James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
It can be said that throughout his entire novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce does not believe that a lot of his revelations actually came from the spiritual realm, or at least to not be swayed by the divine, especially because being that he does not have any real connections to the Catholic Church, which was his religion as a child. On the other hand, using the sacred to label revelations that are considered to be sacred provided to Stephen Dedalus, James Joyce utilizes the inkling of "epiphany" ("act of given the impression of something" (1) to bring about new illumination to the protagonist of his novel which brings him further away from the cloth and as a result, nearer to his goal of turning into an artist. "The Joycean epiphany still reflected to be is still 'a sudden spiritual manifestation' in which an object's 'soul can be observed as something that is leaping 'to us from the garment of the way it looks'."(2) The person that is doing the reading will need to get an understating that epiphany prepares him throughout the novel to accept and be strong in his eventual "martyrdom" of his old life and his rebirth to the new, where his suffering is no longer and he achieves the highest place he desires in the end: that of an artist.
It is noticed that Stephen's name itself is derived from St. Stephen, the first martyr, who is mentioned in the book of Acts. Before being put to death, Stephen gives his own personal defense for his faith in Christ and therefore, when he cannot be refuted by the Sanhedrin, he is stoned. One of the most significant connections Joyce has made between Stephen and his character is that both receive epiphanies through their death in their old lives and rebirth into the new. St. Stephen is recorded to have said before he died, "Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God....LORD Jesus, receive my spirit!...Lord, do not keep an account of their sin!"(3) Stephen is mentioned only in Acts of the Apostles, where he is used to introduce Saul (the future Paul) as a cowardly participant in the martyrdom of Stephen. Without Acts, we would know nothing of Stephen, the first Christian martyr.
Stephen in the bible is basically described as performing miracles and changing many of the Jews, but was arrested and placed on trial. Instead of defending himself at the trial, Acts portrays Stephen as basically insulting the Jews and then proclaiming to the world that he could, during that very moment, was able to see God sitting on his throne in heaven. Of course Stephen in the novel did not see anything that was supernatural. After this happened, as mentioned earlier, the angry Jews picked up some stone and the hurled them at Stephen, while Saul was holding kmtheir coats. One can basically almost see a similar tone to Stephen's last words in the novel, "my father, my father old artificer, stand me now and also ever in good stead."(4) Stephen, as showed all throughout the novel, attains numerous epiphanies, mostly those of his stimulus to write, his understandings of the mistakes in the church, his opinions on the beauty of women and in the end, his leaving Ireland for Paris.
When it comes down to the character of Stephen it appears to be many faces to this young man. He is fearful and yet at the same times he is bold, uncertain yet proud, isolated and at the same time afraid to truly love. This is similar to Samson in the bible who was very bold and yet insecure especially when it came down to women. Bot characters Samson and Stephen had a weakness for women. Stephen is a romantic who is constantly daydreaming of daring heroes and virginal stars. The other is a radical at the household which is on Dublin's most sleazy streets. Stephen is basically too shy to kiss the young lady he desires for.
Samson in the bible was a little shy as well all the way to the point that it is very clear that he is weak. The other readily turns to prostitutes to content his sexual urges. One is a timid outsider who had been bullied severely by his classmates. The other is very brave enough to confront and query those that are in authority. This was similar to Stephen in the New Testament went the went before judges and literally just told them to their face that he was not going to give in to their pressures.
In the novel, one sincerely expects to become a priest. The other skeptically discards religion. Stephen very much crazy about his mother, yet ultimately hurts in the end by refusing her Catholic faith. Trained to respect his father, it is impossible to get it out of his mind that this man is basically a drunken failure. Hopeless as a continuous outsider, the young man lacks what it takes to just be normal to fit in so that he could have lasting and true friendships. "Is there anyone that you have ever loved?" his companion student, Cranly, makes a mention to him. "I really tried to fall in love with God," Stephen mentions. "But now it appears that I have failed him." The force that ultimately marries these inconsistent Stephens is his crushing desire to turn into this artist, so that he could create. This is similar to Jesus in the New Testament where he had a gift of being a carpenter which he really enjoyed doing. At the novel's starting point, the reader is able to see him as a baby artist that his whistling "his song." Ultimately we'll see him enlarge that song into great rhyme and philosophies of art. It is clear that he is gifted just like Jesus was supernaturally gifted. Each contributed something different to their environment. At the book's he runs away from his family and makes art his religion, whereas Jesus had to leave his family and embark on his short ministry of bringing souls in to the kingdom.
In her essay "The Misprison of Vision: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," Deborah Pope, brings up the point that "Joyce frequently uses the linguistic of spirituality and theology that is conventional in order to expand and send the nature of the expressive strength caused by a worldly epiphany."(5) Even Stephen himself was able to clarify his practice of words he does really not understand himself especially when he mentions things like "Words that he really did not know he would really repeat them over and over to himself all the way up to the point where he was able to understand them himself and then eventually he started to have glimpses of the real world regarding who he was."(6) It is endeavored to be revealed that through this heavenly language, Joyce means to provide a dimension to the martyr that is exposed in such stories as that of St. Stephen. The individual usually has to protect his/her perspective and then bears suffering for what they truly believe in or what is dear to their heart. In spite of everything, the martyr starts getting an epiphany through all of the suffering and really starts to learn a lot of what they have been going through, permitting it to let that person grow even stronger. Stephen portrays this throughout the novel but however in the new testament, Stephen live was cut short so he was not able to express much about what he had learned other than the fact to stand up for what you believe in even to the point of death which he had done.
To give a sample of divine language for earthly epiphany (Pope really makes a mention to this throughout the novel), Stephen's conference with the prostitute and his ultimate yielding to her sexually is labeled in a way quite meaningful of man's association to God, where Joyce makes the note: "It was more than what he could bare. Before he knew it, his eyes were shut yielding himself to her, body and mind, aware of nothing in the world but the dim weight of her tenderly parting lips."(7) This is parallel of what the bible mentions of the prostitute, how it explains how men are lured into her. For instance, in Proverbs 6: 26. For on account of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread: and the adulteress hunted for the precious life. It is thought-provoking to note Stephen's imprisonment to the prostitute in his yielding himself to her being contrasted against the appearance of the Virgin Mary, where Joyce inscribes that "The splendors of Mary detained his soul captive...representing the valuableness of God's gifts to her depth."(8)