Duality in temperature, “Portrait”

“To remember that and the white look of the lavatory made him feel cold and then hot. There were two cocks that you turned and water came out: cold and hot. He felt cold and then a little hot: and he could see the names printed on the cocks. That was a very queer thing” (9).

“There was a noise of curtainrings running back along the rods, of water being splashed in the basins. There was a noise of rising and dressing and washing in the dormitory: a moise of clapping of hands as the prefect went up and down telling the fellows to look sharp. A pale sunlight showed the yellow curtains draw back, the tossed beds. His bed was very hot and his face and body were very hot” (21).

Joyce seems to use temperature to parallel Stephens’ emotions. Water seems to represent some kind of cold, dreadful feeling inside him, and the frequent images of water reminds the reader of Stephens’ own feelings. At the same time, Stephen himself feels hot, and this duality is shown through the first passage. The literal temperature of the water conveys Stephens’ own “emotional” temperature. Hence, literal sensory images reflect an internal idea.

Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. New York: Random House, 1916. Print.

1 thought on “Duality in temperature, “Portrait”

  1. The relation you found between sensory images and internal feelings is a great example of Joyce’s “epiphanies” in aesthetics. Stephen is fully engaged with the realness of things and the sensations he gets from them. To the author, things are what they are – they are hot or they are cold. He suggests that the concreteness of things – the hotness or coldness of them – is not divine or spectacular, but that it simply exists.

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