Joyce has used the name Daedalus as a literary vehicle to give the reader a sense of deeper understanding about Stephen as a character in “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man “. There is a link between Stephen Dedalus and the Greek mythological figure Daedalus and this becomes apparent to Stephen when he hears his friends say his name in Greek. When Stephen compares himself to the “fabulous artificer” their similar plight reveals itself. The correlation between Stephen’s need to escape Ireland to write, parallels Daedalus’s escape through flight from Crete.
Through the correlation between Stephen and Icarus, Joyce was referencing the overconfidence and pride that both Stephen and Icarus had. It is apparent that Stephen is proud yet pretentious especially when conversing with his friends who he feels he has outgrown mentally. Icarus fell to his death because of his overconfidence and pride. This demonstrates Stephen’s willingness to take risks to realize his destiny even if it includes failures.
Stephen compares himself to Lucifer in chapter four saying, “The snares of the world were its ways of sin. He would fall. He had not fallen yet but he would fall silently and in an instant.” Lucifer fell from heaven because of his pride saying, “I will not serve”. Stephen also full of pride in himself refuses to honor or serve his family, church and his country. This defiance in Stephen demonstrates his strong will to do what he wants with his life.
Joyce has used birds as a literary device in “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” to develop themes and evoke a visual image for the reader. Birds are usually associated with freedom and flight, yet the earliest mention of birds is related to punishment. Dante’s threat that eagles would pick out his eyes essentially comes true in a symbolic sense. Stephen becomes blinded by mortal sin with prostitutes and was then blinded by a life of total devotion to religion.
Heron, Stephens boyhood adversary has bird-like features and a birds name, literally picks on Stephen for standing up for his beliefs. Stephen repressed his emotions when confronted with Heron’s attacks. Later when questioned about his beliefs and ideology by Cranly (meaning crane-like), Stephen expresses his emotions by asserting his strength and independence.
Stephen’s epiphany takes place when he walks along the beach and sees the young girl wading in the water. This conjures up the image of a wading bird and it reawakens Stephen’s belief in beauty. Stephen also examines the similarities between Dedalus and himself. The thought of Dedalus flying away to escape his imprisonment reinforces Stephen’s destiny to leave Ireland and pursue a new life of freedom.
Joyce may have used the term bat-like to describe the Irish as being blind to the “nets” of Ireland that repeatedly hold them back and deny them their freedom. Stephen’s reference to the “bat-like soul” may allude to his dark and secretive desires for women and the mystery that surrounds them.
Stephen’s greatest epiphany occurs when he is awaiting news of his acceptance to the University. Joyce has taken two major events in Stephen’s life to transform the character into the emerging artist. Stephen’s decision to deny the life of priesthood and pursue a career as an artist proves the importance of his individuality. Joyce has transformed Stephen’s walk on the beach into a metamorphosis for Stephen. I equate his transformation into an artist to that of a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. Each stage of Stephen’s life helps to morph him into the artist that he will inevitably become. Stephen discovers that he will leave behind the cocoon of family, church, and country to symbolically fly to his destiny.
Stephen’s encounter with the boys that call him by his Greek name triggers his imagination about Dedalus. As Stephen meditates on the mythical figure Dedalus he discovers that it must be his fate to pursue art. He realizes that it is his destiny to create art and sore to greatness. The image of the “hawk like man flying sunward above the sea” supports Stephen’s “prophecy of the end he had been born to serve and he had been following through the mists of childhood and boyhood.” Stephen’s journey through life is to be realized through independence and a newly found freedom. His metamorphosis is not yet complete but now within reach.
Stephen’s experiences with women in “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” have always been awkward and laden with moral consequences. His experience with the girl on the tram frustrates him and when he attempts to write a poem about her he is unable to. Stephen’s encounter with prostitutes was morally wrong and he was fraught with guilt. When Stephen decides to confess his sins he devotes his life to religion and praise of the Virgin Mary. He imagines the Holy Virgin joining his hand with Emma’s and attributes saint-like qualities to Emma. Stephen’s concept of women and sexuality had been very misguided to this point. This changes when Stephen sees the girl wading in the water at the beach. Stephen admires her beauty without guilt and experiences a revelation about women and the beauty they posses. The image of the girl delivers inspiration to Stephen the now transformed artist.