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Sex is a natural preoccupation.

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Introduction

Sex is a natural preoccupation. It is on everyone's mind from birth to death. For human beings sex can have a variety of meanings: instinctual, spiritual, pleasurable, an act of love to even one of power. Like most things untamed and complex, many feel the need to carve a different understanding of what sex means and define it to values most often rooted in religious philosophy, language and behavior. James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) is an intimate look at a young Irish writer, Stephen Dedalus, whose narrative becomes a fictional adaptation of Joyce's own life as a young man. Throughout the novel, we read of Stephen's conflict between his lust for women and his passionate devotion to the tenets of the Roman Catholic faith. His struggle is palpable and begs the question: Why? Julienne H. Empric articulates one theory in her essay The Mediation of the Woman and the Interpretation of the Artist in Joyce's Portrait saying, "[Women are] the magnetic force of that sensual creativity an artist must both court and reject in order to accomplish his purpose (Ben 11)." Essentially, the character's inspiration and transformation comes from his fantasies of women (sexual and romantic) ...read more.

Middle

It was too much for him. He closed his eyes, surrendering himself to her, body and mind, conscious of nothing in the world but the dark pressure of her softly parting lips. They pressed upon his brain as upon his lips as though they were the vehicle of a vague speech; and between them he felt an unknown and timid pressure, darker than the swoon of sin, softer than sound or odour (Joyce 70 - 71)." In surrendering, he exercises sexual freedom and yet again obsesses over his sinfulness. His romantic viewpoint soon diminishes his experience with prostitutes as cold, empty motion because he wants more. He needs love. "When Stephen embraces the prostitute, we remember that this is the youth who is to announce his determination to press in his arms the loveliness which has not yet come into the world. In retrospect, the arms of the prostitute seem a poor substitute (Ryf 145)." In other words, Stephen wants to make love, not just have sex to have sex. The act of making love seems to be the only thing worthy of standing up against his religious conviction. In the following paragraph of chapter three, section one, Stephen is again on a nightly prowl of the red light district. ...read more.

Conclusion

Subject: B.V.M. Handicapped by my sex and youth. To escape held up relations between Jesus and Papa against those-between Mary and her son. Said religion was not a lying-in hospital. Mother indulgent. Said I have a queer mind and have read too much. Not true. Have read little and understood less. Then she said I would come back to faith because I had a restless mind. This means to leave church by back door of sin and re-enter through the skylight of repentance. Cannot repent. Told her so and asked for sixpence. Got threepence (Joyce 182)." If Stephen leaves the Catholic Church, he must completely break philosophically and culturally from the one constant he has known in his life. New ground will need continuous validation before any enrichment can occur. Essentially, one needs to have an amazing amount of conviction to feel complete indifference towards your original creed. Whom will he love and what will explain his existence? Can he replace a 2,000-year faith and formation tradition that he is still ambiguous about? I doubt it. However enterprising and articulate Stephen may seem, it is literally too early a period in his life as an artist to suggest that he has settled doubt with Catholicism or is realistically prepared to forge a new path about the 'wisdom of living' anyone could follow. ...read more.

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