Use of Epiphany in “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”
Discuss the use of epiphany in the development of Stephen Dedalus in “A Portrait of the Artist as a Youngman”.
Epiphany can be regarded as self-realization in the Portrait of the Artist as a Youngman. Although, epiphany directly demonstrates the incident of Jesus Christ yet James Joyce has different opinions about it. He uses it for the purpose of self-absorption. The sudden consciousness of mind concerning to something is what epiphany is, in the eyes of James Joyce. Usually, for the layman, epiphany is the incident of the visit of three wise men but according to James Joyce, it is, not entirely, but little different from said concept.James Joyce has translated epiphany as the sudden awareness of soul on some point. There are a lot of incidents in the novel, where the writer has used epiphany. Even in the development of character of Stephen Dedalus, he has freely used this technique, which indicates the command of writer on the same.
There is no doubt that “A Portrait of the Artist as a Youngman” is the story of an artist, in which his development has been portrayed very meticulously. Stephon Dedalus thinks differently than the mob. He apparently is member of society but mentally he is completely diverse from the others.He could not balance between the art and religion. He neither totally accepts it by open heart nor entirely rejects it. The development of Stephen Dedalus in form of epiphanies cane be seen in very first chapter of the novel, when the conflict arises on the punishment of Stephen by the Father and then he, after collecting his strength, complains about the said incident to the reactor. It was the victory of justice in his head, when he complained about it and he suddenly realized that the justice had been done to the injustice of the Father.
Besides that incident, there are many other events, which show that in the development of the Stephen Dedalus, epiphany has been implied. After the victory of justice, in Chapter II, when Stephen hears the talk of his father with Father Conmee about the pandybat incident, he abruptly realizes that the incident was just a mock as no action has been taken against anyone and the incident was ignored without the knowledge of Stephen. Moreover, his hatred against his father increases with the passage of time. His inner development has been increased positively, which ultimately completes his development as an artist. It was not negative but positive; the sooner realization about a thing gives Stephen an ability to concentrate on his unintentional purpose of becoming an artist by setting aside every relation as well as religious thoughts.
We see Stephen in the form of child as a person, who thinks about wet dreams and the baffling of child but at the end, he is developed as an artist. The journey from childhood to the adulthood has been implied by the writer by using the technique of epiphany.Stephen appreciates the aesthetic theory but when he mate with the prostitute, he realizes his inner peace in form of erotic behavior of the girl, with whom he mate. Although it is a sin and definitely, Stephen knows it, yet in his conscious he knows that it soothes his mind as well as soul as peace is totally dependent on it. His realization of sin, after hearing the sermon and then repentance is another example of epiphany. Even otherwise, when he sees a girl at the beach he realizes what his ex-girlfriend, wanted to do with her and then he feels shame.
Stephen’s self-discovery with time indicates his development as an artist. He in his childhood could not understand the meaning of tower of ivory and the house of gold but when he acquires the meanings of these words, he finds them interesting. He understands the symbolism attached with the meanings of words, as apparently they are different but deep down their meanings may indicate a special incident. James Joyce wants us to show, in juxtaposition, the inner and outer world of an artist and then his realization on something after acquiring it either by his experience or by his knowledge. Any other character of the novel is developed or not but it is sure that Stephen has been portrayed as fully developed character at the end of the novel.
In view of the forgoing discussion, no doubt that Stephen, in his childhood was a miserable human being, who was mocked by the people and even by his class fellows. Mocking creates trouble for him but it does not mean that his anger against his fellows was negative instead it was positive and eventually it gives us an entirely developed artist. He, at the end of novel, prefers art on religion and on his family. The skillfully implementation of epiphany by the writer in the development of Stephen is appreciable and thus categorizes the writer in the list of skilled writers.