Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

"The Irish Cow: A Motif Essay"

Ireland: for centuries, dreamers and tourists have associated it with rolling green hills, misty, cool fog, smiling, barefoot peasants, moss-covered castles built of stone, and haunting Celtic songs. This romantic picture may suit the foreigner, but for Stephen Daedalus, the hero of James Joyce's autobiographical masterpiece "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man", it is a vision that could not be further from the truth. Stephen's Ireland is a land of restriction and hypocrisy, of dirt and poverty, of monotony and foreboding - in short, a place he longs to escape. Throughout the novel, the image of a cow recurs as a motif and becomes an important factor in the development of Stephen Daedalus's view of his country and the Church that is such an integral aspect of it (and, consequently, of life in general). The motif follows Stephen from his relatively happy and innocent childhood, through the growing hardships of his early adolescence, to the final disillusionment of his youth. Each instance is paired with Stephen's emotional response to Ireland and to the Church, his relationship with each institution, and his feelings on life at large.

The cow is first encountered on the very first page of the novel:...

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