Creating multiple stories out of the same source of characters, concepts and themes is reminiscent of classical mythology in which the same story undergoes variations from telling to telling. This suggests that James Joyce, the celebrated modernist, is the newest in a pantheon of classical story tellers who make variations on the Daedalus theme, joining the ranks of Pausanias, Homer, Plato, Pliny, Ovid, Lucian and Dante. The critic Harvey Peter Sucksmith writes, “Like many other great works of art, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is based upon a myth, a traditional archetypal pattern of heroes and events, which is treated, even elaborated, to accommodating the author’s special meaning.” Sucksmith explains that “Just as in Ulysses, Joyce relates his central characters and their stories in different ways, ironic and otherwise, to the personages and events described in Homer’s Odyssey, so in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce underscores the unity and meaning of his work by founding it upon the myth of Daedalus.” (Sucksmith 33)
In his two most famous novels, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and Ulysses (1922), James Joyce gives to one character an ironic moniker; one that often reflects the intertextual symbolism in the stories. In the essay, Dedalus in Crete, the critic John Frederick Nims writes, “Joyce studied Ovid: in the Portrait of the Artist he tells us how he was taught on to construe him in ‘courtly English, made whimsical by the mention of porkers and potsherds and chines of bacon.’ One story particularly impressed him: that of Daedalus, the fabulous artificer; it impressed him so deeply that he gives that name to his rather harsh depiction of himself as an artist and young man.” (Nims 78)
Critics usually look no further than Ovid’s Metamorphoses for the genesis of the Daedalus myth as it applies to Stephen Dedalus, a character in three works by Joyce: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and Ulysses (1922), Stephen Hero (1944); however, there are more useful texts to consult than that which Joyce uses as an epigraph for the novel. This is because Joyce’s reference to the allegory provides insight into the psyche of the protagonist. The famous Swiss psychologist and philosopher, Dr. Carl Gustav Jung writes, “The archetype is a tendency to form such representations of a motif—representations that can vary a great deal in detail without losing their basic pattern.” (Jung 58) And this remains true of the Daedalus myth, as the archetype created therein undergoes variations as it is passed around from storyteller to storyteller.
In this essay, I will show that the development of the protagonist in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (which I consider to be a bildungsroman, for its chronicling of the coming-of-age of its protagonist) may be understood, in part, by the theories of Dr. Carl Gustav Jung in the seminal work, Man and His Symbols (1964). Ultimately, this will help us to realize why Joyce was partial to the Daedalus myth. By learning Jung’s theory of introversion and extroversion we will understand Stephen’s early days of awkwardness and loneliness, his frustration and creative talent. “Childhood,” writes Jung, “is a period of great emotional intensity, and a child’s earliest dreams often manifest in symbolic form the basic structure of the psyche, indicating how it will later shape the destiny of the individual concerned.” (Jung 168) Apropos, in this essay I will also analyze Stephen’s daydreams, by the motifs and symbols he conjures, and thereby we will understand the protagonist, his longings and decision making.
From the beginning of the novel, the reader is given a view of the dark corners of Stephen’s psyche. We learn that he lives in his own world, so to speak, removed from his family.
He hid under the table. His mother said:
—O, Stephen will apologize.
—O, if not, eagles will come and pull out his eyes—
Stephen says to himself – or better, thinks to himself (according to Joseph Strick’s cinematic interpretation from1977):
Pull out his eyes,
Pull out his eyes.
Pull out his eyes,
Pull out his eyes,
The nonsensical-seeming, non sequitur-appearing, stream-of-consciousness uttering shows the reader that Stephen, the child, has a creative mind. (In this scene, he is also tempted by a flirtation with a young Protestant girl; unheard of among the Jesuit peers and authorities that be). Also, the way he interprets the speech of the adults in the room, shows a touch of passive-aggressiveness and a sense of isolation and estrangement felt by the protagonist. His hiding under the table further suggests this analysis. Throughout the story, Stephen shows both his introspection and resentment of authority. An introvert, in his childhood, Stephen feels insecure among his generation. In a scene on the football field at school we witness this:
He kept on the fringe of his line, out of sight of his prefect, out of the reach of the rude feet, feigning to run now and then. He felt his body small and weak amid the throng of players and his eyes were weak and watery.
The critic Harvey Peter Sucksmith also refers to this vignette and draws a Jungian correlation to understand the mind of the protagonist. He writes, “Stephen’s introverted temperament is clearly indicated in the picture of his early childhood…” Sucksmith compares the scenes of Stephen’s childhood and his later development to understand his psyche: “…a psychological process known as ‘individuation’ or the ‘integration of the personality’ is strikingly similar in its general pattern to that of Stephen’s later development.” (Sucksmith 25) According to Jung, “When a child reaches school-age, the phase of building up the ego and of adapting to the outer world begins. This phase generally brings a number of painful shocks.” The theory closely relates to Stephen, “At the same time, some children begin to feel very different from others, and this feeling of being unique brings a certain sadness that is part of the loneliness of many youngsters.” (Jung 168)
This does well to explain young Stephen. Joyce writes of Stephen’s experience at school, “All the boys seemed to him very strange. They had all fathers and mothers and different clothes and voices. He longed to be at home and lay his head on his mother’s lap.” (Joyce 13) And once again, the scene on the football field, “He was caught in the whirlwind of a scrimmage and, fearful of the flashing eyes and muddy boots, bent down to look through the legs.” Stephen’s instinct is to seek isolation. “It would be better to be in the study hall than out there in the cold.” (Joyce 10) As such an introspective and astute thinker, Stephen’s epiphanies culminate in choosing the profession of a writer. Towards the end of the book, the narrator explains that, “Or was it that, being as weak of sight as he was shy of mind, he drew less pleasure from the reflection of the glowing sensible world through the prism of a language many coloured and richly storied than from the contemplation of an inner world of individual emotions mirrored perfectly in a lucid supple periodic prose?” (Joyce 166)
According to Jung, “If the development of consciousness is disturbed in its normal unfolding, children frequently retire from outer or inner difficulties into an inner fortress.” Jung explains, “The actual process of individuation—the conscious coming-to-terms with one’s own inner center (psychic nucleus) or Self—generally begins with a wounding of the personality and the suffering that accompanies it.” (Jung 169) This is probably why Stephen wanted to become a writer, rather than seek a position in the clergy. I shall return to the “process of individuation” as it relates to Stephen, later in the essay.
Stephen’s loneliness and awkwardness in his early school days becomes embedded in his memory and haunts him until eventually said memories manifest themselves in his adult belief system and his behavior. The following vignette describes Stephen’s experience while a student at Jesuit school. He is constantly intimidated by his schoolmates:
On the desk he read the word foetus cut several times in the dark stained wood…A broad shouldered student with a moustache was cutting in the letters with a jack knife, seriously…Stephen’s name was called.
The scene continues, “He hurried down the steps of the theatre so as to be as far away from the vision as he could be and, peering closely at his father’s initials, hid his flushed face.” Then Joyce writes:
…the word and the vision capered before his eyes as he walked back across the quadrangle and towards the college gate. It shocked him to find in the outer world a trace of what he had deemed till then a brutish and individual malady of his own mind. His monstrous reveries came thronging into his memory. They too had sprung up before him, suddenly and furiously, out of mere words.
The description of Stephen’s haunted psyche continues:
He had soon given into them, and allowed them to sweep across and abase his intellect, wondering always where they came from, from what den of monstrous images, and always weak and humble towards others, restless and sickened of himself when they had swept over him.
Stephen, throughout the work, gradually garners an education and subsequent resentment of all cultural institutions: his family, his country, his church, his school. He is, until the novel’s final epiphany, in a state of inner turmoil, and haunted by select memories. Harvey Peter Sucksmith writes, “The subject common to…this fiction is that of a sensitive youth who is at first shaped by his environment but becomes conscious of its pressure and rebels against it to try to find his own identity or individuality. (Sucksmith 8) Some of these resentments seem to develop organically in his character and some, as Jung puts it, begin generally with “a wounding of the personality” and a result of the “suffering that accompanies it.” Another scene from childhood is a dinner conversation in which the adults are engaged in a bitter argument about the church and state:
—Really, Simon, you should not speak that way before Stephen. It’s not right.
—O, he’ll remember all this when he grows up, said Dante hotly—the language he heard against God and religion and priests in his own home.
—Let him remember too, cried Mr Casey to her from across the table, the language with which the priests and the priests’ pawns broke Parnell’s heart and hounded him into his grave. Let him remember that too when he grows up.
Sure enough, in his adult years Stephen rejects the church. He has an epiphany against salvation by the church. After sinning, as a teenager, he thinks to himself, “Devotion had gone by the board. What did it avail to pray when he knew that his soul lusted after its own destruction?” (Joyce 103) In another episode, Stephen tells one of his comrades that he fears “the chemical action which would be set up in my soul by a false homage to a symbol behind which are massed twenty centuries of authority and veneration.” He compares faith in Christ to self-respect, as to opposing forces. “I said that I had lost the faith […] but not that I had lost the self-respect. What kind of liberation would that be to forsaken absurdity which is logical and coherent and to embrace one which is illogical and incoherent? (Joyce 34)
Jung writes, “I am speaking here of things we have consciously seen or heard, and subsequently forgotten…the unconscious, however, has taken note of them, and such subliminal sense perceptions play a significant part in our everyday lives. Without realizing it, they influence the way in which we react to both events and people.” (Jung 20) This suggests that the dinner conversation that Stephen was present to hear became, as suggested by his Aunt Dante, “he’ll remember all this when he grows up,” buried in his subconscious and manifested later when his psychological growth reached the stage of developing ideas about religion. Jung explains, “…forgotten ideas have not ceased to exist. Although they cannot be reproduced at will, they are present in a subliminal state—just beyond the threshold of recall—from which they can rise again spontaneously at any time, often after many years of apparently total oblivion.” (Jung 20) And this speaks volumes of Stephen’s final religious sentiments, after years of pondering a life of devotion. In Stephen Hero, the protagonist writes the following poem:
‘So distantly I turn to view
The shambling of that motley crew,
Those souls that hate the strength that mine has
Steeled in the school of old Aquinas.
Where they have crouched and crawled and prayed
I stand, the self-doomed, unafraid,
Unfellowed, friendless and alone,
Indifferent as the herring-bone,
Firm as the mountain-ridges where
I flash my antlers on the air.’
(Stephen Hero 39)
This underscores the character’s loneliness, “Unfellowed, friendless and alone,” he turns his back on religion, despite his philosophical talents for the learning of the “school of old Aquinas.” In another scenario, after Stephen has sexual intercourse with a prostitute during his teenage years, the narrator describes the epiphany that “His pride in his own sin, his loveless awe of God, told him that his offence was too grievous to be atoned for in whole or in part by a false homage to the Allseeing and Allknowing.” (Joyce 104) Afterwards, Stephen becomes repentant, leaning towards a life in the clergy, then changes his mind once again, cursing his faith altogether.
In all of Joyce’s works, his protagonist undergoes an epiphany, usually a deeply inward and spiritual one. In Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen undergoes a series of epiphanies. Actually the work, rather than being a classic bildungsroman, chronicles the spiritual and mental process of its protagonist. The critic, Harvey Peter Sucksmith, says, “The subject, however, is not so much the artist’s relationships with other characters as his state of mind, the development of his attitudes.” (Sucksmith 8) Aside from being named for the “great artificer,” Stephen, towards the end of the work, has epiphanies that occur to him in the form of daydreams. Jung goes into “some detail about the origins of our dream life, because it is the soil from which most symbols originally grow…a dream is quite unlike a story told by the conscious mind.” (Jung 27) Jung explains that “when we want to investigate man’s faculty to produce symbols, dreams prove to be the most basic and accessible material for this purpose.” (Jung 18) We learn the most about Stephen through his daydreams. “Jung discovered not only that all dreams are relevant in varying degrees to the life of the dreamer, but that they are all parts of one great web of psychological factors.” (Jung 159) These dreams often evoke the classical myth of Daedalus and the Cretan labyrinth. “Man…produces symbols unconsciously and spontaneously, in the form of dreams.” (Jung 4)
Now, at the name of the fabulous artificer, he seemed to hear the noise of dim waves and to see a winged form flying above the waves and slowly climbing the air. What did it mean?
Dr. Jung proposes that the psyche is often read by the emergence of symbols in dreams which come from an ancient cultural archetype. For Stephen, it is the Greco-Roman myth of Daedalus and the Cretan labyrinth. “Over and over again one hears a tale describing a hero’s miraculous but humble birth, [and] his early proof of superhuman strength…” (Jung 101)
Was it a quaint device opening a page of some medieval book of prophecies and symbols, a hawklike man flying sunward above the sea, a prophecy of the end he had been born to serve and had been following through the mists of childhood and boyhood, a symbol of the artist forging anew in his workshop out of the sluggish matter of the earth a new soaring impalpable imperishable being?
The “superhuman strength” Stephen identifies with, is the ability of the “proud artificer whose name he bore” to develop wings and fly out of the Cretan labyrinth. What this symbol represents is Stephen’s creative impulse. “The sign” explains Jung “is always less than the concept it represents, while a symbol always stands for something more than its obvious and immediate meaning.” He continues, “Symbols, moreover, are natural and spontaneous products. No genius has ever sat down with a pen or a brush in his hand and said: ‘Now I am going to invent a symbol.” (Jung 41) Every motif that occurs in Stephen’s daydreams, flight, birds, monsters, labyrinths, are all part of Ovid’s classical archetypes. “The more closely one looks at the history of symbolism, and at the role that symbols have played in the life of many different cultures, the more one understands that there is also a re-creative meaning in these symbols.” (Jung 100)
Stephen must have been quite affected by the story of Daedalus, who fashioned wings of wax to escape the Cretan labyrinth he built to trap the Minotaur. “The esthetic image in the dramatic form is life purified in and reprojected from the human imagination. The mystery of esthetic like that of material creation is accomplished. The artist, like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his finger nails.” (Joyce 215) According to Dr. Jung, “These godlike figures” alluding to classical heroes such as Daedalus, “are in fact symbolic representatives of the whole psyche, the larger and more comprehensive identity that supplies the strength that the personal ego lacks.”
Stephen’s personal philosophy of aesthetics ends up providing him with the “strength that his personal ego lacks,” these are the symbolic wings that he flies on. “Their [godlike figures i.e. Daedalus] special role suggests that the essential function of the heroic myth is the development of the individual’s ego-consciousness—his awareness of his own strengths and weaknesses—in a manner that will equip him for the arduous tasks with which life confronts him.” (Jung 101) The “arduous tasks” may be compared with the institution that most perturbs Stephen, and that is the church, and the other elements of the outer-world which torment his wind.
For instance, Joyce even hints at Cretan references during Stephen’s younger years at school. “The fire rose and fell on the wall. It was like waves. Someone had put coal on and he heard voices. They were talking. It was the noise of waves. Or the waves were talking among themselves as they rose and fell…He saw the sea of waves, long dark waves rising falling, dark under the moonless night. (Joyce 27) The critic John Frederick Nims writes in the essay, Dedalus in Crete, “Stephen too is blocked by land and sea, by grossness and insularity, by a corrupted way, by the Minos-monsters of his own mind,” he explains, “but one way of escape is offered: flight, the flight that escapes and the flight that soars—a flight inspired by and hastening toward epiphanies, those ‘sudden spiritual manifestations’, those sudden openings of the heaven, such as Stephen experiences in his vision of mortal beauty.” (Nims 80)
Nims writes that “however truly or falsely Stephen saw it, he feels the church is part of his Cretan confinement – this and his home and his country mock him with hollow-sounding phantom voices that mean nothing.” (Nims 85) Nims also explains that “Crete has become Ireland, the labyrinth and its monsters have become the streets of Dublin and the adolescent mind. But suppose, in this suggestible way, we look back at Ovid.” He continues, “This device, this artifice, ought to be a double action one. We find Ovid enriched, and in the enriched Ovid we find forms and patterns meaningful for Joyce.” (Nims 78)
The Cretan labyrinth symbol holds other symbolic significance for Joyce’s protagonist, according to a Jungian reckoning. If, according to Nims, the labyrinth represents Ireland and the church and the monsters of Stephen’s mind, there is here also a maternal reference, Ireland being his mother country, Catholicism, his mother’s faith. “…the Cretan labyrinth with its monstrous inmate, the Minotaur, which perhaps symbolized the unhealthy decadence of matriarchal Crete.” According to Jung, “In all cultures, the labyrinth has the meaning of an entangling and confusing representation of the world of matriarchal consciousness;” he writes, “it can be traversed only by those who are ready for a special initiation into the mysterious world of the collective unconscious.” (Jung 117) Sure enough, in Joyce’s Ulysses, the (not)-sequel to A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen refuses to kneel in prayer at his mother’s death bed.
Stephen, by leaving Dublin and becoming a writer in Paris at the end of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, has escaped the “unhealthy decadence of matriarchal Crete.” Jung writes, “The need to escape from…[the]…’mother-prison’ was expressed in hostile reactions to his real mother and a rejection of the ‘inner mother’ as a symbol of the feminine side of the unconscious. According to Dr. Jung, within every psyche is an ‘anima’ and an ‘animus’. The former, a feminine maternal instinct; the latter, a masculine paternal instinct. Stephen’ s maternal conflict also has to do with his creative impulse. Stephen is held by Joyce to be an ‘artist hero,’ hence the title of the rough version of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, called Stephen Hero. Dr. Jung explains, “…the hero’s task has an aim that goes beyond biological and marital adjustment. It is to liberate the anima as that inner component of the psyche which is true for any creative achievement.” (Jung 118)
Another common motif in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is that of flight. Stephen’s central epiphany of the novel continues, “His throat ached with a desire to cry aloud, the cry of a hawk or eagle on high, to cry piercingly of his deliverance to the winds…” he writes, “An instant of wild flight had delivered him and the cry of triumph which his lips withheld cleft of his brain.” (Joyce 169) According to Dr. Jung, “…the bird is the most fitting symbol of transcendence. It represents the peculiar nature of intuition working through a ‘medium,’ that is, an individual who is capable of obtaining knowledge of distant events—or facts of which he consciously knows nothing—by going into a trancelike state. (Jung 147) This “trancelike state” is Stephen’s great daydream. “Not only the fight of birds or the journey into the wilderness represents this symbolism, but any strong movement exemplifying release.” (Jung 150) Towards the end of the book, Stephen has felt elation as a result of his great epiphany. The following imagism is used:
What birds were they?…They flew round and round the jutting shoulder of a house in Molesworth Street…He watched their flight; bird after bird: a dark flash, a swerve, a flutter of wings…
In this vignette, we discover Joyce’s fascination with the Daedalus myth:
…Why was he gazing upwards from the steps of the porch, hearing their shrill twofold cry, watching their flight? For an augury of good or evil? A phrase of Cornelius Agrippa flew through his mind and then there flew hither and thither shapeless thoughts from Swedenbourg on the correspondence of birds to things of the intellect and of how the creatures of the air have their knowledge and know their times and seasons because they, unlike man, are in the order of their life and have not perverted that order by reason.
Stephen’s pondering continues:
And for ages men had gazed upward as he was gazing at birds in flight…A sense of fear of the unknown moved in the heart of his weariness, a fear of symbols and portents, of the hawklike man whose name he bore soaring out of his captivity on osierwoven wings, of Thoth, the god of writers…
The theory put forth in the book is explained in the following passage. His rejection of Christianity, and his passion for the literary arts:
He smiled as he thought of the god’s image, for it made him think of a bottlenosed jug in a wig, putting commas into a document which he held at arm’s length and he knew that he would not have remembered the god’s name but that it was like an Irish oath…it was for this folly that he was about to leave for ever the house of prayer and prudence into which he had been born and the order of life out of which he had come.
Earlier in the novel, when Stephen has his expansive daydream of flight he imagines that, “A girl stood before him in midstream, alone and still, gazing out to sea. She seemed like one whom magic had changed into the likeness of a strange and beautiful seabird.” (Joyce 171) These epiphanies of Stephen’s that will culminate in a decision to leave Ireland, the church and his family behind and become a writer in Paris come about via the daydream, so full of various symbolism. His subconscious has had these realizations that will free the hero in Stephen. Apropos, Jung writes that the “…man had won this promise of security for himself by his contact with the authentic hero archetype, and had found a new co-operative and related attitude to the group. His sense of rejuvenation naturally followed.” Jung continues, “He had drawn on the inner source of strength that the hero archetype represents; he had clarified and developed that part of him which was symbolized by the woman; and he had, by his ego’s heroic act, liberated himself from his mother.” (Jung 118)
We recall the beginning of A Portrait of the Artist, when Stephen exposes his shy and creative side. And we realize that by coming to the realization that he shall become an artist, the introvert has finally managed to break free from his psychic dungeon. Dr. Jung writes, “…creative evolution…evidently begins on a childlike, preconscious, or animal level of existence. The ego’s rise to effective conscious action becomes plain in the true culture-hero. In the same fashion the childish or adolescent ego frees itself from the oppression of parental expectations and becomes individual.” He continues, “When this is successful, we see the full hero image emerging as a kind of ego strength…that has no further need to overcome the monsters and the giants.” (Jung 119)
Apropos, Stephen’s philosophy of art, too, has to do with a separation of creator from creation. This could be a microcosm of Stephen’s struggle to separate himself from his family and from Dublin:
—The soul is born, he said vaguely, first in those moments I told you of. It has a slow and dark birth, more mysterious than the birth of the body. When the soul of a man is born in this country there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets.
So too, the work of artistic creation, must stand apart from its creator. Stephen’s philosophy of art is as follows:
…[the] supreme quality is felt by the artist when the esthetic image is first conceived in his imagination…The image, it is clear, must be set between the mind or senses of the artist himself and the mind or senses of others…Even in literature, the highest most spiritual art, the forms are often confused…The simplest epical form is seen emerging out of lyrical literature when the artist prolongs and broods upon himself as the centre of an epical event and this form progresses till the centre of emotional gravity is equidistant from the artist himself and from others…The personality of the artist passes in the narration itself, flowing round and round the persons and the action like a vital sea…The personality of the artist, at first a cry or a cadence or a mood and then a fluid and lambent narrative, finally refines itself out of existence, impersonalizes itself, so to speak.
He concludes, “The artist, like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails.” (Joyce 215) And this is much the way Stephen must remove himself from his parents and his country and faith.
The use of the Daedalus archetype by Joyce is a psychological symbol. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, is the story of a young man who rebels against his family, country and religion by becoming an artist and a philosopher. “The subject, however, is not so much the artist’s relationships with other characters as his state of mind, the development of his attitudes.” Sucksmith writes, “The theme of A Portrait of the Artist might be stated somewhat as follows. An artist is essentially an individual who can flourish only by becoming free of all collective entanglements and commitments in the external world.” (Sucksmith 9) So too, the protagonist posits that a work of art must remain free and out of the shadow of its creator.
To lift this theme into a sophisticated dimension, Joyce utilizes psychological symbolism. Dr. Carl Gustav Jung writes, “Man uses the spoken or written word to express the meaning of what he wants to convey. His language is full of symbols, but he also often employs signs or images that are not strictly descriptive.” The Cretan labyrinth and the motif of flight are such symbols used by Joyce. “What we call a symbol is a term, a name, or even a picture that may be familiar in daily life, yet that possesses specific connotations in addition to its conventional and obvious meaning…” writes Jung, “It implies something vague, unknown, or hidden from us. Many Cretan monuments, for instance are marked with the design of the double adze.” (Jung 3) Certainly, the “Cretan monument” that is Joyce’s Ireland is marked by an adze: and the adze is the aesthetic philosophy of the protagonist, Daedalus. “Because there are innumerable things beyond range of human understanding…” writes Joyce. Dr. Jung explains that “As a general rule, the unconscious aspect of any event is revealed to us in dreams, where it appears not as a rational thought but as a symbolic image.” Such is the motif of Daedalus and the Cretan labyrinth in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
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