Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

The Burnt and the Cooked: Binaries and Continua in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

The Christmas dinner scenes divisive political and moral debate in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man underlines an essential obstacle to the artistic mind of Stephen Dedalus. Ireland imposes a set of oppressive binariesnamely in the form of religion and nationalismfrom which he can escape only through the ambiguity of language and his developing theory of the aesthetic. His progression to systems of continua over binaries also functions as implicit instruction from Joyce on how to read the novel. In a piece of art so consumed with its own internal order, the author acknowledges the textual value of a structural analysis, but only for the ideological content of the work. To ingest the "tragic emotion" of the novel, the reader needs to split the emotional binary of pity and terror and hold a "face looking two ways" (176). In other words, the reader may not process the emotion of the novel in a diagrammatic form, as he may, for example, when linking the ends and beginnings of chapters or the motif of the word "ivory." From this continuum follow Stephens ideas on stasis and radiance by which, presumably, we should behold Portrait as a work of beauty.

However, Joyce complicates his Janus-like...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 747 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 4455 literature essays, 1450 sample college application essays, 183 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in