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Prologue or Epilogue?
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (hereafter, Portrait), Joyce's first novel, is often overlooked by scholars and students eager to study his most famous work, Ulysses. This shorter, lesser-known work holds the key to Stephen Dedalus, its main character and an important one in Ulysses. The novel ends with a diary that Stephen has written, the first thing in his own voice--a sharp contrast to the beginning of the novel which is a repetition of a nursery rhyme that Stephen's father read to him. While the novel is a shining example of a bildungsroman and shows the progression of a young man's life through thoughts and actions, it serves an even larger fictional purpose in the larger scheme of Joyce's writing. Portrait creates Stephen Dedalus, a character that Anthony Burgess says is the last of his era (68). This novel, and specifically the diary, creates a bridge to Ulysses that provides a smooth transition between these two very different works.
Then what about the diary? It is a very small part of Portrait. It is a piece of writing that does not match the body in which it appears, and in fact contrasts with the format of the rest of the novel. While the diary, found at the end of the novel and breaking up its third-person prose format, could be easily overlooked by the reader of Portrait, this study will prove its importance not only to this novel, but to the one that will come after and is more widely studied. Anthony Burgess asserts in Re Joyce that "the diary entries which close A Portrait anticipate, in their clipped lyricism and impatient ellipses, the interior monologue of Ulysses" (68). The diary serves a definite purpose, one so crucial that its absence would certainly affect the reader of Ulysses. Two points are important here; the substance of the diary and its relevance to both novels, and the question of which work benefits most from the diary.
Critical opinion on the diary is scant but various. There are several critics who mention this part of the novel briefly in reference to some wider theme. Marilyn French, for example, makes but a single brief comment, saying "the first sentence of the novel is a line from a nursery tale; the last sentences are from Stephen's diary. The first sentence is taught language; the last, learned language, Stephen's own" (248). French uses the differing language in Portrait to speak to her wider theme of language patterns in Joyce. Very few critics focus on the diary itself and the purpose it serves. Zack R. Bowen and Michael Levenson have both written about the diary, but each includes some large abstraction such as the "shape of life" (Levenson) or Stephen's epiphanies, both of which override the diary as larger constructs into which it fits. Dirk Stratton examines figs and the references to a "precursor" in the diary but very few others focus that closely on one isolated aspect. Most of the few critics who do examine the diary, do not suggest that it may have a connection to Ulysses. The diary is within the pages of Portrait and not Ulysses, but many overlook the fact that its placement at the end of Portrait is crucial. Stephen Dedalus, the main character in Portrait, is our introductory character in Ulysses. While Portrait told the story of Stephen's maturation through a process of many changes, his character appears to have changed little in the interim between the end of Portrait and the beginning of Ulysses. The first three chapters of Ulysses are about Stephen, and in the fourth, Leopold Bloom, Ulysses? main character , appears. The reader of Portrait should know Stephen fully by the end of that novel, and therefore have an immediate inlet to the early chapters of Ulysses. Stephen is a character with whom the reader can identify initially.
There are some themes that are echoed throughout most or all of Joyce's work, but there are some specific points in the diary that are clearly repeated in Ulysses. Not only is Stephen's story in this part of Portrait the closest to Ulysses chronologically, but there are also certain points in the diary that suggest events and characters who will show up in Ulysses. Interestingly, these common points are combined with comments or commentary on other events in Portrait. Anthony Burgess describes his book, Re Joyce, includes a brief but insightful analysis of the character of Stephen representative of an archetype. He writes, "the type of student whom Stephen Dedalus represents, poor, treasuring old books with foxed leaves, independent, unwhining, deaf to political and social shibboleths, fanatically devoted to art and art only, is no longer to be found in the cities of the West: he disappeared in 1939"(68). Burgess has described the traditional student of the arts, an archetypal student and one we have seen in many a traditional bildungsroman. This student is always an idealistic yet confused young man with big ambitions. Even Burgess admits that Joyce was not the absolute last to create a character like this, but Stephen Dedalus seems to be the last major one of such characters who define an era as well as a social group. Stephen is more than just a poor, devoted young intellectual, however. He is a character that Joyce has chosen to represent himself and his own ambitious recollections. Stephen is the outlet for Joyce's narrative voice in Portrait.
Stephen serves a crucial but diverse role in both Portrait and Ulysses. In Portrait, Stephen's role is unmistakable since he is the protagonist and the character from whose perspective and in whose voice the novel is written. In Ulysses, Stephen's role is much less central and he serves as a counterbalance for Bloom, the wandering Jew (wandering in body, mind, and soul). In the end of Ulysses , Stephen becomes a confidante for Bloom as well. The unlikely pair builds a camaraderie by the end of the book in which each helps the other in a way that he didn't know he needed help but desperately does. Stephen, who is drunk, needs Bloom to help keep him from a scuffle on the street and to take him home. Bloom needs Stephen to listen to him and converse with him as a friend, and to offer the lonely, wandering Bloom respite at the end of the day. Bloom offers Stephen hot chocolate from his favorite mustache cup, a gift from his daughter, and Stephen gives Bloom the opportunity to be a father figure taking care of a son, since Bloom?s own son, Rudy, died nearly ten years before. Stephen's role in Ulysses is to guide Bloom but he also has an obligation to the reader, to act as a guide from the beginning of the novel.
In his diary entry for April third, Stephen writes that he, "met Davin at the cigar shop opposite Findlater's church" (344). Here is an example of one of Joyce?s carefully chosen words that contains both humor and, perhaps, a serious intention. Stephen's ongoing battle with whether to embrace or reject the church continues here when Joyce makes a point of mentioning Findlater's church. Weldon Thornton states in Allusions in Ulysses that "Adam Findlaters was apparently a small-time politician in Dunlaoghaire ( Kingstown)" (70). Leopold Bloom is somehow aware of Findlaters?Thronton hypothesizes on this connection?and uses him and Dan Tallons as examples of "nobodies" coming to power in the world during the Calypso episode of Ulysses (58). So while the name Findlaters is the name of an actual person, as Joyce is sure to point out in Ulysses, Stephen describes the church as "Findlater's"(Portrait 344), perhaps meaning the church that Findlaters attended, but the association with any person is gone here, thus rendering the name a very comical one for a church, especially considering Stephen's later conversations with his mother.
In the end of Portrait, Stephen is getting ready to leave his parents' home in Dublin. He writes in his diary for April 26 th, "Mother is putting my new second-hand clothes in order. She prays now, she says, that I may learn in my own life and away from home and friends what the heart is and what it feels. Amen." While this passage means little to the plot of Portrait, it is highly effectual when seen in light of the events that will follow in Stephen's life, after he has transitioned to Ulysses. While it is spring when Stephen is writing the diary, and the entire plot of Ulysses takes place on June 16 th, 1904, the structure of events suggests that more than a few months has elapsed between the two. Perhaps the diary was written in March and April of 1903, a year and two months before the events of Ulysses. One thing that happens during the time that elapses between the two is the death of Stephen's mother, and Stephen's refusal to pray at her death bed.
This is a significant memory for Stephen in Ulysses and a ghostly figure of his mother appears to him more than once, plaguing him with guilt for not displaying association with her faith before she died. The ghost of Stephen's mother is allowed to stalk him throughout Ulysses probably because her soul cannot be at rest while her firstborn shuns her religious beliefs. It is interesting that Stephen reacts to his mother?s earlier entreaty with an approving "Amen," (something that we might only see in a private diary). Many explain this as a simple sarcastic reaction but it is really significant in light of the fact that Stephen's mother will soon enter a restless death, unsure of her son's salvation. The visions Stephen has of his mother also echo the Hamlet discussion he has in the library in Ulysses. The proposed Hamlet theory suggests that Stephen's disturbing visions of his mother are similar to those that Hamlet had of his father, which signaled the truth of Denmark's usurpation. Stephen, then, is attributing the same amount of importance to the visions he has of his mother as many attribute to Shakespeare's Hamleta clever authorial trick to equate Ulysses with Shakespeare. But it is in the diary that we see Stephen reacting to his mother's blessings for what is perhaps one of the last times ever, and he reacts favorably and respectfully, although he does not react in the same way when he has his last opportunity to do so.
According to Buck Mulligan, Stephen "proves by algebra that Hamlet's grandson is Shakespeare's grandfather and that he himself is the ghost of his own father."(Ulysses 18) No author could presume to write a monumental work and leave out references to Shakespeare and this is one trend that Joyce does not decide to break in his writing. The most important larger themes of Ulysses show up early in the book: a mockery of the Church, the struggle between England and Ireland, and a theme that is often considered minor but perhaps is not so--Stephen's theory on Hamlet. If the diary, then, is a link between the two works, whose shared themes are embodied in Stephen, their shared character, it is appropriate that it also contains references to Shakespeare's works. In his entry for March 24 th, Stephen writes of William Blake and then a string of other Williams. The Blake quote is "I wonder if William Bond will die, | For assuredly he is very ill"(Portrait 342). Stephen then writes "Alas, poor William! I was once at a diorama in Rotunda. At the end were pictures of big nobs. Among them William Ewart Gladstone, just then dead. Orchestra played 'O Willie, we have missed you'"(342). These casual references to Williams without surnames, mixed in with other Williams who do not relate to each other naturally, could easily be references to William Shakespeare. The song title containing the nickname "Willie" is an appropriate precursor to Joyce?'s teasing references to Shakespeare in Ulysses.
Aside from the references to Shakespeare himself, there are specific references to Hamlet in both novels as well as in the diary. Directly before the aforementioned quote, Stephen writes that he was in the library when he read this Blake and started thinking of the various Williams. This trip to the library, during which he "tried to read reviews. Useless." (342), foreshadows the later Hamlet discussions in the library during Ulysses. There is also the parallel between Hamlet's father and Stephen's mother and finally, there is a reference to Ophelia in Stephen's entry for April fifth. He writes "Dark stream of swirling bogwater on which apple trees have cast down their delicate flowers. Eyes of girls among the leaves. Girls demure and romping. All fair or auburn: no dark ones. They blush better. Hoop-la!" The references to blushing and demureness are things often associated with the virginal Ophelia and the leaves and flowers floating on the dark water suggest that the "eyes of girls among the leaves" are really the eyes of girls under the water who have drowned there. In Act four, scene seven of Hamlet, Queen Gertrude informs Laertes of his sister?s death. She relates the story by first describing the place where Ophelia was found, and all the flowers that grow there, and the chains of flowers that Ophelia made and then her falling into the stream and being "pulled . . . from her melodious lay | To muddy death"(lines 182-83). Ophelia, the blushing virgin was often described as having flowers or talking about flowers or being covered in flowers throughout the course of the play. Indeed, Gertrude begins to describe her as covered in flowers here, until she falls into the stream and the plants in the description become "weedy trophies." (174) Likewise in Stephen's diary, the vegetation discussed switches abruptly from blossoms that have fallen from trees into the water to leaves, seemingly dead ones, through which the "eyes of girls" are peering.
The diary is a link to Ulysses without the knowledge of its author. Stephen has not yet met Leopold Bloom nor will he know, for sure, what is apparently happening in Bloom's personal life when he does. However, after his references to John the Baptist "the precursor" in his March 21 st entry, he writes, "What do I see? A decollated precursor trying to pick the lock"(341). Bloom is the "decollated precursor" here and he is trying to pick the lock of his own bedroom where his wife is with Blazes Boylan, compared here with Jesus. Bloom, then, is John the Baptist, Molly's husband, though we later learn, not her first lover, and Boylan has taken over the space that Bloom has left vacant since the death of his son Rudy. With such suggestive passages spewing unannounced from the mind of twenty-two-year-old Stephen, it is easy--though not imperative--to view the diary as a bridge between these two very different novels.
In Ulysses, after his presence in the beginning gives readers of Portrait something with which to associate, Stephen becomes a secondary, but crucial character. Since Ulysses is not traditionally viewed as a sequel to Portrait, Stephen's connecting role is often overlooked, especially to the degree that his diary, which occupies a tiny amount of Portrait, leads straight in to the situation in Ulysses. Anthony Burgess puts it best when he suggests that Ulysses "carries on Stephen's story"(68). Stephen closes his diary with the following passages from the 26 th of April, "Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race." In the writing of his diary and with the events that follow in Ulysses, Stephen does the things he predicted for himself in his journal. This accomplishment and its realization suggest a direct link not just from book to book, but specifically from the diary to Ulysses. So, while we must not ignore the fact that the passages appear in one book and not the other, the transition in Stephen's character between the two resembles many he had from chapter to chapter in Portrait and shows few changes in his personality.
It is impossible to say for which novel the diary is more important. Both books feel its effects in some ways and both would suffer without the diary's influence. The diary collects a young lifetime of observation and reflection on Stephen's part and brings them together, from his perspective for the reader to take away from Portrait and into Ulysses. The Portrait benefits from the diary wherein it provides some sort of closure for the work, which would be fairly difficult to gather without its help. The switch to diary form gives voice to Stephen and makes the reader confident in him as a character going into Ulysses.
Stephen's life as a character and as the archetypal student and protagonist of the bildungsroman, extends no further than the end of Ulysses. The diary creates the Stephen who will make his final literary appearance in Ulysses. The diary, then, serves one half of its dual purpose as an epilogue not only to Joyce's first novel, but also to Stephen's childhood. For the other half, it acts as a prologue to Ulysses by giving the reader a character with a strong base who will figure heavily in the second work's events and themes. Stephen closes his diary with a short entry on the 27 th of April, "Old father, old artificer, stand me now and ever in good stead"(347). With this statement, Stephen is saying good-bye to his biological father, the God of his mother's dear religion, and with that his mother country, yet at the same time--but without anyone's knowledge but the reader's--asking to be held "now and ever in good stead." Stephen's final plea for acceptance is the perfect ending for a novel in which he has had to accept things with which he was uncomfortable, and is the beginning of another chapter in which he needs protection and companionship, both of which he finally finds in the kitchen of Leopold Bloom the "wandering Jew" and "decollated precursor."
Bowen, Zack R. "Epiphanies, Stephen's Diary, and the Narrative Perspective of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man." James Joyce Quarterly. 16 (1979): 485-88.
Burgess, Anthony. Re Joyce. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 1965.
French, Marilyn. "Joyce and Language." James Joyce Quarterly. 19 (Spring 1982): 239-255.
Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. New York: The Modern Library, 1996.
---. Ulysses. New York: The Modern Library, 1992.
Levenson, Michael. "Stephen's Dairy in Joyce's Portrait The Shape of Life." ELH. 52.4 (Winter 1985): 1017-35
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. New York: Signet, 1998.
Thornton, Weldon. Allusions in Ulysses. Chapel Hill, N.C.: The U of North Carolina P, 1961.