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Ch 3 - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

#122: July - Sept. 2013 (Fiction)
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Chris OConnor

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Ch 3 - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

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Ch 3 - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
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cmiller38
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Re: Ch 3 - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

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Wow third chapter made a huge impression on me straight away. First of all I'd like to point something out about my upbringing and my own beliefs as I think that has a huge impact on how I interpreted this chapter and my opinions on it. I was born in Glasgow Scotland and was christened a catholic and went to catholic schools although my parents and other family members where not church going people or particularly religious.

I myself am not a practicing catholic although I do believe in god. I have often thought the catholic religion is one of fear and to me that is made clear in this chapter with both Stephens inner feelings of guilt at having succumbed to the temptations of the flesh and the preachers detailed description of hell.

I must say the passages where the preacher describes hell captivated me. I personally don't believe in hell but have never heard it described in greater detail. I could see it through the preachers eyes or maybe in Stephens terrified imagination. For me this must be why Joyce's works are considered classics. As I pointed out on previous chapters forum this is the my first experience of Joyce and I am so glad I've read this book for this chapter alone.

I joined this book club and forum for this reason to read things I would never have otherwise read and also to educate myself and learn other peoples interpretations and thoughts on books and maybe to see the works through other peoples eyes and I must say so far I have not been disappointed.

The other passage that struck some personal resonance with me was "Remember only thy last things and thou shalt not sin for ever". Thy last things of course referring to death judgement heaven and hell. Now I don't know about judgement heaven and hell but I have had to come to terms with my own mortality recently(I was diagnosed with a disease which will probably significantly shorten my lifespan). This made me re-evaluate my priorities and what was important to me and since that have been a happier and in my own opinion better person. I don't get caught up with little things and concentrate my time and effort on things that matter most to me family friends that sort of thing and to me this is because I have come to terms with not being here forever. So the above passage has a certain ring of truth to it if you remember only the last it will effect your judgement and therefore your actions.
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Re: Ch 3 - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

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I have to say, the lengthy description of hell and all of its torments is wearing me down. This passage is largely what our young artist protagonist, Steven Dedalus, hears during a series of sermons from Father Arnall during a retreat. Dedalus feels extreme guilt for having lustful thoughts and acting on them with some of the local whores. And so the reader feels the extent of Dedalus' torment and gets a taste of his conflict between worldly pleasures and sin. But the sheer extent of hell, its physical and mental components, becomes rather absurd. How can it make sense that a person be punished to this extent for merely having a libido and acting upon it? As a Catholic, now estranged from the church, I find this Puritan-esque mentality rather aggravating and difficult to read.

Interestingly enough, the depiction of hell is based on Dante's Inferno being discussed elsewhere on BT. I think Joyce gets carried away here. It's amazing to me that people could have believed this stuff.
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Re: Ch 3 - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

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I have to disagree with you geo although the description of hell is detailed in the extreme I think it represents accurately the extent to which the catholic church did if not still used guilt and the threat of hell to control people and keep them so called "good Catholics" and loyal to the church. You have to remember the church had a lot of power and particularly in Ireland which is predominately Roman Catholic.

So far this was my favourite part of the book.
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Re: Ch 3 - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

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I do really like Joyce's writing. It's very rich and poetic. But it's also rather dense and overall I'm having a difficult time engaging with the characters and the story. The Dubliners was far more engaging for me, probably because it does have more of a focus on characters and story. But we'll see if I change my mind in chapters 4 and 5.
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Re: Ch 3 - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

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I didn't want to say here in case spoil anything for people who not as far in to the book as me (about halfway through 5th chapter) but I agree with you about the lack of story here and to me after the third chapter it falls off. So unfortunately I doubt it's going to get much better for you. I also agree his writing is dense however unlike yourself the detailed description of hell was one of the good things for me. Very dramatic the main thing I have enjoyed in this book so far is Joyce's descriptive skill.
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Re: Ch 3 - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

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geo wrote:I have to say, the lengthy description of hell and all of its torments is wearing me down. This passage is largely what our young artist protagonist, Steven Dedalus, hears during a series of sermons from Father Arnall during a retreat. Dedalus feels extreme guilt for having lustful thoughts and acting on them with some of the local whores. And so the reader feels the extent of Dedalus' torment and gets a taste of his conflict between worldly pleasures and sin. But the sheer extent of hell, its physical and mental components, becomes rather absurd. How can it make sense that a person be punished to this extent for merely having a libido and acting upon it? As a Catholic, now estranged from the church, I find this Puritan-esque mentality rather aggravating and difficult to read.
Do you think Joyce wants the reader to feel this way; frustrated, angry, and disbelieving? From chapter one, Stephen is conflicted about how he should feel about religion and God, however, he makes a great discovery. When Stephen is beaten unfairly by a priest because of the loss of his glasses, Stephen thinks, "this is not right, the priest is wrong". Is Stephen saying here, "religion is not right, and God is wrong"?

This description of hell reminds me of John Galt's speech in, "Atlas Shrugged". This speech was excruciating for me to read, however, it was the whole point of the novel. Geo's word for this description as absurd, is it possible that Joyce wants the reader to view hell and the restrictions of the catholic church as absurd?
geo wrote:Interestingly enough, the depiction of hell is based on Dante's Inferno being discussed elsewhere on BT. I think Joyce gets carried away here. It's amazing to me that people could have believed this stuff.
With a character named Dante, I was waiting for Joyce to bring "The Inferno" into "Portrait". The character Dante is represented as over the top and unreasonable in her beliefs on religion. Stephen at a very tender age listened to her ranting at Christmas dinner. This character supplies Stephen with religious dogma. Dante is very passionate about her views and at one point says that Ireland is full of priests, priests are always right, and that is the way it has to be. Stephen is conflicted. When he went to the rector to complain about his beating and the rector agreed with Stephen, I had to smile and felt like hooraying with his classmates. That took a lot of guts, and a lot of doubt about the catholic religion.
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Re: Ch 3 - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

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Suzanne wrote: Do you think Joyce wants the reader to feel this way; frustrated, angry, and disbelieving? From chapter one, Stephen is conflicted about how he should feel about religion and God, however, he makes a great discovery. When Stephen is beaten unfairly by a priest because of the loss of his glasses, Stephen thinks, "this is not right, the priest is wrong". Is Stephen saying here, "religion is not right, and God is wrong"?

This description of hell reminds me of John Galt's speech in, "Atlas Shrugged". This speech was excruciating for me to read, however, it was the whole point of the novel. Geo's word for this description as absurd, is it possible that Joyce wants the reader to view hell and the restrictions of the catholic church as absurd?
I was wondering if Joyce presents a dogmatic view of religion in order to show the depth of Stephen's despair. Maybe Stephen will eventually come to have a more nuanced faith, but right now he's having a deep, spiritual crisis and perhaps must see things in black and white. The extended sermon about hell hits him pretty hard.

This depiction of hell is quite remarkable in scope and detail. I think my reaction is colored from a more secular and modern perspective, so I remind myself that this was written in the early 1900s. Maybe the reader is supposed to be worn down by the endless barrage, the long list of horrors associated with hell so that we get a real sense of Stephen's crisis and his eventual spiritual transformation.

Using his famous stream-of-conscious technique, Joyce lets us feel what Stephen is feeling, a very interior view. At this stage in the novel, Joyce has pretty much jettisoned almost all external events in order to show us the interior of Stephen's mind. It's not easy to read..

I was kind of amused by a particular passage in this chapter. After about thirty pages of excruciating detail about hell, the priest talks briefly about Jesus' pain and suffering which sounds like a cakewalk compared to what mortals have to suffer if they wind up in hell.
—A sin, an instant of rebellious pride of the intellect, made Lucifer and a third part of the cohort of angels fall from their glory. A sin, an instant of folly and weakness , drove Adam and Eve out of Eden and brought death and suffering into the world. To retrieve the consequences of that sin the Only Begotten Son of God came down to earth, lived and suffered and died a most painful death, hanging for three hours on the cross.
Oh no! Not three hours!!

But anyway, I think Stephen Dedalus, in the depths of despair, is very receptive to this bleak message about hell. He seems to suffer a kind of mental breakdown, occasionally hallucinating—or are they dreams?—as when he sees the goats and other beasts when he goes to be "alone with his soul" in his room.

You make a good point about the Dante character (who seems to have disappeared. Do we see her again?) To her, a priest can do no wrong, while Mr. Dedalus takes a dim view of preaching politics on the pulpit. It will be interesting to see where Stephen ends up. At this point in the story he is an extremely devout Christian. As the Sparksnotes say, his decision to confess has allowed him to take ownership of his spiritual path.
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Re: Ch 3 - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

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geo wrote:Using his famous stream-of-conscious technique, Joyce lets us feel what Stephen is feeling, a very interior view. At this stage in the novel, Joyce has pretty much jettisoned almost all external events in order to show us the interior of Stephen's mind. It's not easy to read..
I first described Joyce's prose as whimsical, but that was in chapter one. The beginning of each chapter is Stephen a little bit older, by chapter three I get the feeling that he is a teen. The thoughts going through a teenaged boy are bound to be confusing, at times I have had to stop reading and try to orient myself as to what is going on. The dialogue from Stephen, chapter by chapter is going to mature as Stephen matures, therefore the writing may get deeper and more thought provoking. The stream of consciousness style of writing is difficult to read, but what I enjoy about "Portrait" compared to William Faulkner's stream of consciousness works, "Sound and Fury", for example, is "Portrait" is semi-autobiographical. So as I read, the stream of consciousness is coming from James Joyce, we are looking straight into Joyce's mind as he ages, this is what is compelling to me about the novel.

Joyce was 34 when he wrote "Portrait". Joyce was affected by the myth of Daedalus and Icarus. I have read that the first three stories of "The Dubliners" was narrated by Stephen Dedalus. Joyce again uses Stephen Daedalus in Ulysses. In the myth of Daedalus and Icarus a labyrinth is paramount. Years ago my children, (ages around 8 and 12) and I went through a corn maze. It took us 2 hours at least to get through it. While in this maze I felt frustration, disorientation and panic. We would come to dead ends and have to turn around and we lost focus and we questioned our choices, this experience reminds me of the labyrinth Stephen is coursing through. Stephen is a thinking child, he argues with classmates over poets. His classmates call him a heretic, his teacher points out a phrase from one of his themes and calls it heresy, and he defends his thought processes. Stephen is in a maze, I see him struggling with his beliefs and it may take him to the age of 34 to navigate through the labyrinth or maze to realize how he feels about the mighty and heavy burden of religion. It may have taken Joyce that long to do the same.
geo wrote:I was wondering if Joyce presents a dogmatic view of religion in order to show the depth of Stephen's despair. Maybe Stephen will eventually come to have a more nuanced faith, but right now he's having a deep, spiritual crisis and perhaps must see things in black and white. The extended sermon about hell hits him pretty hard.
I think we have to remember the age of Stephen chapter by chapter. His feelings and views are bound to change as he ages.
geo wrote:You make a good point about the Dante character (who seems to have disappeared. Do we see her again?)
Nope, I guess she served her purpose in Stephen's early childhood, but she sure had an impact on him.
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Re: Ch 3 - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

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I hadn't thought about the fact that the style of prose changes as the protagonist ages. Usually a novel that covers a person's life for any period of time is from an older perspective, someone looking back and reflecting on what happened. But as you say, the POV here is in real time. Very interesting! That's why it starts with an infantile kind of babble . . .

Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo...
Suzanne wrote:I think we have to remember the age of Stephen chapter by chapter. His feelings and views are bound to change as he ages.
This changes everything. I feel like I'm feeling around the edges of this work, not quite getting it, but that's okay. Thanks for your help.
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