A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - James Joyce (Transformation in Chapter 4)

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Question: In chapter 4, Stephen moves from the certainties and ordered world of catholic orthodoxy towards what he describes as "new world, fantastic, dim, uncertain as under the sea, traversed by cloudy shapes and beings." Analyse some of the stages of this movement as they are described in the chapter.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a brilliant work dealing with the realisations and discoveries that one person has to make in life in order comprehend the restraints of religion and society. In doing so, he can gain freedom and reach his full potential of becoming an artist. Throughout this semi-autobiographical novel Joyce recreates some of his own experiences through the protagonist Stephen Dedalus, who endures many different phases as he grows up. Beginning life as a child in a devout Catholic family, Stephen grows to become a deliberate sinner as teenager, but changes back to a zealous and obsessive Catholic. Lastly, Stephen realises the constraints of his devotion to Catholicism and makes a decision to free himself forever. This essay will describe in detail how Stephen changes in chapter four from religious extreme to celebrating the world, beauty and life itself.

Stephen is drawn back to become a passionate Catholic as Father Arnall gives a sermon about the day of St. Francis Xavier. As Stephen deals with regret and guilt about his sexual encounters with prostitutes, Father Arnall's words spark fear about divine judgment in Stephen's heart. To Stephen it was like ‘a terror of spirit as the hoarse voice of the preacher blew death into his soul' (p.118). Stephen is convinced that ‘every word of it was for him' and Joyce states that ‘he felt now that his soul was festering in sin' (p.121). The sermon is so touching to Stephen that he comes out of the chapel with ‘his legs shaking and the scalp of his head trembling as though it had been touched by ghostly fingers' (p.132). Joyce describes Stephen's feelings so deep and intense that it is...
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