There are many similarities between A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Dubliners, most notably in regards to Stephen Dedalus and the young narrator of “Araby” and their perspectives on young women.  In “Araby,” the narrator is beginning to mature and experience sexual desire, becoming fixated on the sister of a friend.  She filled him with “confused adoration” (23) and provoked a nearly manic energy from the narrator.

A similar fixation and energy can be found on pages 164-165 in Portrait when Stephen Dedalus notices a girl standing alone midstream.  Though this is not the first girl to catch his attention, he observes every detail of her appearance and demeanor.  After she meets his gaze, his soul experiences “an outburst of profane joy” (165) echoing the perspective of the young narrator of “Araby.”  He sets off on a walking excursion with no destination, thinking about the girl and equating her to an angel (165).  This kind of attention and idolization is consistent with the dynamic in “Araby.”  In both instances, the females are portrayed as angelic or nearly angelic.

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4 thoughts on “

  1. jsdrouin

    Remember to give your post a title!

    A good observation about similarities between the protagonist of “Araby” and Stephen Dedalus’ observation of the girl at the strand. In your blog posts, I’d like you to take things further so that you deliver your readers an interpretive payoff. Start with the factual nugget or pattern that seems to have the most potential and then spin something out from it.

    For instance, that both of the girls provoke both of the boys into taking long contemplative walks is a very intriguing pattern. So, what do you think it’s about? Does it have something to do with inspiration and a journey? What kind of journey does the boy in “Araby” take (ahem! — romantic quest [remember our class discussion?]), and what kind does Stephen take in A Portrait? Is there a difference between them, or are they primarily similiar? If so (or if not), then why?

    It’s important to ask yourself (and answer) these kinds of questions that build cumulatively from a kernel of interest. Following your hunches is a great way to begin building a writing or research topic.

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  2. ktb067

    I’d like to know if/how the encounter with the girl at the strand continued to affect Stephen after his initial period of infatuation. Initially, he doesn’t seem quite as creepy as the boy in Araby; he is merely stunned by her presence and beauty, and needs time to process his experience. He doesn’t continually watch her, or plot ways to talk to her. Instead, he peacefully walks away, reflecting on what he has seen.

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  3. jww92

    It’s interesting to consider the extent to which Stephen’s feelings toward the girl in the water are similar to those which the narrator of “Araby” feels toward Mangan’s sister. Stephen’s experience is a sort of fleeting, random event. I sense that he is affected as much by the transitory, delicate nature of the moment as by the girl herself. This is less rational, perhaps, even than the “Araby” narrator’s distant, deluded worship. But I wonder if it’s not, at the same time, also a function of Stephen’s greater age and experience. I believe that I’m more likely now, at 21 years old, to remember or be unexpectedly moved by someone that I encounter only briefly, by accident, than when I was 12. At that time in my life, by contrast, I was capable of (and highly susceptible to) sustained feelings of infatuation for people whom I knew only distantly or shallowly – much closer to the situation in “Araby.” Both of these feelings, of course, are distinct from the more complex sets of emotions that we generally mean by “love.” This may seem counter-intuitive, for it almost suggests that, with age, we actually become easier to enchant – not our usual understanding of how life and disillusionment work. But I’ve found that along with the disillusionment of growing up, as we shed much of the uncritical romance of childhood, comes greater sensitivity and appreciation for the imperfect and the ephemeral in life. The Stephen who makes eye contact with that girl is considerably advanced from the narrator of “Araby.” He’s older, sexually experienced and intellectually restless. Figuratively speaking, he’s been to hell and back. And it may be that Stephen holds no illusions at all about this girl. That he’s moved by the random intersection of her beauty with his own life, by the simplicity of the moment, the fact that it need never be adulterated by the inevitable complications and disappointments of actual love. Comparison of the situations in these two works is, I feel, revealing of the effect of time and maturity on these two characters, and of what this brief but important moment in Stephen’s life means to him.

    Maybe this short scene from “Citizen Kane” will give some sense of what I mean. “A fellow will remember a lot of things you wouldn’t think he’d remember.”

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  4. jsdrouin

    Yes, we commonly attribute a diminished ability to become enchanted with the process of maturing into adulthood, but Stephen’s case is different. By the end of A Portrait, he has not only held on to his capacity for enchantment and creating visions, but has developed them into a metaphysical framework which understands them in a rational way as well. This is the special case of the artistic vocation, and the other characters seem to be set apart on this basis.

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