Thursday, May 22, 2008

Myth of Oedipus in “The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”

In The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce portrays that the main character Stephen similar tragic hero while maturing through the state of adolescent. Mostly it is compare d more to the character Oedipus. The Myth Oedipus is a Greek legend of a prince who suffers the fate of killing his own father and marrying his own mother. Stephen, however, is not fated to similar be to Oedipus, but emotionally feel the same as Oedipus. Joyce displays the emotion that appears in Stephen’s life through the setting of the situation and the developing maturity with internal conflicts. The emotions that Stephen encounters flow parallel to the tragic feelings of Oedipus takes on as part of his fate.

In the passage when the students of the boarding school question him about kissing his mother, Joyce displays a common trait that both Oedipus and Stephen has. Stephen says that “he kisses his mother every night.”(26) The result of that the students made fun of him. After rejecting the fact that he kisses his mother, the other kids still make fun of him. Stephen shows that he has a feeling for his mother. Joyce created this situation to portray the trait by creating the internal conflict of which answer was right. His kiss represents the love for his mother. Questioning himself gives some significance relating to the love he has for his mother. He even thought of the very deep detail of how his mother kisses him. He describes that “her lips were soft” (27) and that it “wetted his cheek” (27) making the kissing. In the previous passages, Stephen shows great bond with his mother. He always wants his mother to help and protect him. When he was beginning his schooling, he thought of how nice his mother is. When he felt homesick, he called out for his mother. The love and dependence toward his mother gives the idea of Stephen having a mother complex to the readers.

Compared to Oedipus, Stephen is the same. Oedipus was fated to kill his father and married his mother which Oedipus shows love toward his mother. Oedipus does not know that he married his mother. He was taken in by the king and queen of another city when he was abandoned as a baby. He tries to avoid his fate, but his fate was sealed from the beginning. He never actually knows about the identities of his true parent. As he had already married to his mother, Oedipus can kiss his mother. They became intimate with each other. They bear two sons and two daughters from the relationship. To love his mother so much, Oedipus made incest to the one who gave birth to him. Oedipus has the same complex that Stephen has. Both of them have feeling toward their mother, but did not know it. All of their feelings come from their sub-conscience. Both of did not acknowledge that they have feelings for their mother. They have the Oedipus complex, where the child shows affection toward the parent of the opposite sex. James Joyce uses the concept of Oedipus Complex to describes how Stephen as a growing young adolescent have some feeling innocence and maturing to understand women sub-consciously.

As the book went along, Stephen does not only the similar mother complex. He felt the hatred toward himself as Oedipus did. In the chapter where Stephen’s dad gives off the feeling of being dead when he reminisces into his past, Stephen begin to feel humiliation because of his father and other factors. After the play, Stephen felt anger and humiliation for playing a certain part. His “pride and hope and desire” (87) were crushed and burning the “eyes of his mind” (87). His pride is wounded, hopes fallen and “baffled desires” (87). In the end, it clears away. His resentment toward himself cleared. Joyce created this effect showing the agony of Stephen by putting him in the situation where he has to play his part to the end. Joyce uses descriptions and setting to create the emotion. Joyce created this scene for the purpose of showing Stephen growing from his youthful childhood.

In a similar situation, Oedipus resented himself because he played the exact part in the prophecy. He played his role as the murderer of his father and his mother’s lover with out knowing. It pains him for following fate. His mother also known as his wife committed suicide. Out of humiliation and agony of horror, he blinded himself. He resented himself for following his tragic destiny, so he spends the rest of his life being a blind man and assisted by Antigone. Joyce use deep emotional words and show some of the myth into Stephen’s situation to show the similarity between the two. Stephen, at the end, has “a film still veiled his eye.” (87) It is similar to how Oedipus ends up blind though it is temporary. Blinding himself settled his resentment. Stephen and Oedipus were blinded by the “wounded pride.” (87) Stephen was wounded by the part in the play and Oedipus was wounded by the role he takes on in fate. After being blinded, Oedipus leaves his agony of horror and humiliation and continues living as a blind man. Stephen was the same. He leaves his emotion of humiliation after he was blinded by his wounded pride.

However, Joyce created Stephen to be similar to Oedipus in a way but not fated walk the same path that Oedipus was destined to. They are both linked by the emotions and feeling that they both feel due to the events that occur. It gives a sense of things that Stephen’s upbringing is similar to Oedipus. They are mostly linked through emotion. Oedipus shows his love toward his own mother similar to Stephen who also loves his mother. Both living with the Oedipus Complex. They both felt shame and humiliation toward their part. They hated themselves for the roles that they are pitched up against. Hurting in pride, desire, and hope, they suffer the pain. They resolve it with their own power. Stephen is like the modern version of Oedipus by feeling. The emotion of Oedipus was linked to Stephen to show the difficulties in life that Oedipus is going through and how he feels as he grow in to adolescence. Joyce uses Stephen to portray the modern version of Oedipus through emotions to show a path from child to adolescent years of a human being.

1 comment:

Wendy C.5 said...

This essay connects Greek Myth with Stephen Dedalus, which interest me and it is fun connecting them together.