Consider the Significance of ‘Origins’ for Stephen Dedalus,

Consider the Significance of ‘Origins’ for Stephen Dedalus, 1. Consider the significance of ‘origins’ for Stephen Dedalus, in James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and for Murphy, in Samuel Beckett’s Murphy.

Dante Alighieri once wrote,
“Consider your origins: you were not made to lives lives as brutes, but to follow virtue knowledge.”

Upon reading this quotation, I was instantly reminded of the cases of Stephen Dedlaus from Joyce’s, The Portrait of the artist and Murphy of Beckett’s Murphy. Both characters portray a charismatic quality which causes us as readers to become interested in discovering the origins of these characters and how has it affected them or molded them into the people they are.

Family origins play a key role in the development of any individual and this is no different in the case of Stephen Dedlaus. We understand that Stephen faces extended periods of hedonism and also deep religiosity. After a period of time however, he affiliates a mindset of aestheticism, appreciating considerably beauty and art. We are also aware that Stephen is a representation of Joyce’s alter ego, and a large amount of the occurrences in Stephen’s life mimic occurrences from Joyce’s own early life. Stephen was born into a very traditional Irish family. He had many siblings along with a very religious Mother and Father. There is a sense from Steven’s Mother and Father that they encourage him to rebel, due to their strong religious views. We see how Steven’s mother argues with Steven regarding the attendance of religious services. His Father is a very mnemonic who seems to be lost in the sentimental past of life. Joyce frequently equips Simon in order to illustrate the burdens that Stephen, his family and nationality place upon him throughout his youth. In Stephens eye’s his father represents the pieces of tradition, nation and family that hold him back, and against this creates a feeling in Stephen’s mindset that he must rebel. We also see the image of Stephens’s father when Joyce paints a picture of a male who has sabotaged his life and, instead of standing up to his problems, drowns them in alcohol and looking back sadly at what might have been.
In the case of Murphy, and his mental state, it is feasible to presume that he is unable to say anything about his upbringing.
Cultural and national origins also come into play in the shaping of the characters. In Stephens’s case, he was places in a boarding school which again promotes the idea of imprisonment and this sense of, “holding back.” From the opening chapters of the novel we can also get the sense that he is a fearful, dutiful servant of god and the Catholic Church as a whole. During the 20th century, the Catholic Church possessed a great deal of power that it did not necessarily deserve. Another element which comes to mind when studying 20th century Ireland is the cultural class difference, which certainly came into play in both respective novels. We see in Murphy how he is something of a down and out, and how his love interest Celia used to bemoan to him regarding locating employment, it was interesting that he located it in England and not in Ireland; this is possibly an element that it was difficult to locate employment in Ireland at the time as well. Ireland was a country which contained very heavy poverty, and the difference in the class was that of the uncanny. Many Irish were of an upper class status, while many others remained in a state of severe financial struggle. We see how Stevens’s families are struggling for money; however still manage to fund his education.
There is also a sense of the characters fantasizing about reaching a state of being self generating and being ultimately without origins. Stephen goes through many different voices of Ireland as well as those of the writers of his education. Out of all those voices arrive Stephen’s aesthetic, independent theory and a willful lust to locate his own manner of expression. Stephen develops his own voice and uses it as a key to walk through the door at which he is locked inside of as he seeks his own path. There is also a will to leave Ireland and escape its confinement. We see how Stephen leaves the country at the end of the novel and there is a sense of relief about it. Murphy is also in this mindset. Murphy is set in both London and Dublin. This geographical branch closely emulates Beckett’s own living arrangements in the process of the book’s composition. Beckett departed from Ireland in early 1934 in search of professional assistance for his insomnia, depression, panic attacks and abnormal heartbeat (something in which he and Murphy have in common) this had been disturbing him since the death of his father the previous summer. It was advised that Beckett take on psychoanalysis on the probability that his issues were of a self-induced nature. Due to the vocation of psychoanalysis being illegal in Dublin at the time, Beckett chose to move to London where he then became a patient of Dr. Wilfred R. Bion, an unorthodox Freudian psychoanalyst at the Tavistock Clinic, where he attended intensive therapy sessions up to three times a week for the next two years. Beckett’s time and money which e invested in psychology and also in his own individual conditioning in this period later forged many sections of Murphy, most famously those which were directed on Murphy’s mind.
In her terms we learn our emotional
Repertoire in the same way that we learn our beliefs – from society
(287) – and central to this process of learning is narrative. The tales we
Are told from childhood bear an emotional content. The shapes of these
Stories, and the ways in which they create situations and locate characters
Facing choices within them, also have pedagogical value in shaping our
Emotions (Quason, 2010)
and this is certainly the case with Murphy.

A defining moment in the life of Stephen Dedlaus was certainly when he met the “bird girl” on the beach. The “birdgirl” is certainly one of the fundamentally important elements in influencing Steven in becoming a writer. She acts as an epiphany to Steven. When Stephen gazes upon her immense beauty his life and perspective is changed for good. Prior to meeting her he is contemplating becoming a priest as he is completely devoted to Catholicism. His mind is in turmoil and he faces thoughts of a conflicting manner about his place in life.
Stephen looks upon this woman as an embodiment of beauty. He watches as she wades in the water hiking her skirt, she then makes eye contact with Steven which causes him to feel, “an outburst of profane joy” (171.) It is fascinating that the overwhelming happiness is illustrated as profane. This is due to the conflict in Stevens mind because of his harsh Catholic youth. His temperamental acknowledgment to the girls aesthetic beauty is strange to him he and as a result is profane, it is then a change comes over Steven. He is excited rather than remorseful by these emotions. Steven then has recognition that the beauty of the “birdgirl” is what he was looking for.
He then has a disclosure and Joyce writes, “Her eyes called him and his soul had leaped at the call” (171), prior to seeing her, Steven’s soul is in a state of turmoil at the idea of what perhaps he should be. All becomes obvious to him in these few moments. He becomes aware that his destiny in life is to “live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to create life out of life” (172).
It becomes obvious to Stephen that now he can never be a priest. This is a vital statistic in the understanding of the origins in Stephens’s life as she inspires Steven to create writing through the same sense of beauty he gets when he sees this beautiful girl.
In conclusion, it is obvious that the issue of origins is treated very seriously in the text as it emphasizes the world in which Murphy and Steven live in, as we receive an in depth insight into their lives and thick and be importance of origins is clearly and vividly portrayed. The characters view these origins as a means of constraint as they wish to break free from these origins which hold them be independent individuals in their own right.

Works cited

university of toronto quarterly, volume 79, number 2, spring 2010

Consider the Significance of ‘Origins’ for Stephen Dedalus, 7.3 of 10 on the basis of 1589 Review.