James Joyce and Catholicism in Portrait and Dubliners

3351 words 14 pages
Joyce's Juxtaposition of Catholicism and Aesthetics James Joyce was a prolific Irish writer who wrote about Ireland and the troubles the people of Ireland faced. According to the Volume Library Encyclopedia, with Ireland being about 94 % Roman Catholic, religion is a motif brought forth prominently in Joyce's works. In Dubliners, his book of short stories as well as his supposed autobiography, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce shows religious turmoil and indecision through his characters. Stephen Dedalus, the main character in the journal-like story of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, goes through an internal turmoil of his own throughout the entire book on how he would view religion. He shows certain extremities of …show more content…

Also his eventual denial of religion makes this view of life as a gift seem superficial. After this Stephen institutes a strict regiment of religious discipline upon his life. In this new life he lives day by day scheduling his entire day into sections of spirituality and virtue, praying constantly. "Stephen throws himself into schemes for spiritual regeneration which are heroic in their aspiration. Joyce is openly ironic as he looks back on his young self and describes some of the absurd disciplines he practiced. At the same time he knows very well that the mysteries of religion and its rituals are akin to those of art" (Drew 66)
Stephen finally feels that he has received God's love back despite his sins and he feels full with grace. Through strict self-discipline he tries to make himself unaffected by the value of "flesh". He constantly sniffs things of horrid smell of rid himself of the pleasure of his sense of smell, avoids eye contact with women as much as possible, and shuns himself for materialistic and sexual thoughts. "This was the call of life to his soul not the dull gross voice of the world of duties and despair, not the inhuman voice that had called him to the pale service of the altar."(Portrait 170) Stephen would constantly fear knowing