Portrait of an artist as a young man – book report English 4 – Kenneth Udut

Here. English IV Book Report on _A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man_ by _James Joyce_.  Oct 18, 1989. This file hung around a while.  I was 17 when I wrote this.  It got an A.  Hardly makes a dang bit of sense to me now; I forgot about the book after I wrote the report.

I don’t need it anymore.  Enjoy.

18 October 1989                                      Kenneth Udut

Discuss Changing Prose Style
In this report, I will be discussing the changing prose style of Stephen Dedalus.  During this whole story, he matures from being a little boy to a being a man.  If you look at his writing style, it transforms from the simplistic, sensuality of the “animalistic child” to the complex, thoughtful world of the intellectualistic adult.  In fact, by the end of the book, Stephen is dealing with almost pure thought and pure theory instead of experience and physical exposure.  But how can one be sure that this change in prose style is actually a significant factor in the maturation of Stephen Dedalus as the artist instead of the natural progression of a child into an adult?
As a young boy, Stephen Dedalus is fully conscious of his surroundings.  He distinguishes things by their sensual nature – his father’s “hairy face”, the feeling one gets when wetting the bed as being “warm, and then it gets cold”, and the very flowing nature of the thoughts and feelings to the realities of the world. This is as a child’s mind works ( at least in the minds of some adults ) and this attribute is portrayed by James Joyce in the best way possible – “through the child’s eyes”.  In doing so, he gives the total perspective of this “young artist”, his reasoning, logic, and general attitude towards life, the universe, and everything.  For example, the mother of Stephen says, “O Stephen will apologize “.  Then Dante, the older woman who Stephen somewhat adores, says, “O, if not, the eagles will come and pull out his eyes”.  Immediately, Stephen does either one of two things; he either breaks into song, or a swirling of words circumnavigate around his brain.  If those rhymings turn into song, then I would say that he is a perfectly average child.  If, instead, he finds these words tossed around his brain like some giant lettuce salad then he may be of the extraordinary.  Who is to say which is the intention of James Joyce?  If Stephen is to be “the artist”, then he must have a canvas to paint on.  At this point, it seems that his canvas is his mind – like a blank canvas full of infinite possibilities, the perfect canvas, waiting for that smattering of paint to give it form.  If one is to look at the title of the book, one would see that this is the portrait of the artist as a young man and conclude that Stephen is to be a writer.  But what is the real truth?  Does the prose that he uses really dictate his maturation, or is that just a side theme?
I would say that his writings really do dictate his maturation as the artist since later on in the story, the presentation of Stephen’s life becomes much more complex in its style and form – breaking away from the jumpy, erratic train of thought and going to a much more traditional style that is easier to comprehend and picture.  For example,  at some point in the book, Stephen breaks his glasses on the cinderpath (page 50) and is scolded by the prefect of studies, who believes that he broke his glasses on purpose so that he could get away without doing his schoolwork…”Stephen closed his eyes and held out into the air his trembling hand with the palm upwards…A hot burning stinging tingling blow like the loud crack of a broken stick made his trembling hand crumple together like a leaf in the fire…’Other hand`, cried the prefect of studies…Stephen drew back his maimed and quivering right arm and held out his left hand…”.  ‘MAIMED AND QUIVERING’, he says!  This is a far cry from the little song, “Apologize, pull out his eyes”.  In a short time, Stephen has grown up immensely.  Even though these are not necessarily his words that are describing him,  he still carries a great influence on the style of what is being said;if nothing else then, his mind is what dictates however something is said – simplistic for a simplistic mind, complex for an intellectuallistic mind.  Stephen’s maturity seems to be growing as time goes on in the book and in his life, as shown by his prose style.
Stephen changes schools and decides to become a Reverand (he receives a “calling” along the way).  In order to do so, he must purify his body and strengthen his will towards the total devotion to God and not to commit any sort of sin.  This masochistic behavior of Stephen Dedalus (like stopping in the middle of a sentence in a book and closing the book) shows that he is, at least, “playing the field” so that he is sure that he will be in a job that will suit him (although he probably doesn’t realize this).  In this, he is maturing in the fact that he is following his own way instead of following the routes of others, as too many of us seem to like to do.  He is now paving his way towards the total devotion toward writing and the intellectualism that he has the ability to cultivate.
In the final chapter, we see Stephen talking with a couple of friends about intellectuallistical stuff.  Here’s an example of his incredible increase in prose-style-quality…”‘The soul is born’ he said vaguely, ‘first in those moments I told you of.  It has a slow and dark birth, more mysterious than the birth of a body.  When the soul of a man is born in this country there are nets flung at it to hold back its flight.  You talk to me of nationality, language, religion.  I shall fly by those nets'”.  Essentially, he talks about “defecting” from Ireland.  That’s it, yet he takes many words to say it.  That is often pompous, arrogant, and being a know-it-all, but quite effective here.  In his journal entries, however, he reverts back to his original, basic style – the “train of thought”.  In fact, many of these journal entries seem like a sort of poetry.  They have a rythem of their own…”5 April: Wild spring.  Scudding clouds.  O life!  Dark stream of swirling bogwater on which appletrees have cast down their delicate flower.  Eyes of girls among the leaves.  Girls demure and romping.  All fair of auburn: no dark ones.  They blush better.  Houp-la!”.
Stephen has changed quite a bit during the book in his maturity and his prose style.  In many ways, he can be like a lost boy trying to find his place in life.  And he is!  But in looking at his prose one can definately see some great talent for words and their meanings – some meanings that nobody ever quite thought of before in that manner in which he presents them (like the word “suck” sounding like a basin of water emptying itself out – quite a unique way of looking at things).  I can see almost imagine myself turning to the back page of the book and seeing, “Some books by Stephen Dedalus…”.  His destiny is clear and I need say no more.

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