The Honorable Life and Death of James Joyce

Powerful Essays
The Honorable Life and Death of James Joyce

The coat of arms which James Joyce inherited from his family bears the motto,

"Mors aut honorabilis vita," meaning, "An honorable life or death." But was

Joyce loyal to the creed of his more noble ancestors? Many would argue that he

was not. After a Catholic education all the way through his undergraduate degree

he denounced Catholicism. In the middle of a time of growing nationalism in

which the role of bard was elevated to national importance Joyce abandoned his

native Ireland in search of less constrictive lands. But the one thing to which

Joyce remained true throughout his entire life was art. In repeated

confrontations and against great pressure he remained true to what he felt was

the only real morality in an artist's life, his truth in art.

"James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was born on February 2, 1882, in Rathgar, a

fairly prosperous souther suburb of Dublin." (Kershner) The Joyces are thought

to have a noble background, which is borne out by the existence of a coat of

arms. But living as a Catholic in Ireland at the time of his birth severely

limited his family in their ascension of the social ladder. He was the eldest

survivor of twelve children (only eight lived to adulthood), and the son of a

"disastrous father" (Kershner), but at the age of six he escaped his perhaps

less than desirable home life. He was sent to Clongowes Wood college, a Jesuit

school which was said to be the best preparatory school in Ireland. While the

rigorous Catholicism of the Jesuits did not follow him for the rest of his life,

their rigorous education did.


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mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my

defense the only arms I allow myself to use, silence, exile, and cunning.

These are not the words of a coward. These are not the words of a traitor to his

country and religion. These are the words of a man who was forced to fight

through criticism, censorship, and personal tragedy to bring his art to light.

These are the words of a man who had an honorable life and death.

Works Cited:

"The Brazen Head." Online. Internet. Available

Curran, C.P. James Joyce Remembered. New York: Oxford University Press, 1968.

Kershner, Brandon. "Brandon Kershner's Portrait Page." Online. Internet.

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