James Joyce and Catholicism in Portrait and Dubliners

Topics: Christianity, Roman Catholic Church, Catholicism Pages: 9 (3359 words) Published: December 6, 2005
Joyce's Juxtaposition of Catholicism and Aesthetics
James Joyce was a prolific Irish writer who wrote about Ireland and the troubles the people of Ireland faced. According to the Volume Library Encyclopedia, with Ireland being about 94 % Roman Catholic, religion is a motif brought forth prominently in Joyce's works. In Dubliners, his book of short stories as well as his supposed autobiography, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce shows religious turmoil and indecision through his characters. Stephen Dedalus, the main character in the journal-like story of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, goes through an internal turmoil of his own throughout the entire book on how he would view religion. He shows certain extremities of religious views during his life from being brought up as a Catholic. He finds that none of these are right for him and the only way he can truly live life to the fullest is to pursue a life of beauty and arts. In Dubliners, Joyce manifests members of the clergy and certain religious orders, who in some ways can be viewed as flawed and through this we can acquire an attempt by Joyce to show his possible distaste for religion of his time. Joyce shows the flaws of the Catholic religion through Stephen Dedalus in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and through the stories of Irish life in Dubliners despite the omnipresent and dominant Catholic presence in Ireland at the time.

James Joyce is one of the most famous Irish writers of his time and his book Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is considered to be his auto-biography. Joyce, like Stephen, the main

character of the book, was born and raised in Ireland and went to a Jesuit school. During his schooling and his youth he remained a Catholic until he renounced his faith and the Catholic Church and moved out of Ireland to pursue his writing(Stewart F.i.m). Knowing Joyce's past and his views on the Catholic church make it easier to see the ways that he tries to delineate his scrutiny of Catholicism through his works, especially through his alter ego Stephen Dedalus. Constant poverty and squalor may have led to his abandonment of his faith as he grew up in a family of constant financial problems, like Stephen's family in Portrait

In Portrait, Joyce uses his infamous stream of consciousness technique to intricately display Stephen Dedalus' thought process and display his view towards religion. Stephen has his first sexual experience when he moves to Dublin with a young prostitute.

"He closed his eyes, surrendering himself to her, body and mind, conscious of nothing in the world but the dark pressure of her softly parting lips. They pressed upon his brain as upon his lips as though they were the vehicle of vague speech; and between them he felt an unknown and timid pressure, darker than the swoon of sin, softer than sound or odour." (Portrait 108) This act is considered abominable by the Catholic Church and displays Stephens his insolence to his faith. After he does this he is at first remorseful but that doesn't stop him from doing it again. He continues to wander the streets of Dublin late at night waiting for prostitutes to accost him so that he can satiate his proclivities for sex. Such acts for a supposed Catholic seem to show Joyce's opinions on Catholicism and religion. Stephen realizes after these habitual prostitute meetings that lust and sex aren't the only sins that he is guilty of. These sins had, unbeknownst to him, led to gluttony and greed as well as other things. "It was his own soul going forth to experience, unfolding itself sin by sin...." (Portrait 110) He had abandoned his want to learn and was constantly thinking of other things while in school. These flaws that Stephen possesses show how a religious person can commit a sin of pleasure, thinking he can just repent and be completely ignorant of the other sins it would lead to. In his greed for artificial satisfaction of his pleasures, he began...
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