Analysis of the Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

James Joyce heralded the birth of the modern novel. He is known for bequeathing the genre of writing in Streams of Consciousness. Portrait of the artist as a young man shows the gestation of Joyce’s soul. Joyce’s literature is marked by anti-realism.
The novel bears the traces of impressionism. The novel belongs to the genre of the Bildungsroman which denotes the formative influences of artist’s life. However the novel is also a Kunstlerroman showing the artistic developments of the novelist. Joyce uses epiphany as a mode of narrative. For Joyce Epiphany is a spiritual manifestation. The novel is inclusive of the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century political and cultural landscape of Ireland.
In the novel Joyce tries to link smells with ideas. His mother put an oil-sheet and it had a fetid odor. His mother had a nicer smell than his father. The sensation of smells is put into epiphanies of ideas. Using smells as a motif we get to understand the workings of the consciousness of the writer.
The novel begins with Stephen’s life in college and his saying goodbye to his father and mother. One incident that happened in school is worthwhile mentioning. Joyce gets caned for not doing his work. The excuse that he has lost his glasses does not bear convincing fruit with the Jesuit.
Again in the novel Stephen encounters the word ‘suck’. For him it is a queer word and he births it into a nourishing intellectual catharsis. Stephen is homesick in college and longs to be at home.
There’s an episode in the novel where his fellow colleagues end up teasing Stephen for having kissed his mother while going to bed. The kiss becomes a song of embarrassment for Stephen. On other hand like Proust, Stephen remembers the kiss of his mother with metaphoric fondness. Soft, tender and wet is the kiss for Stephen.
Stephen recollects the discussion on Politics which has taken place at his home. The discussion is about Parnell the Irish liberator who had to quit politics when he became accused of illicit promiscuity. Parnell becomes a shameful hero, an ugly toad of tempest brewing in the minds of Irish people.
There is a description about Stephen’s passionate encounter with a hustler. Her embrace was passionate as poetry. Going to bed with her was a honey of ecstasy. Stephen becomes confronted with Christian virtues and becomes confessional before a priest. Stephen writes a remarkable epiphany of guilt and passion. Probably this incident would have led to the generation of the artist in him.
There are some remarkable views on pity, terror, art and aesthetics in the novel. Let’s examine the Joyce’s narrative on pity and terror. ‘Pity is the feeling which arrests the mind in the presence of whatsoever is grave and constant human suffering and unites it with the sufferer. Terror is the feeling which arrests the mind in whatsoever is grave and constant in human suffering and unites it with a secret cause’. Pity is treated on a lower dimension and resembles Aristotelian notion of catharsis. Terror on the other hand is deep rooted in angst and resembles the experience of nausea in existential philosophy.
Rhythm for Stephen is the ‘formal aesthetic relation of part to part in any aesthetic whole or of an aesthetic whole to its part’. Stephen’s idea of rhythm is similar to Nietzsche’s theory of art which speaks of the Dionysian element of rhythm.
‘Sound, Shape and color are the prison gates of our soul—an image of beauty we have come to understand that is art’. This is in tune with Ezra Pound’s definition poetic imagism as an ‘image which is an intellectual and aesthetic complex’.
‘Art’ said Stephen ‘is the human disposition of the sensible or intelligible matter for an aesthetic end.’ For example the smile of Mona Liza is known for its aesthetic sense because of its mystic mysteriousness. ‘Beauty’ for Stephen ‘is the splendor of truth’; this can be familiarized with Keats’ dictum: ‘Truth is beauty: beauty truth’.
There are three forms of art for Stephen, the lyrical, the epic and the dramatic. A lyrical form is where ‘the artist presents his image in immediate relation to himself’: the epical form is the one where ‘the artist presents his image in immediate relation to himself and to others’: and the dramatic form is the one where ‘the artist presents his image in immediate to relation to others’.

Advertisements

Dawn

Dawn burst music …
And painted colors,
Purple, Pink and Orange…
Clouds are floating as
Magic realism…
Color echoes poetry …
Clouds dance in
Nirvana’s delight…
I looked at the blossomed
Flower…
Wonder of God’s creation,
Lord, I find you in all things,
Your mystic mystery of
Creating nature’s lullabies…
Dawn makes me dream…
I am so happy, my soul
Bubbling…
Time is a petal on
Strings of a harp…
I think of the Psalm
Let all things that have
Breath praise the Lord…
I muse on Rilke
Whose poetry is
A catharsis of pantheism…
Wordsworth, you
Are a romantic cloud…
Shelly, you are pouring
Waters from an urn
In the clouds…
Keats you are on wings
Adorning metaphors in
The sky…
Eliot, you are a picture
Of clouds floating
In mystic space…
Ezra Pound hammers
The sun into a
Glowing ball of orange…