Book Review On World Literature
‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’ questions
What are some themes that emerge, or are further developed, in chapter 4?
The most dominant theme that develops in the chapter is that of ‘The shortfalls of Religious Extremism’ and ‘The Significance of Art’. Stephen is met with the tough choice of choosing a between a life of priesthood and that of pursuing art when the director asks him to give a good thought on whether or not he has ever felt a compelling desire to pursue a vocation in priesthood. Stephen takes the time to consider living a life within the confines of the church. He is initially intrigued as he pictures himself a respected man of cloth, admired for his strong devotion and silent responsibility to the church. He feels enthralled as he imagines the ordered life that awaits him. He however begins to feel a sense of heaviness in his heart as he contemplates a different path in life. He discovers that his disorderly nature and appreciation for beauty and art might restrict him from acquiring the inner freedom he has always been searching for. He acknowledges that his true fate may lie in learning wisdom from amidst the snares of the world rather than from the refuge in the church.
What is Stephen like at the beginning of the chapter?
In the beginning of Chapter 4, Stephen is a thoughtful and sensitive teenage boy. Up until the moment he his offered the chance of joining the Jesuit order as a priest; his life has always been about religion. At this point Stephen has already confessed his sins and had even tried to purify himself. His superiors have noticed his remarkable transformation and renewed devotion and hence thought of offering him the opportunity to join the Jesuits. He is however still blindly trusting in the church as he tries to push away the passionate thoughts and emotions of guilt as well as religious ecstasy. Stephen is also still unaware of his true call in life as he fights numerous feelings, thoughts and emotions swirling around his head.
In what way does Stephen experience a lack of fulfillment?
For Stephen, he feels constrained by his family, country, school and religion together with the self-imposed restraints he has placed to himself. He is therefore unable to comfortably and independently express himself. Stephen is furthermore haunted by the ghosts of his father’s and mother’s lives. Stephen does not want to imagine ending up nostalgic and bitter like his nether does he welcomes the thought of following in his mother’s religious piety. The political upheaval in Ireland also does little to settle all the questions and puzzles buzzing in his head.
What kind of discipline does Stephen undergo? Cite some specific examples.
Stephen undergoes a transformation from his imposed religious fanaticism to a new devotion of beauty. This is seen in a number of illustrations. During his conversation with the director of the Jesuit school for example, when the director referred to the robe as a "jupe," which means "skirt" in French, Stephen had felt awkward since his thoughts had immediately shifted to women's undergarments, indicating his intense love for beauty. When offered an opportunity to enter the Jesuit order, he also refused, but instead chose to join the university. This is furthermore reinforced with his epiphany when after seeing a lady wading by the beach; his eyes were opened to his true calling of being an artist.
How does Joyce use diction and detail in the scene with Stephen and the director?
Diction and detail are used to create and emphasis on the comments by the school director's on the words "jupe," which mean "skirt," in French. This is very important because it helps to bring out the character of Stephen as more inclined to the artistic world than on religion. This because it indicates that the place of the Virgin Mary in Stephen's heart has been replaced by another woman whose undergarments Stephen first imagines from the conversation and hence signaling his turning away from the church.
Why is Stephen attracted to the idea of becoming a priest?
Stephen clings to the idea of priesthood and religion because he views it as a source of stability in his confused, disorganized and turbulent life. He is therefore drawn to the thought of pursuing priesthood since he views it as an opportunity to build a strong barrier from the raging emotions within him. He imagines it the best way to show his devotion to absolute belief of morals in the church.
What repels him from the priesthood?
Stephen however has a great aesthetic objection and dislike at the thought of becoming a priest. The washed out character of the director of the Jesuit School helps him to further form a strong resentment for the position. Although he is appealed by the abstract level idea of religious piety, the idea of dressing, walking, living and talking like a priest in humble devotion becomes aesthetically unpleasant to him. This is particularly due to his strong aesthetic inclinations.
What does Stephen see as a means of escape toward the end of the chapter?
For Stephen, he finds that art is the only avenue than can truly offer him an escape from all of the constraints suppressing his growth as the artist he should be. He perceives art as the abstract independent realm where he is free to remake a world that best fits his ideals and aesthetic values. His obsession with the aesthetic theory gives an indication that art as compared to religion is more relevant to the emotions with which he struggles.
What epiphany does Stephen have as he looks at the girl gazing out to sea? Note some of the diction that he uses to describe his experience.
When he saw wading girl at the beach, he was stricken with a sudden realization that he could actually appreciate beauty and that there was nothing shameful and guilty about it. This made him realize that his love for sensual beauty superseded that of the austerity of priesthood and religiosity. This therefore transforms him from the near fanatical religiousness he had started to grow accustomed to, to the new devotion beauty and art. He consequently makes the ultimate decision to celebrate and embrace the diversity and beauty of life and humanity. The girl, to him, symbolized the pure goodness of a life that has been lived to its fullest.
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