Portrait Of The Artist As Young Man
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man By: Valerie Gomez Stephen Dedalus, the
main character in most of James Joyce’s writings, is said to be a reflection
of Joyce himself. In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the reader follows

Stephen as he develops from a young child into a young artist, overcoming many
conflicts both internally and externally, and narrowly escaping a life long
commitment to the clergy. Through Joyce’s use of free indirect style, all of

Stephen’s speech, actions, and thoughts are filtered through the narrator of
the story. However, since Joyce so strongly identifies with Stephen, his
character’s style and personality greatly influence the narrator. This use of
free indirect style and stylistic contagion makes Joyce’s use of descriptive
language one of his most valuable tools in accurately depicting Stephen

Dedalus’s developing ideals of feminine beauty. As a very young child Stephen
is taught to idealize the Virgin Mary for her purity and holiness. She is
described to Stephen as "a tower of Ivory" and a "House of

Gold" (p.35). Stephen takes this literally and becomes confused as to how
these beautiful elements of ivory and gold could make up a human being. This
confusion is important in that it shows Stephen’s inability to grasp
abstraction. He is a young child who does not yet understand how someone can say
one thing and mean something else. This also explains his trouble in the future
with solving the riddles and puzzles presented to him by his classmates at

Clongowes. Stephen is very thoughtful and observant and looks for his own way to
explain or rationalize the things that he does not understand. In this manner he
can find those traits that he associates with the Blessed Mary in his protestant
playmate Eileen. Her hands are "long and white and thin and cold and soft.

That was ivory: a cold white thing. That was the meaning of Tower of Ivory"
(p.36). "Her fair hair had streamed out behind her like gold in the
sun" (p.43). To Stephen that is the meaning of House of Gold. He then
attributes Eileen’s ivory hands to the fact that she is a girl and generalized
these traits to all females. This produces a major conflict for Stephen when his
tutor, Dante, tells him not to play with Eileen because she is a Protestant and

Protestants don’t understand the Catholic faith and therefore will make a
mockery of it. His ideas about women being unattainable are confirmed. The

Virgin Mary is divine and therefore out of reach for mortals. Now Eileen, the
human representation of the Blessed Mary, is out of reach as well because

Stephen is not allowed to play with her. In chapter two an amazing
transformation takes place in Stephen from a young innocent child who believes
women are unattainable and who idealizes the Virgin Mary, into a young teen with
awakening sexual desires. As Stephen matures into adolescence, he becomes
increasingly aware of his sexuality, which at times is confusing to him. At the
beginning of the second chapter in A Portrait, we find Stephen associating
feminine beauty with the heroine Mercedes in Alexander Dumont Pere’s The Count
of Monte Cristo. "Outside Blackrock, on the road that led to the mountains,
stood a small whitewashed house in the garden of which grew many rosebushes: and
in this house, he told himself, another Mercedes lived....there appeared an
image of himself, grown older and sadder, standing in a moonlit garden with

Mercedes who had so many years before slighted his love..."(p. 62-3). These
fantasies about Mercedes are the first real step for Stephen in challenging the
church’s view of women, but again he feels as though this image of women is
out of his reach. She is a fictional character in a Romantic Adventure novel and
he can only imagine himself with her. Although Mercedes may not be real, the
feelings that Stephen has and the emotions she provokes in him are very real.
"...As he brooded upon her image, a strange unrest crept into his
blood." (p.64). "...but a premonition which led him on told him that
this image would, without any overt act of his, encounter him... and in that
moment of supreme tenderness he would be transfigured. He would fade into
something impalpable under her eyes and then in a moment, he would be
transfigured. Weakness and timidity and inexperience would fall from him that
magic moment." (p.65). Stephen realizes that some transformation is going
to take place, and Joyce emphasizes the words