Smugging in the Square: Homosexuality as a Literary Device in James Joyce's "A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man."

3689 Words Oct 13th, 2008 15 Pages
What can be said of the menacing literary masterpiece that is A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is that the gender issues Joyce so surreptitiously weaves into Stephan Dedalus’s character create sizable obstacles for the reader to overcome. Joyce expertly composes a feminine backdrop in which he can mold Stephan to inexplicably become innately homosexual. As Laurie Teal points out “… Joyce plays with gender inversion as a uniquely powerful tool of characterization.”(63) Stephan’s constant conflict with himself and what he wants generate a need for validation that he tries to simulate through day dreams and fantasies but is ultimately unable to resolve. Through exploring the tones of characterization and the character development of …show more content…
This phallic image becomes distorted by the pain experienced by Stephan and in so wrongly, subconsciously interpreted as sexual cruelty. Stephan’s continued isolation and inability to recognize normal is initiated at this time. Stephan regards the beating not as a normal party of Irish schooling, but as a personal attack on his being. The adjectives of firm and soft are employed by Joyce to “mood” the setting and produce sexual connotation instead of disciplinary connotation. This confused sexuality is the whole purpose of the passage. We need it only to see that in Stephan’s development, he has created an inversion in his thought process. Suddenly, masculinity is violence, arrogance even. Stephan admittedly wants to feel acceptance, a harmony with his environment. Harmony is the opposite of violence. Here, Stephan finds a feminine niche in which to live: harmony without masculine violence. Soon there after, Stephan’s triumph after speaking with the rector creates a joy that he has not experienced before. The act of telling the rector that he was mistreated by the prefect of studies initiates a weakness within Stephan that he can no longer deny. This confusing turn of events leaves Stephan’s subconscious in shambles and exposes him in the most crucial stages of development. By rejecting the masculine urge to suck it up, he forfeits his right to the male gender. The pairing
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