Stephen Dedalus Term Paper

Pages: 10 (3261 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 25  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature


Within James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses, we find a semiautobiographical rendering of Joyce's fully autobiographical conception of himself, called Stephen Hero. This project, Joyce was writing along with his stories in Dubliners; it was exceptionally long, but held more truly to his understanding of himself than Portrait or Ulysses would do. The hero of these tales, Stephen Dedalus, serves as the focal point of both novels, through his thoughts and actions, and should be viewed as the abridged version of Stephen Hero. Regarding this project, Joyce found that to achieve publication of his central notions surrounding Stephen and himself, he would need to choose aspects of his autobiographical work. Thus, the more factually based autobiography transformed, gradually, into an almost allegorical tale of an artist besieged by his surroundings. In this light, the Stephen Dedalus we see within the pages of Portrait stands as the link between Stephen Hero/James Joyce and the Stephen Dedalus portrayed in Ulysses. Truly, it is an evolution from the specific -- Joyce -- to the general -- universal modern man -- which is spurred by Joyce's attempts to mold an interpretation of his life into something utterly attainable and relatable to his perceived audience.Get full Download Microsoft Word File access
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Term Paper on Stephen Dedalus Assignment

At the heart of the idea that Stephen Dedalus can represent the universal modern man, is Joyce's struggle with himself to convey his own life into words. "By March 13, 1906, Joyce writes publisher Grant Richards that he has already finished 914 pages of an autobiographical novel, twenty five chapters running to 150,000 words, but he is still only half done and unable at that time 'to think the rest of the book much less to write it.'" by 1908 Joyce, in a fit of despair, destroyed a portion of this massive novel and started again; three years later it had definitively taken the form and title of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. This facet of Dedalus began its serial publication in 1914 within the Egoist in London; just as it was conceived simultaneously with Dubliners; it was published almost as simultaneously. However, by this time Joyce was already putting together Ulysses. This novel would complete the transition from the exceedingly specific and relative portrayal of Dedalus as Joyce, to the broader portrayal of Dedalus as the model of humanity.

Dedalus, in Portrait, is handled with both irony and sympathy. Joyce is forced to break from his subjective notion of himself, to recognize that Dedalus' battle against orthodoxy is commendable, yet the character's impatient skepticism regarding the external world remains somewhat pretentious. "In Book Five of a Portrait, Stephen became a mock Christ figure, preaching his gospel of aesthetics to bored and sometimes gibing apostles. In Ulysses, Stephen is a more human figure than he appeared to be at the end of the earlier novel." Essentially, in Portrait Stephen, through his education, is forced to grapple with the issues of his nationality, religion, and morality; ultimately, he comes to the conclusion that his life should be led as something of a detached artist. So, this is perhaps how he could be perceived as something analogous to Christ. However, a better analogy could be drawn between Stephen -- within Portrait -- and the Buddha: Stephen's ultimate realization of his role within the word and society comes about through reflection and experience. He was not born with the divine knowledge of truth; instead, his spiritual and intellectual development coincides with his physical development via the external world.

From this perspective, it is possible to see Stephen's progression as an individual as occurring in stages and surrounded by events. In Portrait, he undergoes four major transformations. The first is, largely, as result of upbringing from a family embroiled in financial difficulties, and the transposition of himself into a prestigious school. Through Clongowes, Stephen grows from a completely naive child, into "a bright student who understands social interactions and can begin to make sense of the world around him." The second external event that alters him intellectually and emotionally is his experience with the Dublin prostitute: this is his physical manifestation of his emotional impurity. His third transition stands as his spiritual repentance regarding his previous experience and what brought him there. Although this too is progressive in nature, it surrounds an event as well: Father Arnall's speech on death and hell impels Stephen into his zealous affiliation with Catholicism. The final modification to Stephen's character takes the form of a choice he is forced to make -- either to become a Jesuit or to attend the university. His choice of the university over Catholicism mirrors his internal move from ardent religious follower to a pursuer of beauty. It is in this respect that Stephen becomes an artist, and it is through these alterations to his personality that such a characterization is possible.

Ulysses picks up where Stephen's growth in Portrait left off. In Paris he finds that he is facing numerous emotional problems; largely, brought about from his mental break from the norms of society, and particularly, those around him. Much of Stephen's separation can be understood through his character's contrast to Buck Mulligan. Whereas Mulligan seems fearless, sometimes brutal, and interpersonal; Stephen, with reference to Mulligan, sees himself as weak, wrought with irrational fears, and socially inept. From this point-of-view, Stephen chooses to abandon his ties to the tower and pursue his remoteness, with the individual hope of uprooting his paternal, nationalistic, and spiritual ties. Stephen is perpetually surrounded by his guilt surrounding sin and immorality. So, his reclusive broodings, and his separation from his family and friends is truly his attempt to escape the hindrances the world attaches to the gradual exultation of the soul. Recognizing this, it is possible to comprehend Stephen's refusal to join the national movement within Ireland, despite his obvious sympathies for the principles involved: he sees political movements as the physical world's false archetype for achieving the spiritual purity he seeks. In this respect, political movements are always doomed to failure, regardless of any perceived successes.

Along these same lines, Stephen -- and consequently, Joyce -- views the emerging Irish renaissance, headed by Yeats, as an assured method for cultural suicide. He recognizes that the reassertion of Celtic and pagan roots is still only significant with consideration for the historical and ideological ties Ireland still has to Rome and Britain. Therefore, they are just as insignificant, if no more so, than direct Irish affiliations with English and classical thought. Despite this intellectual and spiritual abyss Stephen finds himself in, the tone of Ulysses remains decisively optimistic; the reader is led to believe that there is an escape from these pitfalls, even if it is not readily apparent.

Identifying this progression of Stephen Dedalus, within the societal confines of confusion and sin, a picture begins to emerge of James Joyce which can help to explain why he would borrow so heavily from his own experiences and personality for the creation of his hero. Richard Ellman, in his biography of Joyce, writes, "The life of an artist, but particularly that of Joyce, differs from the lives of other persons in that its events are becoming artistic sources even as they command attention. Instead of allowing each day, pushed back by the next, to lapse into imprecise memory, he shapes again the experiences which shaped him." In short, Joyce is an artist and he believes that art should be a reflection of the beauty within the human soul. If we accept this premise, then it is possible to understand why Joyce places interpretations of his own soul's progression into his art. Were anyone capable of fully capturing the fundamental nature of the human spirit, such a work would be the final and complete culmination of art; however, since Joyce is only privy to his own soul's growth, the most reasonable attempt to mimic what it might have to say is through Stephen's analogous development. Joseph Conrad writes, "Art itself may be defined as a single-minded attempt to render the highest kind of justice to the visible universe, by bringing to light the truth, manifold and one, underlying its every aspect." This truth can best be portrayed as the interpretation of the external world by the internal, to Joyce -- and to Conrad as well. So, if this formulation of art is specifically what Joyce strives for, then we should anticipate Stephen Hero to be Joyce seen through the mental lens of Joyce himself.

Doubtlessly, this is pure abstract speculation; yet, an avenue exists by which Stephen's moral confusion and Joyce's autobiographical depiction can be reconciled within this conception of art. In the opening of "Scylla and Charybdil" in Ulysses, Stephen unfolds his particularly unique argument for how Shakespeare's plays can be understood as facets of a broad framework of his own autobiography. Although the argument for Shakespeare is rather weak, and not even accepted by Stephen, the fact that he argues it is significant for Stephen's and Joyce's relationship.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Stephen Dedalus" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Stephen Dedalus.  (2005, May 14).  Retrieved December 3, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Stephen Dedalus."  14 May 2005.  Web.  3 December 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Stephen Dedalus."  May 14, 2005.  Accessed December 3, 2020.