Water Imagery in a Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

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Water imagery can be seen throughout the entire novel. It is an idea that evidently brings connection for certain events, and at the same time brings Stephen’s multiple sensation and memory into vivid pictures. Most of the time, the imagery of the water appears to be dark, cold, and unpleasant in the book, but the imagery differs as the story goes on. To some extent, water can be seen as the state of Stephen’s soul. Or to be more explicit, it is the transformation of Stephen’s soul. In the very beginning of the story, when looking at “When you wet the bed first it is warm then it gets cold” (7), it can be explained that the memory of wetting himself thus presents an uncomfortable feeling. Stephen was still too little to fully recognize surroundings with his thinking, deduction and judgment at the time, and therefore he had to rely on physical sensation. Consequently, memory of water as an unpleasantness thus is established. The distasteful imagery goes on. When Wells pushed Stephen into the ditch, Stephen described the water “cold and slimy” (14). If Stephen was meant to be an artist, is the bully behavior suggesting Ireland’s suppressing creativity and artists? However, this is just a random thought that I came upon which has nothing to do with water imagery. Focusing on the water imagery, Stephen was sick after the incident. When resting in the infirmary, he had a subconscious dream about the sea of waves, dark waves. And then there’s Parnell the nationalist’s death. Combine those two images, hence we can deduct the conclusion that Stephen is repulsed by the dark sea and likens the feeling with Irish politics and religion. As chapter one pushing close to the end, Stephen became a hero among the peers. The celebration of his bravery didn’t last long. There is a subtle transformation within Stephen from the Christmas dinner to going up to the rector. Going through a metamorphosis, Stephen becomes less and less innocent as days go by. Humanity, religion,...
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