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


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 thetraces of impressionism. The novel belongs to the genre of theBildungsroman which denotes the formative influences of artist's life.However the novel is also a Kunstlerroman showing the artisticdevelopments of the novelist. Joyce uses epiphany as a mode ofnarrative. For Joyce Epiphany is a spiritual manifestation. The novel isinclusive of the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centurypolitical and cultural landscape of Ireland.

In the novel Joycetries to link smells with ideas. His mother put an oil-sheet and it had afetid odor. His mother had a nicer smell than his father. The sensationof smells is put into epiphanies of ideas. Using smells as a motif weget to understand the workings of the consciousness of the writer.

Thenovel begins with Stephen's life in college and his saying goodbye tohis father and mother. One incident that happened in school isworthwhile mentioning. Joyce gets caned for not doing his work. Theexcuse that he has lost his glasses does not bear convincing fruit withthe Jesuit.

Again in the novel Stephen encounters the word 'suck'.For him it is a queer word and he births it into a nourishingintellectual catharsis. Stephen is homesick in college and longs to beat home.

There's an episode in the novel where his fellowcolleagues end up teasing Stephen for having kissed his mother whilegoing to bed. The kiss becomes a song of embarrassment for Stephen. Onother hand like Proust, Stephen remembers the kiss of his mother withmetaphoric fondness. Soft, tender and wet is the kiss for Stephen.

Stephenrecollects the discussion on Politics which has taken place at hishome. The discussion is about Parnell the Irish liberator who had toquit politics when he became accused of illicit promiscuity. Parnellbecomes a shameful hero, an ugly toad of tempest brewing in the minds ofIrish people.

There is a description about Stephen's passionateencounter with a hustler. Her embrace was passionate as poetry. Going tobed with her was a honey of ecstasy. Stephen becomes confronted withChristian virtues and becomes confessional before a priest. Stephenwrites a remarkable epiphany of guilt and passion. Probably thisincident would have led to the generation of the artist in him.

Thereare some remarkable views on pity, terror, art and aesthetics in thenovel. Let's examine the Joyce's narrative on pity and terror. 'Pity isthe feeling which arrests the mind in the presence of whatsoever isgrave and constant human suffering and unites it with the sufferer.Terror is the feeling which arrests the mind in whatsoever is grave andconstant in human suffering and unites it with a secret cause'. Pity istreated on a lower dimension and resembles Aristotelian notion ofcatharsis. Terror on the other hand is deep rooted in angst andresembles the experience of nausea in existential philosophy.

Rhythmfor Stephen is the 'formal aesthetic relation of part to part in anyaesthetic whole or of an aesthetic whole to its part'. Stephen's idea ofrhythm is similar to Nietzsche's theory of art which speaks of theDionysian element of rhythm.

'Sound, Shape and color are theprison gates of our soul-an image of beauty we have come to understandthat is art'. This is in tune with Ezra Pound's definition poeticimagism as an 'image which is an intellectual and aesthetic complex'.

'Art'said Stephen 'is the human disposition of the sensible or intelligiblematter for an aesthetic end.' For example the smile of Mona Liza isknown for its aesthetic sense because of its mystic mysteriousness.'Beauty' for Stephen 'is the splendor of truth'; this can befamiliarized with Keats' dictum: 'Truth is beauty: beauty truth'.

Thereare three forms of art for Stephen, the lyrical, the epic and thedramatic. A lyrical form is where 'the artist presents his image inimmediate relation to himself': the epical form is the one where 'theartist presents his image in immediate relation to himself and toothers': and the dramatic form is the one where 'the artist presents hisimage in immediate to relation to others'.

Article by Bose Anand; Article Source: