Tag Archives: artist

Joyce as an Artist

“He closed his eyes and the train went on, roaring and then stopping; roaring again, stopping” (9).

“The guards went to and fro opening, closing, locking, unlocking the doors” (17).

James Joyce is an artist in the way that he paints with words. The way in which he constructed these sentences (and the rest of the novel, for that matter) is quite telling of his abilities to create a portrait without ever picking up a brush and pallet. He combines the past tense with the progressive tense, painting an image of something that has already occurred and yet is still occurring at the same time. A painting, for example, shows an image of something that occurred in the past, but to the onlooker in the present the image is still continuing. In Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night, the night he painted passed, but to the person viewing the image the night is still occurring. Similarly, Joyce is an artist who is painting a portrait of the events that took place in the main character’s life – events that took place and are still taking place simultaneously.

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

Stephen’s Budding Attraction to Color and Beauty

“The tablecloth was damp and limp. But he drank off the hot weak tea which the clumsy scullion, girt with a white apron, poured into his cup. He wondered whether the scullion’s apron was damp too or whether all white things were cold and damp” (pg. 10).

“White roses and red roses: those were beautiful colours to think of. And the cards for first place and second place and third place were beautiful colours 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. But you could not have a green rose. But perhaps somewhere in the world you could” (pg. 9).

Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2008. Print.

Notes: Early on in the story and at such a young age, Stephen has an affinity for artistry and beauty. While at school, he is unhappy and dreads each day; descriptions of things at school are dreary, weak, damp, wet, cold, white and grey. Within these descriptions of his days at school, there are sparks of passion flowing out of him in the form of stream of consciousness. Something so insignificant as the flowers each boy has pinned on their jackets, and the  he takes an attraction to because he loves their colors, their vibrancy. His excitement or obsession with it takes the form in repeating sentences describing the flowers and their colors, similar to the style of Getrude Stein’s Melanctha. We start to see glimpses into Stephen at a young age where he isn’t fully aware of his own passions, what he is to become.