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Bird Imagery in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Bird Imagery in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man The works of twentieth-century Irish writer James Joyce resound vividly with a unique humanity and genius. His novel, A Portrait of theArtist as a Young Man, published in 1916, is a convincing journey throughthe inner mind and spirit of Stephen Dedalus. Portrayed with incrediblefluency and realism, imagery guides the reader through the swift current ofgrowth tangible in the juvenile hero. Above all heavy imagery in the novelis the recurring bird motif. Joyce uses birds to ultimately relate Stephen tothe Daedelus myth of the hawklike man; however, these images alsoexemplify Stephens daily experiences, and longing for true freedom(page169). By using imagery of birds as threatening, images of beauty, andimages of escape, the reader can unify the work and better understandStephens tumultuous journey through life. The opening scene of Chapter one portrays a conversation betweena very young Stephen and Dante, Stephens nanny. She scolds him for anunconventional thought, warning him that the eagles will come and pullout [your] eyes(8). This obviously graphic image suggests to Stephen thethreatening presence of eagles that are minding all his thoughts. Joycesvividness with such gruesome imagery has a real effect on Stephen; herepeats Dantes caution in his childish song, chanting: Pull out his eyes,Apologize (8). A playful, yet sensitive Stephen must immediately conformeven his innocent unorthodox actions in fear of the threatening phantomeagles to save the consequences they will bring. His thoughts arethreatened again by birds when he meets an acquaintance named Heronwhen walking down a dark street. Stephen immediately notes the peculiarimage of Herons bird face as well as a birds name(76). Throughdescriptive images of Herons mobile face, beaked like a birds and hisclose-set prominent eyes which were light and inexpressive, Joyceenables the reader to not only envision hi...

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