Filter Your Search Results:

Development in A Portrait Of The Artist As a Young Man Essay


James Joyces Development of a Young Artist

As an account of the formative years of ambitious author Stephen Dedalus, James Joyces A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man suggests by the title that the focus covers events in Stephens life relevant to his development as an artist. On a moral spectrum, Stephens development ranges from devout Catholicism to the depths of sin, and as the driving forces behind this moral ambiguity shift him between the two; Stephen eventually puts himself in the center of the spectrum, independent of both. Joyces meaning in the artistic development process of self-definition and epiphany is a culmination of the sexual, religious and mythological inspiration that becomes Stephens art as he derives knowledge and experience from these driving forces.

The influence of women and sexual emotions drives Stephen to develop artistically to use women and sexuality as inspiration. One of the most prominent examples of the ability women have to influence Stephens art is found in chapter 2. While on a tram home, Stephen finds a girl attractive, and his sexual drive transforms Stephen into a romantic. -She too wants me to catch hold of her, he thought. Thats why she came with me to the tram. I could easily catch hold of her when she comes up to my step: nobody is looking. I could hold her and kiss her (70). Stephen is frustrated as he is unable find the audacity to do as he fanaticizes; instead this girls physical beauty and Stephens imagined romance inspire him to write a poem about his imagined romance. Usually quiet, timid, and lacking confidence, Stephen by dint of brooding on the incident, he thought himself into confidence (70). As this incident suggests, Stephen must be influenced by a real event, but more so influenced by his feelings and fantasies. These feelings and fantasies give Stephen the inspiration to create art, and in turn the inspiration gives Stephen the gusto of an artist. Therefore, as this real incident develops Stephen physically, it derives Stephens artistic ability and state of mind, thereby developing him into that of an artist.

Significant also to the development of Stephens ability and inspiration are the moral extremes Stephen experiences in the forms of extreme lust and fanatical religious devotion that are derived from the influences of religion and women, through the experience gained by spending time in these moral extremes, Stephen resolves to be inspired by these driving forces rather than influenced or subordinate. Even when Stephen indulges in sin, it is through the form of a prostitute, a woman influence. Stephen seems to understand that women hold the power to transform him; he prophetically imagines that upon a successful consummation of the sexual act, "weakness and timidity and inexperience would fall from him" (65). Women, in Stephen's mind, are the channel through which strength, boldness, and -- perhaps most importantly -- experience can be obtained. As the incident on the tram showed, Stephen cannot create art without the inspiration of a real-life incident.Clearly, he would prefer that his experiences have fruitful, rather than frustrating, outcomes; however, he is unable to actively obtain such a goal. In a sense, he is emasculate, lacking both the strength and boldness to initiate a sexual encounter. Eventually, the frustration becomes too much for him, and he seeks the services of a prostitute. Even after having taken this initial step, however, Stephen remains passive: it is he who wishes "to be held firmly in her arms" (101) and who ultimately "surrender[s] himself to her" (101). Not until she embraces him does he feel "strong and fearless and sure of himself" (101). At last, through the prostitute's active contribution, Stephen receives the sexual experience he so desires, and confirms his premonition that women can transfer experience to him through sex. This experimentation changes Stephen in that now he can have confidence and the experience he desired, suggested by James Joyces rich sensory detail such as Stephens feelings during sex: conscious of nothing in the world but the dark pressure of her softly parting lips and between them he felt an unknown and timid pressure, darker than the swoon of sin, softer than sound or odour (101). Stephen, through the influence of the prostitute, received not only life experience, but a departure from the normality of his life which only included a classical view of art, school, and religious bindings. This allows for Stephen to become avant-garde, to create art for the sake of himself, and not that of the church, school, or status quo. However as Stephens bad morals show his departure of his way of life, it is not long before he is influenced once more by women, and this is shown through the opposite moral extreme. In the midst of his departure from Catholic doctrine, he finds himself drawn to the paragon of purity, the Virgin Mary. He feels close to "the refuge of sinners" (105) -- despite the fact that he commits sin upon sin -- and associates her with sex when, "after the frenzy of his body's lust had spent itself" (105), his thoughts turn to "her whose beauty is not like earthly beauty" (116). Once again, the image of a woman enraptures Stephen and inspires his imagination; but when he decides to confess his sins and seek the shelter of the Virgin, he temporarily places the moral purity she represents above his own initial fascination with her physical beauty. Stephen simultaneously starts to become incredibly pious, with a fervent respect to the Virgin Mary to reconcile for his sins, but also to her physical appearance, much like an artist would picture her. Stephen's rigorous program of spiritual self-discipline is impressive, and demonstrates his extraordinary earnestness. The asceticism that he willingly adopts demonstrates his strength of will and suggests his heroism. Stephen displays an astonishing ability to overcome his bodily longings and to affirm the superiority of the soul. In doing so, he proves his similarity to martyrs and saints. However, Joyce suggests that a saint's life may not be desirable for Stephen. Joyce's style, which is richly detailed and concretely sensual in earlier sections of the novel, now becomes extremely dry, abstract, and academic. This style corresponds with Stephen's psychological state: as Stephen becomes more ascetic and self-depriving, Joyce's language loses its colorful adjectives and complex syntax. Stephen also suggests this by questioning his new lifestyle:

Often when he had confessed his doubts and scruplessome momentary inattention at prayer, a movement of trival anger in his soul or a subtle wilfulness in speech or acthe was bidden by his confessor to name some sin of his past life before absolution was given him. He named it with humility and shame and repented of it once more. It humiliated and shamed him to think that he would never be freed from it wholly, however holily he might live or whatever virtues or perfections he might attain. A restless feeling of guilt would always be present with him: he would confess and repent and be absolved, confess and repent again and be absolved again, fruitlessly. Perhaps that first hasty confession wrung from him by the fear of hell had not been good? Perhaps, concerned only for his imminent doom, he had not had sincere sorrow for his sin? But the surest sign that his confession had been good and that he had had sincere sorrow for his sin was, he knew, the amendment of his life.

I have amended my life, have I not? he asked himself. (153)

Stephens questioning of his ascetic lifestyle, and therefore the questioning of this moral extreme is significant because now that he has explored this strict way of life, he realizes by asking whether or not he has amended his life that life is not meant to be lived in sin, or in complete pious devotion. Rather, he finds himself bound to the lifestyle of an artist: secular and non-devotional. This secularism expands his artistic abilities and is a key point in his development in that through his experiences that rather than be influenced to the point of being guided by either his lust or devotion, he can instead be inspired artistically, and guided independently. Through this realization Stephen can define himself as an artist because of the separation of his art and way of life.

Stephen experiences an epiphany in the form of inspiration from a female and his mythological namesake, cementing and applying his newfound self-defining, artistic, and self-guiding realization. In Chapter Four Stephen becomes aware of his mythological namesake Daedalus. As Stephens friends address him by this name, he begins to look at himself differently as he notices affinities between himself and the renowned mythic artist Daedalus. Much like Daedalus crafting wings to escape prison, and Icaruss (Daedaluss son) demise of flying too high, he escaped his parents expectation of becoming a priest by choosing art, yet he must balance his desire to leave Ireland with overestimating his abilities. he meets a woman bathing in the ocean. She notices his eyes worshiping her, and Stephen proceeds to walk toward her (171). This womans artistic figure is inspiration for Stephen to go on with this self-fulfilling prophecy of becoming an artist as Her image had passed into his soul for ever and no word had broken the holy silence of his ecstasy. Her eyes had called him and his soul had leaped at the call (171). This epiphany is the pinnacle of the culmination of Stephens artistic development through sexual, religious, and mythological inspiration and derived knowledge and experience as Stephen is now fully able to guide himself to create art and becomes aware of the influences, experience, and inspiration that established his new artistic state of mind.

Through sexuality, mythology, religion, and womens influences, Stephen Dedalus is developed artistically into a portrayal of an artist who gains experience and inspiration to come to a realization of his abilities. Joyce uses this realization or epiphany to create meaning behind the derivative of inspiration, and how important the influences, and developmental extremes reflect on ones life work.

You'll need to sign up to view the entire essay.

Sign Up Now, It's FREE
Filter Your Search Results: