Religion is an important and recurring theme in James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Through his experiences with religion, Stephen Dedalus both matures and progressively becomes more individualistic as he grows. Though reared in a Catholic school, several key events lead Stephen to throw off the yoke of conformity and choose his own life, the life of an artist.
Religion is central to the life of Stephen Dedalus the child. He was reared in a strict, if not harmonious, Catholic family. The severity of his parents, trying to raise him to be a good Catholic man, is evidencedby statements such as, “Pull out his eyes/ Apologise/ Apologise/ Pull out his eyes.” This strict conformity shapes Stephen’s life early in boarding school. Even as he is following the precepts of his Catholic school, however, a disillusionment becomes evident in his thoughts. The priests, originally above criticism or doubt in Stephen’s mind, become symbols of intolerance. Chief to these thoughts is Father Dolan, whose statements such as, “Lazy little schemer. I see schemer in your face,” exemplify the type of attitude Stephen begins to associate with his Catholic teachers. By the end of Chapter One, Stephen’s individualism and lack of tolerance for disrespect become evident when he complains to the rector about the actions of Father Dolan. His confused attitude is clearly displayed by the end of the chapter when he says, “He was happy and free: but he would not be anyway proud with Father Dolan. He would be very kind and obedient: and he wished that he could do something kind for him to show him that he was not proud.” Stephen still has respect for his priests, but he has lost his blind sense of acceptance.
As Stephen grows, he slowly but inexorably distances himself from religion. His life becomes one concerned with pleasing his friends and family. However, as he matures he begins to feel lost and hopeless, stating, “He saw clearly too his own futile isolation. He had not gone one step nearer the lives he had sought to approach nor bridged the restless shame and rancor that divided him from mother and brother and sister.” It is this very sense of isolation and loneliness that leads to Stephen’s encounter with the prostitute, where, “He wanted to sin with another of his kind, to force another being to sin with him and to exult with her in sin.
Essay Contrasting Mending Wall with Other Poems in Frost’s North of Boston
Contrasting Mending Wall with Other Poems in Frost’s North of Boston
“Mending Wall”‘ is the opening poem of Frost’s North of Boston. One of the dominating moods of this volume, forcefully established in such important poems as “The Death of the Hired Man,” “Home Burial, ” “The Black Cottage,” and “A Servant to Servants,” and carried through some of the minor pieces, flows from the tension of having to maintain balance at the precipitous edge of hysteria. With “The Mountain” and with “A Hundred Collars,” “Mending Wall” stands opposed to such visions of human existence; more precisely put, to existences that are fashioned by the neurotic visions of central characters like the wife in “Home Burial,” the servant in “A Servant to Servants.” “Mending Wall” dramatizes the redemptive imagination in its playful phase, guided surely and confidently by a man who has his world under full control, who in his serenity is riding his realities, not being shocked by them into traumatic response. The place of “Mending Wall” in the structure of North of Boston suggests, in its sharp contrasts to the dark tones of some of the major poems in the volume, the psychological necessities of sustaining supreme fictions.
The opening lines evoke the coy posture of the shrewd imaginative man who understands the words of the farmer in ‘The Mountain”: “All the fun’s in how you say a thing,”
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends a frozen-ground-swell under it
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
It does not take more than one reading of the poem to understand that the speaker is not a country primitive who is easily spooked by the normal processes of nature. He knows very well what it is “that doesn’t love a wall” (frost, of course). His fun lies in not naming it. And in not naming the scientific truth he is able to manipulate intransigent fact into the world of the mind where all things are pliable. The artful vagueness of the phrase “Something there is” is enchanting and magical, suggesting even the bushed tones of reverence before mystery in nature. And the speaker (who is not at all reverent toward nature) consciously works at deepening that sense of mystery:
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair