Thursday, April 3, 2008

James Joyce Explication

Perfection is not a word often used to characterize many people. Humans almost always have someone or something that they think is superior to them in a certain field or aspect in life. In the novel, A Portrait of The Artist As A Young Man, the author, James Joyce, suggests that Stephen, the main character’s, the women in Stephen’s life prevent him from free self-expression. All three passages deal with Stephen’s internal struggle with women. Suppression makes people think of the ways to get out of their shackles, not all routes are the same but they have the same purpose. Even though at the beginning Stephen seem to be oblivious to the fact of his suppression the act of committing such a impure sin opens his eyes to the truth. Joyce suggests this with his use of imagery of the roses/red and the symbols behind the woman in his life. The image of the roses parallel Stephen’s thought of women when the reader reads the passage it is almost as if the reader is tapping into Stephen’s unconscious. Stephen’s unconscious reveals his original true thoughts of women and what they are like in his mind. The author’s use of diction adds to the feeling that the reader is in-fact hearing Stephen’s unconscious thoughts.

When Stephen is in school in one of his classes the thought of roses is sparked. At this point in the novel Stephen has not yet committed his sin and is still a young and impressionable child. While not paying attention to the lesson Stephen’s mind starts to wander which is common with children he says,

Stephen tried his best but the sum was too hard and he felt confused. The little silk badge with the rose on it that pinned on the breast of his jacket began to flutter. He was no good at sums but he tried his best so that York might not lose. Father Arnall’s face looked very black but he was not in a wax: he was laughing. Then Jack Lawton cracked his fingers and Father Arnall looked at his copybook and said: -- Right. Bravo Lancaster! The red rose wins. Come on now, York! Forge ahead! Jack Lawton looked over from his side. The little silk badge with the red rose on it looked very rich because he had a blue sailor to on it. (25)

The class is playing a game with the psalms with the theme of English civil war, War of the Roses. There was symbolism behind the roses worn by the nobles during the War of the Roses. Yorks wore the white roses representing the Virgin Mary and purity; the Lancasters wore the red roses it was unknown why but in this case a sinful nature because whatever is against pureness and holiness is impurity and sin. Stephen is very young at this time and wearing the white rose is representing Stephen purity, he is only a child.

The outcome of the game is that the team Lancaster or the red roses win. Stephen goes on to say, “White roses and red roses: those were the most beautiful colours to think of. And the cards for first place second place and third place were beautiful colours too: pink and cream and lavender” The shortness of the sentence and how Stephen does not elaborate on this thought and the statement is straight to the point; it gives the reader a sense that it’s an unconscious, daydream thought. Joyce is foreshadowing when he uses the roses. Everyone knows that roses are beautiful and are that most famous flower but in the end it is just a plant that eventually will wither away and die in due time.

Stephen continues his thought saying, “Perhaps a wild rose might be like those colours and he remembered the song about the wild rose blossoms on the little green place. But you could not have a green rose. But perhaps somewhere in the world you could.” The green rose is said to symbolize fertility and Stephen is referring to himself when he mentions it. Stephen is not a woman and he can’t create another human being because of the simple fact that he is a man. Joyce uses a lot of foreshadowing and in the end the reader can see that Stephen is in fact the wild rose that is talked about in the passage. Going away form Ireland and his mother is what makes Stephen the wild rose blossom. In the end he has to spread his wings and leave behind the person he used to be and the life that was once his.

Stephen, in the second passage, has already committed his sin with the strumpets. The red rose has tainted him. He seeks forgiveness for his mistake. In this scene is now with the priests slowly spitting out his confession. Readers can see how religion has such a big effect on Stephen.
- How long is it since your last confession, my child?
- A long time, father.
- A month, my child?
- Longer, father.
- Three months, my child?
- Longer, father.
- Six months?
- Eight months, father…(133)
The sentences are so short and chopped up. It’s like the father is forcing the truth out of Stephen. Joyce then proceeds to add amazing imagery:
He did not know. His sins trickled from his lips, one by one, trickled in shameful drops from his soul festering and oozing like a sore, and squalid stream of vice. The last sins oozed forth, sluggish, filthy. There was no more to tell. He bowed his head, overcome. (133)
The imagery in this passage is so specific and detailed. It really gives the reader a feeling that Stephen, after all the stress he went through is slowly pouring out his unclean, nasty sins to the father. It’s got his conscious so hung up for the longest time. Questioning his image in God’s eyes.
The father orders Stephen to, “Pray to our mother Mary to help you.” He says, “ She will help you, my child. Pray to Our Blessed Lady when that sin comes into your mind.” (134) Stephen is ordered to ask repentance and pray to The Virgin Mary in order to keep these thoughts away from his mind. The tone of the passage was like the father was pleading with Stephen not to committee this kind of sin. The Virgin Mary is a symbol of pureness. She was a true follower of God and a sin free woman. She is perfection in human form. In the beginning of the novel Stephen sees his mother as a perfect and pure woman too.

Repenting and apologizing are very similar actions. People repent to God to once again be on “Good” term with him and return to the “light” after doing something that might offend God like a sin. Just like repenting people apologize to get back on good terms with a person who they have hurt or offended. It’s as if these women have power over Stephen. They tell him what to do and how to act. Of course the mothers will do that because of the simple fact that they are the mothers and The Virgin Mary is a symbol of what people of the Catholic faith should strive to be like and believers have the famous commandments that help them reach their goal of perfection. Stephen has these rules set for him to follow and he disobeyed and is now apologizing or repenting for this one huge sin. These rules keep him sheltered from the real world. After his apology “He knelt to say his penance, praying in a corner of the dark nave: and his prayers ascended to heaven from his purified heart like perfume streaming upwards from a heart of white roes.” This is the total opposite of what Stephen was feeling a little while ago. The imagery was so dark and gloomy and now it sound like Stephen is getting this heavy weight that he has carried for such a long time lifted off his shoulders and the purified white rose is once again pinned to his shirt.

The third passage comes from the end of the novel. The scene is when Stephen decides to leave his home country, Ireland and Cranly and him have their discussion. Cranly has a failed attempt at trying to get Stephen to comeback to the “light” and mostly. Stephen tone is sarcastic and Cranly gets annoyed. This passage
-Your mother must have gone through a good deal of suffering, he said then. Would you not try to save her from suffering more even if… or would you?
-If I could, Stephen said. That would cost me very little.
Stephen sounds like he doesn’t care. He loves his mother but is sounds like it’s time for him to break free. “Your mother brings you into the world, carries you first in her body. What do we know about what she feels? But whatever she feels, it, at least, must be real. It must be”, Stephen says. Stephen still loves his mother but it’s time to be free.

It is time for Stephen to move on. Stephen’s mother’s love is not the question. It’s the motherly instinct that makes Stephen flee from Ireland. The rose may wither but the life it contains will always go on with the seeds that it plants.

1 comment:

Stephanie P. 5 said...

I think this was one of my best explications. I could have done better in the end but I thought it was on the way of becoming a good explication.