A Portrait of the Artist as a Young ManLiterature

Use of Myth in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

8 Mins read

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is the story of a younger man named Stephen Dedalus. In the novel, we observe him from his earliest of childhood memories as much as the point where he leaves for France to pursue a profession as a literary theorist. There are many various theoretical approaches which were taken to discuss Portrait. It has been mentioned from a Marxist perspective, taking a look at Stephen’s class origin and his opportunities all through the book. It has been mentioned from a psychoanalytic perspective, taking a look at his actions and motivations all through. It has been mentioned from a feminist perspective, trying on the roles of women in Stephen’s growth. The perspective that’s maybe essentially the most fascinating to look at, is the mythological perspective. At first look the connection to Greek mythology appears to be completely superficial, limited solely to Stephen’s last name, Dedalus. In actuality the connection goes a lot deeper then that, particularly when you think about the truth that Joyce made such efficient use of the Homeric epic, The Odyssey, within the sequel to Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses.

We will find upon close examination of the story of Daedelus the Artificer and his son Icarus, that using the myth in Portrait shouldn’t be merely superficial, because it first seems to be, however fairly a guiding thread all through the story.

The story of Daedelus the artificer is an expansive and sordid story. His story begins in Athens where he’s already a well-known artisan and craftsman. He is exiled after his attempted homicide of his nephew Perdix, who he feared would surpass his potential. He flees to Crete where he becomes the architect, artist, and craftsman for King Minos. He is the one liable for creating the wooden bull for the Queen Pasiphae so she will be able to slake her lust for the divine white bull who was a present from the god Poseidon to King Minos. It is he who builds the Labyrinth to imprison the unholy offspring of that union, the Minotaur. It is he who lastly overcomes the labyrinth by creating wings of wax for his son Icarus and himself. After he escapes, he lives a protracted and fruitful life within the land of Sicily.

The first proof of the Daedelus myth in Portrait is on the very first page. The story of Stephen Dedalus begins with a fairy story that his father instructed him when he was a child, with a clear thoughts ready for teaching. The fist line of Portrait is:

“Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo….”

Already, within the first line of the book we’re introduced to 3 images that inform us that we’re coping with a narrative that attracts explicitly from the Daedelus myth. The first is a sign that we’re within the realm of myth; the phrase “Once upon a time,” the stereotypical opening line for fairy tales and myth. This is a deliberate alternative on the part of Joyce to get us into the general mindset of a fairy story.

The second indication discovered within the first line is the reference to a “moocow.” As the moocow walked down the street he “met” a little boy. The use of this phrase “met” is critical. It personifies the bull, giving him the power to “meet” somebody, versus recognizing them or deferring to them. This personification of the bull brings out the thought of a humanized bull, just like the Minotaur.

Read About: Stream of Consciousness in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

The third point within the first line that points to the Daedelus myth is the name of the little boy, “tuckoo.” This name is probably nonsensical, however it’s possible that it’s a reference to the sound a bird would possibly make. This is only extrapolation, however a plausible extrapolation since there’s one other bird reference not a page later speaking in regards to the eagle, and since bird imagery is actually not in brief provide all through the novel.

The repercussions of his actions had been never of great significance to Daedelus. He created for himself a world and life theory where morality was relative, to not social acceptability, however to art and science, and that was all that ever mattered. In the quote above, if we were to change the phrase “centuries” to “decades” and alter the spelling of “Daedelus” to “Dedalus” the remainder of the quote would match Stephen Dedalus simply in addition to Daedelus the artificer. Stephen, like the unique Daedelus, is barely considering what he finds to be necessary; his personal seek for truth. The individualism and ethical ambiguity that they share is what drives Stephen’s character growth and what drives the development of the story. A vital distinction in these stories is that Daedelus the artificer is already morally ambiguous after we encounter him, as is evidenced by the truth that he would try and homicide his own nephew simply to take care of his standing as the best. The story of Stephen Dedalus, is the story of how the 2 of them got here to be the identical.

These events usually tackle the figurative form of a labyrinth in Portrait. The novel is nothing roughly than a collection of events that result in Stephen’s eventual ethical ambiguity by way of his continuous imprisonment in, and extraction from these labyrinths. In the original myth, the labyrinth is a large stone maze made to comprise and imprison the Minotaur and his victims. It was so efficient, that solely three individuals ever made it out: Theseus, a courageous warrior and prince from Athens, Daedelus, and his son Icarus. In Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the labyrinth is represented by something that retains Stephen restrained, confined, or lost. There are passages all through the story that make the world around Stephen appear very very like the labyrinth wherein Daedelus turns into trapped. These passages are sometimes accompanied by main turning factors or choices that Stephen faces. For instance, the first time Stephen walks down the road lined with prostitutes, the environment are described as “a maze of narrow and dirty streets.”  The similar sort of description might be discovered within the description of the streets of Cork, the description of Stephens school as a child, and the streets that he walks through along with his friend Lynch whereas explaining his aesthetic theory. Though the literal labyrinths discovered all through the novel are necessary, their major function is to underscore and provide assist to the thought of the figurative labyrinth from which Stephen is making an attempt to flee.

The most necessary labyrinths in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man are those that discover Stephen trapped inside his personal thoughts. These images are discovered all through the novel and are at all times associated to one of many three organizations that rule Stephens life: the church, the family, and the nation. Shortly after his visit to the prostitutes, Stephen finds himself trapped in a labyrinth of sin associated to the church:

“He had sinned mortally not once but many times and he knew that, while he stood in danger of eternal damnation for the first sin alone, by every succeeding sin he multiplied his guilt and his punishment. His days and works and thoughts could make not atonement for him, the fountains of sanctifying grace have ceased to refresh his soul.”

In this passage, Stephen acknowledges the character of sin, as defined by the church, is a degrading precept; sin results in more sin, more sin results in extra damnation. It is a self-defeating cycle, except you make a concerted effort to take away your self from it, which Stephen finally does. This sort of psychological labyrinth additionally seem alongside aspect the physical labyrinth throughout Stephen’s journey to Cork immediately after his father tries to provide him recommendation to stay by. His thoughts are paralyzed by the thought of taking his fathers recommendation and submitting to the labyrinth of household life: “He could scarcely interpret the letters of the signboards of the shops… He could respond to no earthly or human appeal, dumb and insensible to the call of summer and gladness and companionship, wearied and dejected by this father’s voice”.

The Minotaur that terrorizes the occupants of those varied labyrinths represents the authority figures that attempt to suck Stephen into their world; within the case the last instance the Minotaur is Stephen’s father. In chapter 4 Stephen is asked to affix the Jesuit order by the director of his school. In chapter 5, Stephen’s friend Davin asks him to grow to be extra actively concerned in his Irish heritage and nation. If Stephen had been to take his father’s advice, or take an energetic function in his heritage, or join the Jesuit order, he would in impact turn out to be a permanent resident of the labyrinth, however Stephen’s specific ability is his skill to interrupt out of the labyrinths that may maintain him hostage.

This capability is one other trait that binds him to Daedelus the Artificer. “The mythical Daedelus was imprisoned in a labyrinth… and escaped by inventing wings. He is a symbol therefore, not only of the rebel who breaks out of his prison, but of the inventor who creates the instrument of his escape. He is both man and artist.”

Throughout the novel Stephen removes himself from various labyrinths, however usually simply strikes from the frying pan into the fire. In order to flee the labyrinth of religion and structure in school, he turned to the secular pursuit of sexual gratification and located himself as an alternative within the labyrinth of sin. In order to take away himself from the labyrinth of sin, he returned once more to the labyrinth of religion and ultimately discovered himself confronted by the Minotaur himself, the director of his school, asking Stephen to turn out to be a Jesuit. Like Daedelus the artist, Stephen removes himself expertly from the labyrinths he’s confronted with: he merely rebels towards the principals they uphold, no matter they might be. In the end of the novel nevertheless Stephen, like his namesake, “creates the instrument of his escape”, his aesthetic theory.

Read About: Theory of Aesthetics in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Stephen’s aesthetic theory is his personal creation, and the tool that he hopes will take away him as soon as and for all from the labyrinths that pursue him. It has an impact on the story in two methods: physical and psychological. The physical impact of his elimination from the labyrinth by his idea is caused on the end of the novel when he leaves for France. This actually removes him from his family, his church, and his nation. Mentally he’s faraway from the labyrinths by the nature of the speculation itself. Stephens intent upon creating his aesthetic theory was to create a common principal to guide the evaluation and creation of fiction. What he did actually achieved was to create a morally ambiguous body work that he may use to evaluate the world and his choices. By making use of Aquinas’s quote “Three things are needed for beauty, wholeness, harmony, and radiance,” Stephen takes the judgment of what’s of worth away from society and places it within the hands of the person. Wholeness, harmony, and radiance are relative phrases that may change from individual to individual. Hence, if Stephen doesn’t view family, the church, or the nation as whole, in harmony, and radiant, he has no accountability to them.

The remaining aspect of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, that is the escape itself. When Daedelus and his son Icarus escape from the labyrinth they use wings made from wax. Daedelus warned his son to not fly too near the sun because it will soften his wings and he would fall. These wings are represented all through the novel by the bird imagery. If you read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man without any consideration for its sequel Ulysses, there’s a case to be made each methods. On the one hand Stephen did make it to Paris and so far as we all know with out Ulysses, made it within the literary world. On the other hand now we have the pattern arrange all through the novel of Stephen escaping one labyrinth solely to search out himself in one other. At the end of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce actually does go away it for the reader to resolve whether or not Stephen is Daedelus or Icarus.

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