The Relationships Behind Portrait

The Relationships Behind Portrait

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In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce, Stephen Dedalus, reacts towards his parents the same as many typical modern-day adolescents and adolescents of the early 1900s. Stephen's attitude and feelings towards his parents change throughout the course of this book. His feelings change in a pattern similar to one of typical adolescents. Adolescent attitudes have not changed much throughout the years. Adolescents change physically and emotionally during the early years of their life. The activities the adolescents do may have changed but the intentions behind those acts have not. Stephen has a different relationship with family members other than his parents like his Uncle Charles and his Aunt Dante. Many adolescents have a different relationship with family members other than their parents.
In the article, Joyce and His First Self-Portrait by James T. Farrell, Farrell states “no clear and full picture of Stephen's relationship with his mother is described.”(3) I believe this statement could be true and false. It could be true on the grounds of no definite feelings described in the book from Stephen. There is also no change of feelings throughout the course of Stephen's adolescence that are mentioned. Only three events in the book mentions a relationship between Stephen and his mother. The first instance is when Stephen is teased by Wells and the other older boys about the subject of kissing his mother. Wells asks Stephen, “do you kiss your mother before you go to bed?” This opens up the topic over whether he should kiss his mother or should he not. The other boys laugh at Stephen's confusion while he ponders this thought. (Joyce,6) During the Christmas dinner, there is no direct reference to a relationship between Stephen and his mother. During this scene, Stephen see different sides of all the adults at the dinner. Stephen's mother tries to create a peaceful Christmas dinner. She is unable to do this because Stephen's father, aunt, and uncle get into a heated political debate. Stephen witnesses his mother get irritated over the constant arguing. She tries to stop the argument but fails to do so. Stephen's feelings are not recognized in the passage. He merely just observes this scene. (Joyce, 21-22) At the end of the book, it does not mention a relationship between the two but an argument they have. Stephen tells Cranly he argued with his mother about going to church on Easter Sunday.

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I do not believe any of the scenes that includes Stephen and his mother truly show his feelings toward her. Their relationship is not a focus in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Stephen and his father's relationship are described more deeply than the relationship with his mother.
Stephen's oldest childhood memory that he can clearly remember is one of his father telling him a story. (Joyce, 1) I believe his father meant a lot to Stephen since he is able to remember this moment that has happened between them so clearly. The passage on the first page of the book states the foundation on which Stephen and his father's relationship starts on. In “Joyce and His First Self-Portrait”, Farrell states “Stephen loses respect for his father.”(3) In the article “Parent-Adolescent Conflict in Early Adolescence: Research and Implications for Middle School Programs”, Barbara N. Allison reports, “family relationships undergo a transformation during the transition to adolescence that is often accompanied by an increase in conflict between adolescents and their parents.”(3) I think Stephen gradually loses his respect for his father.(Farrell,3) Stephen undergoes a transition when he starts to lose respect for his father and starts arguments with him. I believe the transition into adolescence begins for Stephen when he witnesses the great debate of politics between the adults at Christmas. Stephen sees his father cry for the first time. It does not mention Stephen's specific feelings on the incident, but the reader can sense the situation changed Stephen's opinion on his father.In chapter two of Portrait, Stephen accompanies his father to sell some of their property for money. As Stephen's father rambles on about his childhood memories. As the day goes on, Stephen loses more respect for his father. They begin the day looking at Queen's college. Stephen gets irritated at his father for not seeing through the porter's, who is giving them a tour, manners. Once they enter the anatomy theatre, Stephen's father tries to find where his initials are carved. When Stephen spots them, He becomes embarrassed of his father. The book says, “ He hurried down the steps of the theatre so as to be as far away from the vision as he could be and, peering closely at his father's initials, hid his flushed face.” This is the first time mentioned that Stephen is embarrassed by his father. As the day progresses, Stephen just wants to be rid of his father and nowhere near him anymore.(Joyce, 62-64) When Stephen starts sinning he becomes distant from everyone. He holds no relationship with any of his family members. When Stephen is in college, he becomes very lazy and feels like going to college is not important. This situation causes a strain on Stephen and his father's relationship. Stephen's father does not appreciate Stephen's attitude and laziness. Stephen's father does not like Stephen wasting the family's money.(Joyce, 125-126) This moment is the last confrontational moment Stephen and his father share in the book. The last reference to their relationship is described in the last line of Portrait. “Old father, old artificer, stand me now, and ever in good stead.”(185)
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