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A STEP BEYOND
TESTS AND ANSWERS
11. Joyce has been described as an introspective man who had flashes of gaiety and humor. He could always see the droll side of a serious situation.
The story of Stephen's painful development as an artist also has comic moments. It is enlivened from the first chapter to the last with humorous character sketches and dialogues. Even situations that are distressing to Stephen have their comic aspects. The Christmas dinner scene has moments of lusty laughter between Mr. Casey and Mr. Dedalus as they mock churchmen and goad Mrs. Riordan. In contrast to Stephen's gloomy mood during the trip to Cork, his father trades stories and boasts with his cronies in grand Irish style.
You probably chuckled at Uncle Charles in the outhouse scene in Chapter Two and at the grand way he offered the greengrocer's apples to his nephew for his bowels. Joyce's keen ear for dialogue and his mocking wit bring to life the student circle at the university in Chapter Five. Also note the comic aspects of his sketches of Glynn, Goggins, and other students cavorting outside the library.
12. Joyce had signed some of his early pieces "Stephen Daedalus," feeling some closeness with Daedalus, the "fabulous artificer"- skilled craftsman-of Greek legend. He simplified the spelling to "Dedalus" in A Portrait of the Artist because it would be more commonplace and believable. (See section on the Daedalus myth.)
Stephen has in common with his namesake a need to find a way out of the labyrinth (maze) of life and to fashion his own means of escape. It is a good metaphor (comparison) for a young man trying to free himself from the restraints of his environment. There are two approaches to the question. Some people restrict the story of Stephen's growing up to the framework of the Daedalus legend. (See the section on Structure.) Others see Stephen more broadly as representing the human race trying to find a way out of life's mazes and mysteries. Joyce does not use the word "labyrinth" in Portrait of the Artist, but some readers find the image from the Daedalus legend present in the frequent mention of roads, streets, paths, and corridors. The school corridors are long and dark at Clongowes (Chapter One). In Chapter Two, Stephen wanders through the roads of Blackrock, sorting out his emotions and in Dublin through a "maze of narrow and dirty streets" in search of sexual adventure. In the third chapter, he wanders through the "ill lit streets" at random, searching for a confessor. You will be able to find many other references to reality as a maze.
13. What tempts Stephen most about the priesthood is its secret knowledge and power. He is aware of "the awful power of which angels and saints stood in reverence" (Chapter Four). The director of Belvedere makes this power very clear, pointing out that not even the "Blessed Virgin herself" has the power of the priest to absolve from sin or to make God take the form of bread and wine in the sacrament of Communion.
Stephen has imagined himself as a priest hearing confession and saying Mass. He is intrigued with the dignity of the ritual and of the ceremonial robes. But he is also aware of the contrast between the chilly, ordered, sheltered life of a priest and the warmth of ordinary existence. He chooses the "disorder, the misrule and confusion of his father's house" over the power of the priesthood. You'll find evidence of Stephen's struggle in his interview with the director and his thoughts as he walks home in Chapter Four.
14. The references to birds and bird flight fall into two general categories. Until the retreat in Chapter Three, birds are linked with an element of threat. Note (1) the threatening eagles of the prelude, (2) the football, which is like a "heavy bird" in the Clongowes playground, and (3) the threatening character Heron, with the bird name and the birdlike face, who, like the eagles, demands submission to authority.
After the retreat, during which Stephen sees himself as Lucifer, the fallen angel (an angel has wings like a bird), the bird imagery changes in tone. Wings and birds become images of flight and freedom. The hawklike man flying above the sea in Chapter Four is the symbol of the artist forging a new vision. The girl on the beach is described as a seabird (and angel) with the plumage of a dove. In Chapter Five, immediately following the villanelle passage, birds and bird flight foretell Stephen's own flight to lonely freedom. The message comes "from his heart like a bird from a turret, quietly and swiftly."