Friday, April 4, 2008

Reflective Essay

As summer ended and senior year started, once again I felt the struggle of trudging through English class. Although I generally receive high marks, most of my writing felt bland and simplistic. Whenever, a new writing assignment was given out, I, like most other students, shivered at the thought of writing it, possibly spending hours on one assignment as the rest of my homework was put aside.

Reading on the other hand seemed like a completely different matter. It wasn’t that I couldn’t read the books, it’s just that I had no real interest. Who cares about Meursault going insane due to his cigarette craving and lust? So what if Stephen Dedalus felt guilty about his sins? To me, reading was like a form of torture. As I flipped the page, I’m bombarded by another page of words and I am yet again forced to reluctantly strain my eyes and my brain.

Gradually, as the year went on, I noticed that I was spending less time on my English assignments. I spent less time thinking about writing and I somehow was able to string my thoughts together so that they flowed like a long, elegant ribbon. The continuous pounding of the keyboard became sentences that I would never have written in the past. The results previous years of high school English classes were finally starting to show.

I became accustomed to my writing technique. I’d toss any formatting guidelines or page requirements until the very end, focusing entirely on my writing. I looked back on my clumsy freshman papers that lacked thesis and had poor syntax and passive tone. The words were the same, yet, they were woven together in a comprehensible manner. All my thoughts were relevant and, more importantly, I became more confident in my writing. As my confidence grew, my voice found its way onto my words and I was able to enjoy writing for the first time in years.

My reading was still subpar compared to my writing. My classmates were able to read as if it were no problem at all, yet I found myself taking hours more to read the same material. One day, the mention of a social commentary, Ghettonation, piqued my interests. As I read it for my outside reading book, I found myself engaged and wanting to read. Why was it that I was so willing to read Ghettonation? I soon realized that it was because the themes introduced in Ghettonation were relevant to me. Knowing this, I soon applied the idea of personal relevance in reading and my reading ability soon grew alongside my writing. My preferences in reading did not change much but I was still able to find ways to write what I wanted to write. As engaging or full of passion that Hamlet or Meursault may be, I’d set him aside in my mind for other, perhaps overlooked characters like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern or Raymond. I did not take on any assignment knowing that I’d hate it, struggling with conflicting thoughts and working in frustration. Reading any form of literature was just a matter of honing my interests and close reading. While I was interested in Hamlet’s famous “to be or not to be” soliloquy, I was also interested, perhaps even more so in Rosencrantz telling King Claudius that he is in the center of the wheel that is Denmark.

This idea of relevance is central to my growth in appreciating literature. Why was I in English class in the first place? Was it only because it is required by the school board and I have been taking English classes every school year? It would be foolish if this were truly the case; I would have been better off not taking English class at all. I now worry less about my actual grade and care more about the relevant knowledge that I carry, and will continue to carry, in my mind.

Class Discussion Response

Throughout history, humans have always had a desire to obtain a sense of recognition and gain meaning in life. However, Albert Camus states that human life is absurd and through it, nothing is accomplished. In his essay, “The Myth of Sisyphus,” Camus shows through the shift in his tone and his definite, allusions to mythology, and concise diction that, although life is considered absurd and meaningless, happiness still is obtained through it.

Michael R.’s thesis seems to have good thought behind it. He clearly states his interpretation of the essay to the reader early on so the reader knows where the explication is heading. He gives a brief example of symbolism Camus uses in his essay which shows Camus’ purpose for writing it. However, he can still elaborate on the other techniques Camus uses. Otherwise, this thesis would have been ideal.

Elina has stated in class that Sisyphus’ repetitious punishment gives him meaning and supports Camus’ own views of modernism. Camus states that “at the very end of his long effort measured by skyless space and time without depth, the purpose is achieved” (2). Although he is in the underworld, he finally obtains a sense of worth. When he pushes the boulder to the top of the hill, there is a sense of achievement that is sure to fleet. Even though Sisyphus goes through so much trouble to push the rock, it is during this “hour of consciousness” (2) when the rock falls that he gets to think and is “superior to his fate” (2). In his moment of consciousness, Sisyphus discovers a flaw in human nature. All his actions are absurd, that all his efforts in pushing the boulder are, and will always be, in vain. The seemingly worthless pushing of the rock is symbolic of one’s endless struggles in life. Through the timeless myth of Sisyphus, Camus expresses his own modernist thoughts on life that nothing that is done in life will matter. Camus states that “happiness and the absurd are two sons on the same earth” (4). It is inevitable that “one always finds one’s burden again” (5). Therefore, if Sisyphus were to enjoy the moments of satisfaction throughout his eternal torment as Camus suggests, then his actions are “neither sterile nor futile” (5). It is as if every action that human beings do is only its worth.

Charles Olson Assignment

Psychoanalytical View of Stephen Dedalus

In chapter 3, the priest that Stephen confesses to is an interesting character. He does not preach of fire and brimstone and is not a father figure although he is literally called father. He is forgiving unlike the other father figures [that Stephen encounters]. If anything, his forgiving nature resembles that of his mother. One can psychoanalytically interpret Stephen's obedience toward the priest as his own affection and obedience toward his mother. In a way, this might suggest Stephen's homosexuality and preference to his feminine side. To Stephen, religion is his new comfort zone and, in essence, is his [metaphorical] womb. However, he learns that religion restricts him and he has more opportunity outside of the metaphorical womb than within it.

From Brute to Man of Pride

When society thinks of a person of meaning, it usually thinks of some heroic figure, waging a war or assisting comrades in need. However, in “Plum Plum Pickers,” Raymond Barrio transforms Manuel Gutiérrez, an ordinary, lowly apricot picker, into a man of purpose and pride. Through well planned writing, terse sentences, and intense symbolism, Barrio describes Manuel as both a worker, mechanical and crude, and a true man, proud until death.

Barrio starts his story focusing on Manuel, setting the reader in a vast apricot field. He is trapped within the trees as if they were the “blackest bars on the jails of hell” (40). With such strong symbolism used from the very start, Barrio already creates an image in the reader’s mind that Manuel is suffering unbearable torture. He then describes Manuel as a brute in a series of short sentences describing Manuel and his actions, many of which do not use verbs. Barrio uses these sentences to directly convey powerful emotions and thoughts. He truly makes it seem as though Manuel is a “refined wreck of an animal” (40) as he deliberately strips whatever human qualities that Manuel has. Manuel does not even have a proper name throughout the introduction.

Barrio’s sentences are not only used for description, but also for manipulating the reader’s emotions when appropriate. Through simple one word paragraphs, Barrio transitions abruptly through hours in a workday in a mere second. The declarations of “Lunch,” Midafternoon,” and “Ended” (40) are given the ability to warp the reader’s sense of time, making Manuel’s work seem all the more monotonous and excruciating. It is as though anything up until that point does not matter, that anything Manuel does has no impact on the world. The sentences also break his structured, traditional writing and increase with intensity as the story goes on. As Manuel rests during his lunch break, his one moment of peace, Manuel is reminded of “the trees,” “the branches again,” “the briarly branches,” “the scratching leaves” (40). Barrio’s sentences also reestablish the fact that Manuel is working in a hellish environment.

Although Manuel seems helpless, Barrio makes Manuel more of a human than those of higher status of him. Barrio attacks the images of the successful Robert Morales and his rich, guilt-free employers in the same manner that he degrades Manuel through his short sentences that stir up thought. Morales: “A real robber. A Mexican general. A gentlemanly, friendly, polite, grinning, vicious, thieving brute. The worst kind” (40). The shameless employers responsible for hiring such a hideous man: They were honest, those güeros. They could sleep at night. They fulfilled their end of the bargain and cheated no one” (40-41). People that do seem to have purpose, that have more important tasks than picking apricots, are not superior to Manuel. Manuel may appear to be a brute but he demonstrates that he is more of a human than his fellow workers and his superiors by defending his honor.

Manuel’s defiance is shown in a “stupid, accidental, dangerous way” (41) but he stands for his rights unlike everyone around him. Through his defiance, he makes a discovery that Barrio believes rivals even Don Gaspar’s discovery of the Californian coast. He discovers that “men are built to experience a certain sense of honor and pride” (41). Barrio’s choice of character shows that nothing prevents people from being human, that even the lowliest of men can be human so long as they have their dignity.

Winter Break Reading Assignment

The significance of the title of the chapter "The Dream" is the plan that Owen predicts for himself surrounding his death. In the beginning of the chapter, Owen states that "GOD HAS TAKEN MY HANDS. I AM GOD'S INSTRUMENT" (337). Irving starts off the chapter by giving the reader a sense of Owen's faith and purpose to God. By having Owen boast of his importance, the reader is more likely to see Owen's dream as the future that God has fated. Additionally, Irving elevates Owen again by having him state, "IF GOD GAVE ME THIS VOICE, HE HAD A REASON" (353). Mr. McSwiney confirms that Owen's voice will not change unless something is done, hence why Owen writes in his diary that his voice will not change and that he is God's instrument in the end of the chapter. The title itself is referring to the dreams that Owen continuously has. Pastor Merrill assures him that it is just a dream but Owen is insistent on it being the truth as the reader realizes in the last chapter. The reader learns that it is because of this dream that Owen is troubled since Jogn says that this is one of the few moments when he sees Owen cry. Owen writes in his diary, "I KNOW WHEN I'M GOING TO DIE. I'M GOING TO BE A HERO" (416). The reader realizes that Owen has had the dream ever since the Christmas Carol play due to the manner he writes his name as first lieutenant Paul O. Meany Jr. as it was on his gravestone that day. This further explains his insistence on completing The SHot in under four seconds and his joining the ROTC. The reader realizes that it is as if Owen lived his entire life in anticipation of his dream, even as early as his high school days.

Vonnegut Short Story


Day in and day out, in a research laboratory in southern Detroit, there was a scientist that always left in the late evening named Harold Nekrasov. He’d leave the building, dragging his feet after a long day of accomplishing little. After the Cold War, Nekrasov was one of the many Soviet scientists that were in need of a job. An American shoe company hired him to do research, to help make a sole that was more cost efficient. He was paid a pitiful four dollars and twenty five cents an hour.

He had but one friend, a janitor named Argo Fedoseev, a fellow former Soviet that has been working in the laboratory long before Nekrasov. Fedoseev was an old, ornery man that had no teeth. The neighborhood child would point and laugh at him and his raggedy clothing in his broken shack and he would always fight back. But Nekrasov was happy nonetheless that he found someone he could interact with, someone that could understand him.

Little did the world know, in that small building was an incredible accomplishment. Nekrasov helped develop a new box material that would soon be used for the next generation sneakers. Its attributes were similar to cardboard. However, the difference was the space between the pieces. The spacing to this cardboard was incredibly compact; it’s as if there was only enough with for an oxygen molecule to get through. Nothing could damage it, it seemed to be invulnerable. This ultimate cardboard would revolutionize packaging around the world. He told Fedoseev of the indestructible material and how he would make the both of them rich.

One day, Sergeant Jameson paid visit to the research laboratory with two soldier escorts.

“What can I do for you?” asked Nekrasov timidly.

“Somebody here wanted to sell an item of the utmost important to the military,” replied Jameson officially.

“You must be mistaken. There was no such call.”

Fedoseev came in the room in a lab coat, anticipating the arrival. “Ah! Sergeant sir. This is the cardboard I told you about.”

“Mister Fedoreev. This will be a great asset to the military. Thank you for your assistance. Your check will arrive in the mail shortly. Take it away,” said Jameson. He grinned and motioned for the soldiers to grab the cardboard. They left the laboratory laughing, Nekrasov speechless.

Within a year, the cardboard was being used by the American military to create tanks, planes, vests, anything they could out of it. They raided the old Soviet Russia and killed the entire population.

Nekrasov visited Fedoseev in his shack one day. He took out a newly purchased pistol and shot Fedoseev’s throat and twice in the heart. He made his way to the Detroit River, hung a sign over his neck, shot himself in the head, and sank into the water. On the sign, Nekrasov wrote, “GOD IS MONEY.” At Fedoseev’s door was a check by the United States government for one hundred dollars.

Excerpts from Ghettonation Blog

To answer Christina’s question and elaborate on the use of the word ghetto, Daniels repeatedly uses the word ghetto throughout her novel in order to make clear exactly what situations are considered ghetto. She places the lone word ghetto between sentences in a somewhat dismissing tone as one would in a typical conversation to create humor and to lessen any hints of ghetto being used in a demeaning manner. She is careful not to label any social group in particular as ghetto and even repeats it twice in her introduction that “ghetto is not limited to a class or a race” (8). When Daniels uses ghetto in a sentence, her intention is to allow the reader to accept the presence of the ghetto mindset in our society.

Daniels also uses the word ghetto as a form of clarification. To some readers, it may be clear that Gwyneth’s actions seem ghetto. However, other readers may actually have grown up in such an environment and they might have never considered their childhoods as ghetto. After all, it is easy to believe that “no matter how low on the economic totem pole we actually are, ghetto is those folks underneath us” (28).


Although Daniels suggests that we should accept ghetto, we should not be embracing it. After all, “ghetto is also an absence of self-respect” (33) and results in lowered moral standards. If we are to accept ghetto, what are we to do about ghetto behavior? Daniels makes clear that we can not simply turn our heads in a different direction. Whether we like it or not, ghetto is here to stay.

The embracement of ghetto is caused by the misconception that ghetto is black. In Will Smith’s “I Wish I Made That / Swagga,” he brings up the acceptance of ghetto as black in the music industry. In order to get attention in the media, he mockingly states that he would have to “jack a truck/ Full of cigarettes, guns & drugs & stuff,” in order to conform to the ghetto image. He talks about envying the fortune and fame of other rappers such as Dr. Dre and Tupac. He goes on to exaggerate how others criticize him for not having a ghetto background like most rappers of his time. However, he also raps, “All you see that you see when you seeing me, you ain't seeing all to be seen/ Cause there's more for you to see than when you see me on the scene in my/ media machine.” He reveals that he a person and he is not just his image. By stating so, he suggests that the other rappers are all about their images. He believes whether or not he is ghetto has no relevance to his blackness and that he indeed “got [his] swagga back.”


Good morning everyone. I’ve been a little busy but I’ve finally found some time.

The highlight of this book for me has to be chapter 6. Daniels’ writing style is dramatically different in this one chapter in relation to the rest of the book. Daniels makes no narration and the entire chapter is written in dialogue. Filled with excessive music references and ghetto behavior, this chapter reminds us how largely influenced we are by the media and vice versa. I’m not much of a music enthusiast but even I recognized some of the songs she was pulling lyrics out of. We hear the music so much that we can easily incorporate them in our everyday speech and it would go unnoticed. From “Gold Digger” to “Oops… I Did It Again,” Daniels utilizes the lyrics within the ghetto speech in such a manner that the entire conversation is believable and makes her point entirely. All the songs she refers to how this one ghetto image in common. Excessive partying. The financial aspect of a relationship. The fleeting ghetto aspect of a relationship driven by the thrill of the moment. Not only does this chapter instill humor in us, it also opens our eyes to how routine ghetto has become and the ghetto mindset. In words of 50 Cent, “America got a thing for this gangsta s***.”

Would I recommend other people to read this book? Definitely. It’s an eye opener for sure and makes you say, “Damn. I am pretty ghetto,” even if you never considered it before. This book can be read by those who detest ghetto culture and those who consider themselves a part of it. After all, it is social criticism. Ghetto is a part of our culture whether we like it or not so we might as well fully understand what it is and how it is affecting us. “I am ghetto. I am not ghetto. I am you” (196). A quick, enjoyable read that leave you laughing out loud and confused (but liking it).


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Explication of Page 191 of A Humument

On page 191 of Tom Phillips’ A Humument, Phillips suggests that there is opportunity for growth in any environment through the question he presents on the page and the one treelike image that Philips creates. The object of focus can be viewed in different manners, each revealing different messages that Phillips suggests about growth.

Immediately, the viewer should notice how much of the page is a shade of purple. The peculiar shape on the top half of the page catches the viewer’s attention as it is unlike the other geometric shapes and people are naturally dependent on the left side of the brain, causing one to look for words. The words are covered by crosshatching of different violets and maroons, forming puzzle like shapes, all touching one another, yet, not overlapping. Not only do the purples create interest, but the aged yellow and white parts do as well. The white in particular creates a halo effect which gives the object an outline, allowing the viewer to associate it with simple symbols such as clouds and bushes. The outline does not take away from the image in anyway as the concentration of crosshatching and the differences in color create depth on a normally flat picture through value. Within this image is the question, “Can it be in my Barren garden that you flower?” being the only words in the image not drawn over and legible.

The viewer should then follow the shape of the first figure down into the vertical lines which resemble tree trunks. The large rectangle the trunks led to is a light indigo, with marks of darker indigo concentrated near the top of the shape. Together, the entire image resembles three trees in a purple soil, possibly a reference to the barren garden that Phillips mentions.

In modern culture, purple, when associated with nature, suggests contamination and a sense of degeneration, especially in things not normally purple. It seems as if the entire scene is polluted, that nothing is able to grow. However, the autumn yellow leaves suggest otherwise. They imply that the purple trees, although unnatural and strange, are still able to go through seasonal stages as normal trees would. One can also interpret the yellow leaves as yellow flowers. Flowers are known to be delicate and fragile. If flowers are able to grow in such a desolate environment, it can be assumed that anything is able to develop, regardless of where it may be.

The crosshatching is more than just artistic preference and creation of depth. It is done in rigid lines but it gives a completely different feeling, one that flows. The lines contribute to the overall image by giving an unrestricted feel to it through the untouched space within the shapes as well as the overflowing of crosshatching in the bottom left corner of the trees’ top. Corresponding shapes appear to differ slightly from one another but they are drawn with the same color inks. The concentration of the crosshatching is what creates the illusion of differing shades which in turn causes one to visualize a variety of feelings. The same dark maroon that smothers words and creates a sense of the abyss is the same maroon that is applied in fewer marks, making the tree seem basked in light, giving a feeling of tranquility and life in the plethora of color.

Phillip’s question may be the centerpiece of this piece of art, the words that are covered but still legible are of interest as well. In the turnip purple portions of the tree, wistful, flowing words and actions such as harmony, dodge, and speak. In the twilight purple portions, the words life, dreaming, night, and murmur are clear. These words are associated through sleep and dreams. The distribution of color is rather simple; the colors alternate accordingly according to adjacent shapes. Knowing this, one can interpret the image in a completely different manner. The alternation of colors represents the alternation of day and night, of clear actions and ideas and surreal ones. In this manner, one can interpret the tree as a large cloud or a thought bubble. The hidden words can represent subconscious thoughts and the clearer words represent things more commonly thought of.

One can also view Phillips’ question as an attack toward society. The trees-in-the-garden image is remarkably similar to a mushroom shaped smog caused by an explosion. The purple explosion is so great that the land is lit up by it. The same words that represent dreams and ideals are now being engulfed. Can it be that humans can only flourish through the destruction of nature? In this scene, the barren garden is referring to land devoid of life. Phillips may be suggesting that humans are only satisfied after knowing that nothing else exists. If interpreted in this way, Phillips reveals a sad truth behind modern human progress.

No matter how one may view this page, Phillips invokes thoughts of flowering, of growth. Growth is never-ending as are the thoughts surrounding it. Although there may be darkness in growth, there is also hope within it as well.

The True Meaning of Nature in the Life of Stephen Dedalus

Benwit L.
English 12 Honors
February 7, 2008

Art and nature can be seen in a contrasting manner. For an artist, to create art is to create an image or an emotion out of nothing. However, nature has a sense of supremacy in which the objects created through nature are part of reality. Artists have attempted to mimic and even surpass the qualities of nature through their techniques. In James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, as Stephen grows up as a budding, young poet, he struggles with the vastness of nature and the superiority it imposes on him. Through Stephen’s artistic journey, Joyce implies that nature is genuine and can not be attained through art. Stephen is only an artist in his adult life once he learns to accept nature.

Through the innocent mind of Stephen, Joyce establishes that nature has a sense of infiniteness. As Stephen opens up his geography notebook, he reads the writing on the inside and tries to interpret it artistically by reading the verses backwards. Initially, Stephen writes:

  • Stephen Dedalus is my name,
    Ireland is my nation.
    Clongowes is my dwellingplace
    And heaven my expectation. (27)

By referring to the places as his dwellingplace and his nation, Stephen suggests that he holds some position of power in the areas and further strengthens his image. His pseudo poem dramatically ends with “Stephen Dedalus is my name” (28). The other statements give Stephen a sense of importance which heightens the effect of stating his name last. In his attempt to gain status, he is trying to compete with his surroundings which, in a psychoanalytic sense, are the father figures which are constantly hindering him. Stephen is a part of each of his environments, much like how a son resembles his father and, therefore, Stephen feels much of the oedipal uneasiness that prevents him from becoming a man on his own. Stephen does not feel as if he belongs in his environment because he lacks a definite connection to it like he would with his mother and thus wishes that he is the father figure for this brief instance. He knows that he is in Clongowes and Ireland; however, he is unable to adapt and feel comfortable like the other boys. Stephen can not help but to try to become his father. He lacks composure that the other boys seemingly have and is still very much infantile in his behavior. He continues to seek comfort in his art, treating art much like the physical connection he once had within his mother’s womb.

Although one can interpret meaning in the backwards verses, Stephen himself acknowledges that “they are not poetry” (28). In his artistic act, Stephen contemplates on what true importance he has on the world. He wonders what is beyond the universe and can think of nothing. He then speculates if there is “anything round the universe to show where it stopped before the nothing place began” (28) and if “there could be a thin thin line there all round everything” (28). Ultimately, Stephen concludes that “only God could do that” (28). God, the ultimate creator and nature itself, is the only one that has the power to do such an action. In a sense, His importance is above the importance of all others, including artists such as Stephen. God is typically referred to as a male, dominating figure, perhaps the greatest father figure that one can imagine. Stephen’s relationship with God is much like his relationship with his own father. Despite Stephen’s efforts in gathering his mother’s attention, he is unable to compete with his father, much like how Stephen is unable to compete with God, both in importance and in art. God and Stephen are both creators, a connection that creates even more competition for Stephen and only makes God seem even greater a paternal threat. At such a young age, Stephen already establishes the insurmountable gap between himself and God. No matter how hard Stephen tries to create his art, God will always be there with superior creations, aware of Stephen’s sins and looking down upon him. This gap eventually develops his fear of God as a punishing, unforgiving father figure during his adolescent years. Even without the presence of his father, Stephen continues to be pressured by a father figure, one even greater than his own father. In an attempt to create purpose for himself, Stephen unintentionally ends up mentally castrating himself but, through his castration, he gains a better understanding of the immeasurable aspect of nature and respect toward God as an artist.

If one were to assume that nature is inclusive of all things occurring naturally, then one can believe that human emotions are included in the bigger scale of nature. Like other instances of nature, emotions can not be emulated as simply as artists think. Stephen, inspired by his brooding, yearns to write a poem full of feelings of passion yet he finds himself unable to. With the intent of intensifying his emotions, he removes parts of the scene which “he deemed common and insignificant” (74). In his emotionally driven poem, “there remained no trace of the tram itself nor of the trammen nor of the horses: nor did he and she appear vividly” (74). The lovers in his poem are no longer of Stephen and EC but two unnamed protagonists. What remains is “the night and the balmy breeze and the maiden luster of the moon” (74). His poem is filled with emotions and the images he creates give the reader a glimpse at Stephen’s feeling. However, Stephen obfuscates his magical moment far too much. The elements that Stephen believes are too ordinary are what also make the moment. Without any hint of the real aspects of the scene, Stephen’s poem becomes only a description of a nearly surreal landscape. In Stephen’s attempt to recapture the moment it is unlikely that any of the truth is retained. Nothing within Stephen’s image is natural, feelings or setting.

As Stephen yearns for EC, “he senses that the object of desire is one with which he has somehow been familiar for a long time, one he knew in the ‘dim past.’ It is his mother” (Brivic 286). The woman in his poem is no doubt his mother and the man, though unnamed, is who Stephen wants to be. Stephen writes his poem to feel masculine, to show that he is capable of love toward another. However, he is unable to fully envision himself kissing his mother because he feels that he can not fulfill the role as a father and that the actual thought of making his mother into a sexual, approachable figure is wrong. Stephen is demasculated by his failed attempt, knowing he can never be his father, and quickly turns to shame. The imagery Joyce depicts is suggested to be feminine by the “maden luster of the moon” (Joyce 74). Brivic also writes that Joyce’s imagery “associates [Stephen’s] image with the womb, and he associates it too with tenderness and security” (Brivic 286). A child is unable to properly recall the experience of being inside the womb, hence Stephen’s vague and hazy descriptions. However, the same child is physically part of his mother, allowing him to feel a sense of comfort. Unsatisfied by his subconscious attempt to recreate the environment and becoming his father, “he [goes] into his mother’s bedroom and [gazes] at his face for a long time in the mirror of her dressingtable” (Joyce 74). This unnatural behavior is no doubt caused by his oedipal fixation with his mother. “Freud describes how many boys cultivate ideal, desexualized visions of their mothers” (Brivic 287). Young Stephen views EC as an untouchable goddess of sorts. He is unable to physically approach her and attempts to create art to be with her in his fantasies but he subconsciously finds himself regressing toward oedipal instincts and his attachment to his mother.

In the end of the novel, Stephen discusses his plans for the future as an artist with his companion Cranly. Ideally, Stephen wishes “to discover the mode of life or of art whereby your spirit could express itself in unfettered freedom” (217), an idea that Cranly struggles to comprehend. Cranly questions Stephen, asking Stephen whether he would deflower a virgin or not, curious with what kind of response he would give. As Cranly asks for Stephen’s opinion, “[Cranly’s] last phrase, soursmelling as the smoke of charcoal and disheartening, excited Stephen’s brain, over which its fumes seemed to brood” (218). Joyce once again uses the word brood to describe Stephen’s passion for women. Stephen however is able to control his once-rampant feelings and respond calmly, and states:

  • I will not serve that in which I no longer believe whether it call itself my home, my fatherland or my church: and I will try to express myself in some 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. (218)

Although he does not give a direct answer, unlike the childhood Stephen, the older Stephen is no longer trying to defy nature. Part of Stephen must understand that he still has these natural yet sinful desires. Despite this, he approaches his life with sociological imagination, looking at himself as an individual in a vast world and distinguishing himself from society to develop a mindset free from the harmful influences of society. These influences of society are the paternal threats that restrict the young Stephen, that cause him to be mentally castrated. They cause Stephen to act upon oedipal feelings, threatening Stephen and restricting his potential as an artist. Rather than elevating himself above his paternal threats, he merely wishes to defend his mind, freeing himself from thoughts imposed by others. He does not want to prove a point to society and acts solely on his own accord.

Stephen now has no fear of consequences and does not fear being alone. One can argue that being alone will cause one to act on instinct, becoming more in tune with nature. Stephen considers his oedipal feelings as unnatural, that they are only natural because human interaction has made it so. He believes that there is a state of mind more natural than that following human nature. Human nature in a typical sense deals a great deal with one’s surroundings and emotional situations. By isolating himself from the people around him, Stephen is able to attain this nature mindset that surpasses human nature, therefore, being able to achieve the greatest level of art.

Joyce states that Stephen’s development is a rhythmic curve and that each triumph is followed by a fall. Stephen becomes aware of his inevitable fall. By becoming an artist from an entirely new approach, Stephen is, in fact, embracing nature rather than trying to manipulate it. He strives to attain a new level of consciousness of his environment and breaks away from the urge to become a father figure through his new awareness and thus is able to concentrate on his art.

Joyce tells the reader that recreating nature will end in vanity through Stephen’s failures. Joyce chooses the intellectual Stephen, an aspiring young artist, as the protagonist. The young Stephen is driven by the goal of all artists: to express a certain scene or emotion. As skillful as he is at his art form of choice, he is still unable to overcome the conflict between art and nature in all senses. However, the older Stephen, who is able to accept nature as it is, is able to continue growing as an artist. “He aims to re-form human consciousness by bringing a new awareness of mind through self-exploration” (Brivic 297). He no longer desires to use art as a link between himself and his mother and create an impossible fantasy. Artists should not try to become creators and should instead try to comprehend nature to the fullest extent. Nature should not be mimicked but should be left the way it is, just as portraits do not exaggerate features; rather, portraits leave them the way they are.

Doodling on a Saturday Morning

Whenever a friend’s birthday arises, I enter a state of panic. I am the only artist among my friends so I am expected to draw a portrait with my graphics tablet for a present and, normally, that is what I end up attempting. I sit down at my desk, cluttered with empty water bottles, deformed Pepsi cans, and numerous used sketchbooks that have yet to be filled. I turn on my computer with various memos stuck to the side. I log into a popular website and begin using the drawing application. I’m restricted to 216 colors, many of which do not blend the way I want due to the poor opacity settings. There are nine levels of line weight, yet none of them are the size I want. Irritated, I stretch my arms, crack my knuckles, and pop open a low resolution photo reference. I mutter, “What a pain,” and begin. Being the lone artist in a sea of non-artists, nobody around me can truly understand how much effort I put into my artwork.

Although my family has always believed that I possess some innate talent, I believe otherwise. It was a strange twist of fate that I suddenly became entwined with art as I always dreamed of becoming a dentist. The instant I entered art class, all I have ever done was put all my effort behind each of my drawings. Art became a means to test myself creatively as opposed to the tedious, academic testing that the other subjects share. I wanted to see the peaks of my limits, how far I could push myself, how far I could improve myself in a matter of days, weeks, months. The changes in my coloring, the direction and weight of my lines, and other details that the me of the past would never have noticed are now clearer than ever before. My friends would question why I would put so much time and effort into a portrait. I would never be able to forgive myself if I were to give anything less than my best. What was a fifteen minute doodle quickly became a two hour drawing. My lines gradually evolved from the loose stroke into tightly refined ones. My direction in life also progressed in a similar manner, where I am confident in what I want to do and am no longer wandering around aimlessly. I gave into my desire to pursue a career in art.

With art, I am able to express myself, no matter how subtly. Each nicely done stroke shows thought and consideration. The overworking of paint and rough texture show my frustration and desire to free myself of stress. The delicate pen marks reveal my careful nature. As I finish, my charcoal covered hands and my smile are signs of my patience and a job well done. As I work on my artwork, I am diligently pouring my soul into it. When I display my art, I feel as if I am sharing my feelings and experiences.

After spending two hours and sixteen minutes working on a miniscule 315 by 147 pixel image, I wonder to myself, “Was that worth all that effort?” Hours later, when I receive a small thank you note, I think to myself, definitely.