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portrait of the artist as a young man
artist as a young man
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The Clench For Independence
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In the novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Stephen, the main character, and his mother depict the relationship between England and Ireland. Leading up to chapter four, Stephen has been discovering himself as a “man”, one way was by going to prostitutes, which he later confesses.

Joyce, the author, uses the word “caress” two times within nine pages, stating that this word has a significant meaning. When Stephen is realizing that even after his confession he has to constantly think about not sinning, the images and voices from the canticles beckon upon him, “An inaudible voice seemed to caress the soul, telling her names and glories, bidding her arise as for espousal and come away, bidding her look fourth, a spouse, from Amana and from the mountains of the leopards…” (164). Joyce is displaying the coming of age story of Stephen by disclosing the word “caress” which denotes to a loving touch or motherly touch and is a feminine word, relating to Stephen’s mother. This word is associated with the touch of a woman, mostly a mother would caress her child, showing Stephen is still young and longs to be held by his mom.

Joyce makes the point that Stephen is still naïve, very clear when he uses the word “caress” again. As Stephen is leaving the meeting he had with the director about becoming a priest, he notices, “He held open the heavy hall door and gave his hand as if already to a companion in the spiritual life. Stephen passed out on to the wide platform above the steps and was conscious of the caress of mild evening air.” (173). Although the word “caress” is used in a different context, Joyce is still emphasizing that Stephen is always conscious of his want to be held and how the world is revolving around him. In addition, Joyce uses the word “companion” to highlight Stephen and his mother are companions not only in the home, but also in their spiritual journey. By using particular words such as “caress” and “companion”, Joyce is asserting that Stephen is still young and even though he may think he is getting older, by going to prostitutes and having urges for sex, Stephen still needs the attachment to his mother.

In the history of the world, this can be viewed as the relationship between Ireland and England. Stephen represents Ireland and his mom represents England because, for one, England is the dominant force, and Stephen’s mother raised Stephen and is older then him. Stephen may think he is mature enough to be an equal with his mom and independent, but in reality, Stephen doesn’t have enough power to break away from his mother, therefore they are always attached.

In the relationship between Ireland and England, Joyce is showing Ireland wants to win independence, but is heavily reliant on England, that Ireland doesn’t know what it would do without England supporting it. Therefore, Ireland can’t win the revolution because it is scared of its vulnerability without England there to protect it.

The relationship between England and Ireland, and Stephen and his mother reveal truths about Ireland during her revolutionary period. In chapter four while Stephen was waiting to see if he got accepted into college, he milled around the town thinking, “Yes, his mother was hostile to the idea, as he had read her listless silence. Yet her mistrust pricked him more keenly than his father’s pride and he thought coldly how he had watched the faith which was fading down is his soul aging and strengthening in her eyes.” (178). Joyce conveys that Stephen values his mother’s opinion and in turn Stephen wants to please her although he also wants to be independent. By using the word “hostile” Joyce is describing that Stephen’s mother is not a fan of the idea of Stephen going to college, and then the word “mistrust” shows Stephen is unhappy that his mother is not pleased. This represents that his mom is the dominant force and even more dominant than Stephen’s father because Stephen values his mother’s opinion more than his “father’s pride”.

Between Ireland and England, this shows Ireland wants to break away from England, but then again Ireland also doesn’t want to make England mad by rebelling. Showing that England is by far the dominant country over Ireland, Joyce could be revealing that Ireland is not making progress in its rebellion against England because while it wants freedom, it also wants to be held, and this contradictory idea cannot be satisfied for each end. Through A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce reveals the struggle Ireland is having with itself during its period of revolution by using Stephen and his mother to display the conflict.


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