A Portrait of Different Colors

“There were lanterns in the hall of his father’s house and ropes of green branches. There were holly and ivy round the pier glass and holly and ivy, green and red, tined round the chandeliers. There were red holly and green ivy round the old portraits on the walls. Holly and ivy for him and for Christmas.” (17-18)

“The word was beautiful: wine. It made your think of dark purple because the grapes were dark purple that grew in Greece outside houses like white temples.” (49)

Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. New York: Huebsch, 1918.Internet Archive. http://archive.org/details/aportraitartist01joycgoog


The idea of colors play an important role in both passages. Colors can both represent an event and evoke feelings. Stephen uses the colors red and green for holly and ivy to symbolize Christmas. To conjure up nice thoughts he vividly visualizes what his father’s house would look like and he uses red and green to remind him of what the holidays at home would be. In the second passage he thinks the word wine is beautiful and nice to think about because it makes him visualize the color dark purple. In both instances he uses colors to evoke nice thoughts. The association of color with feelings allow readers to feel a certain way about different colors.


1 thought on “A Portrait of Different Colors

  1. Joyce’s usage of color is one of my favorite parts about the novel. I completely agree with you, both passages’ usage of color help to evoke certain feelings or trigger memories. I found a similar passage that uses the idea of colors:

    White roses and red roses: those were beautiful colors to think of. And the cards for first place and second place and third place were beautiful colors too: pink and cream and lavender. Lavender and cream and pink roses were beautiful to think of. Perhaps a wild rose might be like those colours and he remembered the song about the wild rose blossoms on the little green place. (9)

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