Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Anchors for Understanding Stephen

Bill G. writes:

When I read the Stephen chapters that are most difficult I rely upon the anchor of the four contrasts that Joyce explores in all of his fiction:  

isolation versus community

Here Stephen finds himself among a community as he does occasionally. Like the little boy in Portrait, he remembers himself as one who moves from the margins of society to a central heroic figure. In Portrait the boy challenges the injustice of being pandied for not having his glasses and ends up on the shoulders of the older boys for taking on the jesuits, particularly Fr. Conmee, the same jesuit who wanders in the next chapter of U. In Ulysses,  Stephen holds forth in the National Library like one of  his parallel selves, Christ teaching in the temple, a metempsychosis that posits Stephen's vision as god-like. Like Stephen, Bloom ,moves about on the margins of his society for various reasons, Mulligan's mockery of Bloom's jewishness is a cause for Bloom's being an outsider. But Bloom's cuckoldry, humility, curiosity and decency are other reasons. When Bloom is observed examining Venus's mesial groove, he becomes fodder for the wit and anti-Semitism of Mulligan and others. Stephen also is elevated above the elders in the library because of his other parallel self, Shakespeare. Bloom shares in this parallel because of his cuckoldry.
Another community is one that transcends time and space--parallax
Molly Bloom and Gertrude, Queen of Denmark and Penelope, Queen of Ithaca--waiting for their men or not to return from war
Stephen's fathers: Simon, Conmee, both of whom Stephen resists and Hamlet who like Stephen is his own father creator and Bloom, Stephen's father-rival to be.

Understanding, Vision versus Ignorance, Blindness

His notion of himself as Shakespeare of he age, the one who in writing Ulysses is writing the epic of his people and as Christ the victim (notions that JJ shares).  Is Bloom a parallel to Stephen because Bloom's marginality and curiosity give him an understanding denied the smug insiders like Conmee, Powers.

Growth versus Decay

In all other instances, Stephen movement among others is followed by a descent that clarifies that any triumphs of the god-like Daedalus end up in the depths of the ocean as Icarus does in Portrait 4, as Gabriel Conroy does when he moves from the carver of the goose and master of ceremonies in The Dead to the cuckolded, humbled Gabriel when he learns of Michael Furey. Does a similar descent occur in Ulysses? Does Simon Dedalus, Stephen blood father, have more bearing on Stephen's future than all the other fathers that Stephen imagines for himself in U?

Romance versus Reality

Joyce and Stephen seek to find in the world of the actual that which exists in the imagination. All things are grist for their mills.  Stephen is an Aristotelian, not a Platonist--or is he?

1 comment:

  1. Bill:

    Does your caption mean to suggest that Missey was in the act of 'fouling' the pool?