ng Desires within a DoctrineA Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: Conflicting Desires within a DoctrineIn the story, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, written by JamesJoyce, the main character Stephen Dedalus has many encounters with women. Womenand sexuality are major influences on Stephen’s adolescent life. Another majorfactor that has an influence on Stephen’s life is the Church. Women andsexuality conflict with the Church and its beliefs, and that is one of Stephen’smajor problems thus far.
Stephen is having a very big identity crisis, frombeing a God fearing Catholic to a very hormonal teenager.
As Stephen sits at the “adults” dinner table for the first time, hisfather, Mr. Casey and Dante are fighting about religion and politics in Ireland.
As they are arguing, Stephen’s train of thought leads him to think about Eileen.
Eileen Vance was the little girl that Stephen wanted to marry when he wasyounger. She is described to have ivory hands and golden hair, which confusesStephen with the phrases, “Tower of Ivory” and “House of Gold” which is part ofthe Roman Catholic Litany of Our Lady.
Later when Stephen is at school, he againthinks about Eileen. Stephen gets his first sensual experience from Eileen whenshe puts her hand into his pocket and touches his hand. Stephen gets quiteconfused with the terms of the Litany of Our Lady so he starts to associate the”Tower of Ivory” and “House of Gold” to Eileen. The way James Joyce describesthe scene, “She had put her hand into his pocket where his hand was and he hadfelt how cool and thin and soft her hand was.”(43) gives the reader the ideathat Stephen enjoyed the feeling. The only problem with Eileen was that she wasa Protestant and Stephen was a Catholic. Stephen also associates women with theVirgin Mary, who was the mother of Jesus Christ. He thinks women as pure, justas Mary was and since he already associated the “Tower of Ivory” and “House ofGold” with Eileen, he assumes her to be like the Virgin.
Another influence of women in Stephen’s life comes from the story “TheCount of Monte Cristo” while reading this story, Stephen starts to fantasizeabout Mercedes. As he fantasizes, he tries to bring her to life through anothergirl, known as E.C.. He has many sexual longings for E.C. but can not understandand is frustrated by his feelings. Knowing that his thoughts and his actions”perhaps he had been masturbating” put him into mortal sin, Stephen is veryburdened. Alas, Stephen is overwhelmed by his desires and ends up going to aprostitute. This prostitute is a mix of what he was looking for in a woman, theMercedes characteristics “she came over to him and embraced him gaily andgravely her arms held him firmly to her”(101) and the motherly/purecharacteristics ” she passed her tinkling hand through his hair, calling him alittle rascal.”(101). Although Stephen knows that he is sinning he wants tobreak away somehow from the good of nature and experience what it feels like tobe fallen like Adam or Lucifer.
When Stephen hears the sermon by Father Arnall, he feels remorseful ofhis actions. He thinks that the sermon is totally focused on him. And fromhearing this sermon, Stephen decides to change his ways back towards the church.
He does such a good job of being “Holy” that he is asked to join the priesthood.
But this makes him go on a surge of power hunger. He thinks of all the power andrespect he will get if he joins the priesthood and of all the secrets that hewill hear of women and girls. This again makes him to think lustfully and makeshim sin. He finally decides that instead of entering priesthood, or for thatmatter, even live a religious life, he would become an artist and free himselffrom the doctrines of religion. When Stephen makes this decision, another girlis influential in making this happen. Stephen sees a girl on the beach and he istaken by her physically beauty but also compares her to an “angel of mortalyouth and beauty.” She was what all the girls before her were except more. Thisgirl tells Stephen to go towards art and so that is how he finally decides tolead his life.
Stephen has experienced many different feelings that were conflictingwithin him from his own desires to the doctrines of the Catholic Church. Throughout his adolescent life was a roller-coaster of emotions of sexual desires andguilt of having those desires and confusion because of the guilty feelings. Alot of the confusion, stems from the absence of a strong recognition of his ownself. He was always confused with his feelings and what he thought the churchexpected him to feel. However, in the end, he seems to have figured out what hewanted through another desire, so I wonder if he will actually achieve what hewants to or will he fail and become confused again. English
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