The Movement of Water In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
In The Portrait of the Artist As A young Man, James Joyce uses the movement of water as way of showing the tragic hero, Stephen Dedalus's coming of age as well as his lose of innocence. Originally, Joyce names the protagonist's name Stephen Hero. This was to show that Stephen was in fact the tragic hero. He did have some flaw which will utlimately lead to his downfall. Although to follow his Greek mythology theme he names his character Dedalus. Daedalus, the father of Icarus, was a tragic hero along with his son. Daedalus had the passion to change the laws of nature and in doing so his son was quietly killed by the powerful sea.
When boys at Dedalus' school are having a conversation about two other boys who got kicked out for performing some kind of homosexual play in the school urinal Joyce has Stephen remember Eileen, the first girl that Stephen ever had an attraction for This seems rather odd because what they boys are talking about is dirty and sinful and Stephen is remembering one of the purest memories he has. " Eileen had long thin cool white hands too because she was a girl. They were like ivory: only soft." ( Joyce 51). Ivory symbolizes the utmost purity. Joyce describes Stephen's first encounter with a girl not of his family and he is awestruck by how innocent and pure she was.
According to Sigmund Freud's Oedipus Complex every man had an unconcious desire to grow up to kill their father and marry their mother. Joyce was well away of Freud theory and used it throughout his writing of the novel. The Doors put it best in their song "Then End" by having spoken lyrics that went " Father? - Yes, Son - I want to kill you - Mother, I want to...". Although the Doors, did fit the Oepdipus complex nicely into their music, Joyce consistently has the symbol of eyes throughout his story. Joyce has Stephen's eyes symbolize his manhood. When he is with Eileen she innocently covers his eyes to play as game which is somewhat like hid-and-go seek. Symbolically Stephen's eyes are being torn out because he fells he is sinning by having thoughts about Eileen.
Eileen is a Tower of Ivory, a House of Gold. In the passage in which Joyce describes Eileen he uses the movement of water for the first time in a pure sense. " Her fair hair had streamed out behind her like the gold in the sun. Tower of Ivory. House of Gold." (51). Joyce describes how her hair streams. To stream is to flow like water, tears, or blood. Joyce has water and tears in his novel and each time they are mentioned they are for purposes to enrich the fact that Dedalus is not in a happy place in his life. But Eileen is different. Her hair streams. This is the only time that the movement of water is symbolizes how happy Dedalus can be as well as his lose of innocence. Eileen is a real girl he doesn't have to imagine in his head and that makes him happy that her hands can touch him and her hair can stream. He actually is starting to have thoughts about girls not in a pure way and it is confusing him. At this point in the passage, Joyce takes the reader back to story of couple of children "smuggling" (50) in the urinal. After having water for once be a sense of happiness as well as lose of innocence Joyce uses water only for lose of innocence. Stephen wonders why the boys were in the urinal smuggling. " But why in the square? You went there when you wanted to do something. It was all thick slabsa slate and water trickled all day out of tiny pinholes and there was a queer smell of stale water there." (51). The end of the passage beautifully symbolizes the movement of water. Joyce decided that the dirty and sinful act that the boys were performing would take place in the urinal. Water dripped all day out of the tiny holes in the slates. Stephen is realizing how sinful a people can be and Joyce rightly puts wthe trickling of water in his mind while thinking of this.
Later on in Stephen's life his lose of innocence becomes recognized. In Autumn, the time of death, he can no longer stand the sight of cows which were so interesting and beautiful to him before. " But when autumn came the cows were driven home from the grass: and the first sight of the filthy cowyard at Stradbrook with its foul green puddles and cots of liquid dung and steaming brantroughs sickened Stephen's heart." (68). The liquid is now used to symbolize the harsh truth that Stephen is going through changes. He is not the young innocent boy anymore. He is becoming an intellectual young man who's eyes are starting to open and is seeing the world for what is actually is : a steaming pile of liquid dung. His character Mercedes earlier became the first girl he had sexual relations with and now the world is not quite the same. Whether Mercedes was in his head or real nontheless he still lost his innocence and Joyce that through the movement of water. " The cattle which had seemed so beautiful in the country on sunny days revolted him and he could not even look at the milk they yielded" (68). The milk that the cows yielded is a form of moving water. Dedalus is revolted by this milk that the cows are yielding. In this passage he is coming close to adulthood but still has a way to go.
Whether movement of water is used to symbolize purity or the lose of Dedalus's disgust for what he once loved Joyce is always using water to show the lose of Stephen's innocence.