephen did not have any friends; Stephen was lonely just like the moon “ as thou pale for weariness/ of climbing heaven and going on earth/ wandering companionless.” (94) Those lines of Shelby Fragment show how Stephen’s ineffectualness and his life activity became a cycle; an infinite life without happiness. Stephen life had becoming a sad life without end. Stephen had now forgotten his: “own human” his own dreams and how to grieve. The course of Stephen’s life had changed; Stephen no longer was pleasing himself since he was living a controlled life, by freezing his emotions and feelings. Stephen had forgotten his own humanity.

Moreover, when Stephen becomes aware of his mistakes, Stephen quickly backfires in the opposite direction. Stephen goes through many phases of life in others to truly find himself. As a young child, Stephen dreams of becoming a priest but thinking of what he enjoys doing, being a priest would have crushed his soul.

His destiny was to be elusive of social or religious orders. The wisdom appeal did not touch him to the quick. He was destined to learn his own wisdom of others himself wandering among the snares of the world. The snares of the world were its ways of sin. He would fall. Not too fall was too hard, too hard: and he felt the silent lapse of his soul…. (148)

By accepting life as it is, Stephen let down all his insecurity. By taking time to rest his mind, Stephen could now see above him the vast indifferent dome and the calm processes of the heavenly bodies. Stephen is observing and noticing the world that he lives in. “As he thinks of the earth that had borne him, that had taken him to her breast” (156) both the earth and female that had breast feeding him have the ability to create and feed their creation. Stephen takes everything in as he closes his eyes in the languor of sleep. By closing his eyes, Stephen represents a newborn. Nothing worries him as he looks forward to a new beginning. “His soul was swooning into a new world, dim, and uncertain as under sea” but Stephen goes on:

But I will tell you also what I do not fear. I do not fear to be alone or to be spurned for another or to leave whatever I have to leave. And I am not afraid to make a mistake, even a great mistake, a lifelong mistake and perhaps as long as eternity too. (218)

Stephen no longer was afraid or ashamed to admire or take notice of a woman. Not only does Stephen sees the world as a flower, but also perceives women as flowers as well... “An opening flower spreads in “endless succession to itself breaking in full crimson” the first steps of living, as the mother opens up to let the baby make its way. Then “unfolding and fading the palest rose, leaf by leaf and wave of light, flooding all the heavens with its soft flushes.” At the moment the last leaf is unfolded, a beautiful art is created and as well as the last petal unfold in a flower, beauty is created. Then “evening had fallen… He rose slowly and recalling the rapture of his sleep, sighted at its joys.” (156) Stephen is able to wake up the next morning, which shows that that blooming flower is still strong, especially being compare to a woman. A good thing about flower is its characteristic of being able to survive in sunlight. Also, flowers are able to function at night for they are able to capture the light of the moon. Stephen is able to lean more towards his feminism, his inner self because of his fascination of reproduction; a beautiful piece of work.
In conclusion, Stephen realizes that his life is to live, to err, to fall, to recreate life out of life; realizing that all he ever wanted was freedom, to be free of the environment that he was raised in. Stephen stated:

I will tell you what I will do and what I will not do. I will not serve that in which I no longer believes in whether it call itself my home, my father land or my church: And I will try to express myself in some role of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using form my defense the only arms I allow myself to use, silence, exile, and cunning. (218)

This shows how much Stephen has grown. Stephen no longer lets himself be intimidated by neither his peers nor the society. He has become someone with a voice. Someone who no longer lets himself be bullied. Stephen chooses to take a stand. During the phallic stage, his parent’s impact on him and him doubting himself is long gone. By accepting himself first, other people such as his mother have learned to accept him for who he is. She sent her blessing while away from Ireland.

26 April: Mother is putting my new secondhand clothes in order. 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. Amen. So be it. 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 conscious of my race. (224)

Though, Stephen respects her mother and knows the impact that she has in his life, he will not allow her to make his decision. However, it is because of his mother that Stephen chooses to become an artist. Stephen is fascinated by the idea of creation, fascinated with the bond that a creator has with his creation. The bond of God with his children, the bond of a mother to its child and the bond of an artist to its work. For Stephen, this bond represents is what we call beauty.

James,Joyce. A Portrait of The Artist as a Young Man. Ed.R.Brandon.Kershner. Massachussetts, Boston 2006

Sheldon Brivic. Psychoanalytic perspective The Disjuncture Structure of Joyce’s Portrait

Henke Suzette. A Feminist Perspective. Stephen Dedalus and Women: A feminist Reading of Portrait

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