James Joyce, an Irish novelist and poet, grew up near Dublin. James Joyce is one of the most influential novelists of the 20th century. In each of his prose works he used symbols to experience what he called an “epiphany”, the revelation of certain revealing qualities about himself. His early writings reveal individual moods and characters and the plight of Ireland and the Irish artist in the 1900’s. Later works, reveal a man in all his complexity as an artist and in family aspects. Joyce is known for his style of writing called “stream of consciousness”. Using this technique, he ignored ordinary sentence structure and attempted to reproduce the rambling’s of the human mind. Many of his works were influenced by his life in Ireland as an artist. He was influenced by three main factors in his life, his childhood and parents, his homeland of Dublin, Ireland, and the Roman Catholic Church.  These three aspects show up in all his works subtly, but specifically in, The Dead, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Araby.

James Joyce, was born February 2, 1882 in Dublin, Ireland. He was the first of fifteen kids born to Mary Jane Murray, and John Stanslaus Joyce. He was christened James Augustine Aloysius Joyce. His mother was a mild woman who had intelligent opinions but didn’t express them. His father was a violent, quick tempered man who was a medical student and politician. He was educated in Dublin at Jesuit school’s his whole life. In 1888, he went to Clongeswood College, but his father lost his job and James had to withdraw. He graduated in October of 1902, from Royal University. He was fascinated by the sounds of words and by the rhythms of speech since he first started school. He was trained by the Jesuits who at one time hoped he would join their order; but Joyce became estranged from the Jesuits and defected from the Catholic Church after graduating college. Joyce made a huge effort to free himself from all aspects of the past such as, family, religion, and country. He left Ireland in 1902 after graduating college. He spent the rest of his life in Trieste, Zurich, or Paris. During this time he was very poor. He spent much of his working career as a language instructor. He was said to have known 17 languages. He also spent time as a bank clerk, while trying to find time to write. He started to have eye problems in 1907, and by the end of his life he was almost blind. After Ulysses in 1922, he was left a lot of money from an Englishwoman, and then spent his time working on his writing full time. This book A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in 1916 was an autobiographical novel about his youth and his home life. The main character’s name in this is Stephen Dedalus. It shows a clear cut, advocacy of an artist’s right to defy inhibiting forces like, family, church and nation. When Stephen, was in the university he talks about his dislike for his classmates who just bend their heads and write in their notebooks, “the points they were bidden to note, nominal definitions, essential definitions and examples or dates of birth or death, chief works, a favorable and unfavorable criticism side by side,” Joyce’s views of Irish education weren’t very good. Stephen in this book scorns his family, and his father’s attributes. He thinks that he has failed in his effort to unite his will and the will of God, to love God the way he feels is expected. He feels this because he will not serve God. He wants to live his life his way. He talks about how he knew he couldn’t be accepted, “it wounded him to think that he would never be but a shy guest at the feast of the world’s culture and that the monkish learning, in terms of which he was striving to forge out an esthetic philosophy, was held no higher by the age he lived than the subtle and curious jargons of heraldry and falconry.” He feels that he has been taught nothing; he must seek out and learn on his own.  Joyce feels very dedicated to himself as a literary artist and dedication to God and family is next to nothing. He says this through Stephen, “Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.”  He has a dedication that lets his writing take over and he waits to see what his soul will create.

Joyce’s feelings toward Ireland are very strong. He voluntarily exiled himself from Ireland and forced himself to forget about it all together. He had a very small knowledge of life in Dublin, but what he did have he used to his full extent. He was not affected by the intense Irish nationalism that he felt most Irish people had.  In his novel, The Dead, he uses the character Gabriel to get his feelings on this across. He says this, “to live successfully in a land where the unhappy past is always felt and the presence of shades and spirits is compelling and obtrusive one must vigorously affirm the life of fact and enlightened action.” Joyce feels that Ireland is filled with past events that now haunt its future and nothing good can happen while there are still bad feelings. He also says “I’m sick of my country, I’m sick of it.” Joyce is sick of his country and has intense feelings of hatred for it. He expresses these feelings for Ireland the most in The Dead.  The Dead may have been Joyce’s picture of himself if he had not left Ireland when he did. Joyce left Ireland after college; he says through Gabriel, “the time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried.” Through Joyce’s description of the landscape of Ireland he shows how he feels that Ireland is an evil place. The snow is almost the purity of Ireland falling onto the landscape. He goes on to talk about how it melted into these places and washed away into the evil atmosphere.  Joyce intended to demonstrate the characteristics of Irish life and to hope that Gabriel would escape his own ego and that life in Ireland would start anew. Joyce states in his critical writings that “the economic conditions that prevail in my own country do not permit the development of individuality.” He felt very constricted as an artist in Ireland. He also states that, “the soul of the country is weakened by centuries of useless struggle and broken treaties, and individual initiative is paralyzed by the influence and admonitions of the church, while its body is manacled by the police, the tax office, and the garrison. No one who has any self respect stays in Ireland, but fleas afar as though from a country that has undergone the visitation from an angry Jove.” Ireland to him is the place where censorship and pain over old struggles that should be forgotten prevail over new ideas. He believes that his artistic abilities are being choked and that the bureaucracy of life in Ireland is too great for him for him to overcome.

At one time Joyce thought he wanted to be a Monk for the Catholic Church. After he estranged himself from the church, he tried to get as far away from it as he possibly could. Joyce saw the church as a prison. He writes in Araby about young boys in a Catholic school. He says this, “North Richmond Street, being blind was a quiet street except at the hour the Christians Brothers School set the boys free.” Joyce himself spent much of his youth in a Catholic School, in which he felt later as an adult that it had been almost a prison for his mind, telling him how to think and act.  He often writes about how he would like to see the strict church open up its mind to new ideas. He says this in Araby also, ” In time, perhaps there will be a gradual reawakening of the Irish conscience, and perhaps four or five centuries after the Diet of Worms, we will see an Irish Monk throw away his frock, run off with some nun, and proclaim in a loud voice the end of coherent absurdity that was Catholicism and the beginnings of the incoherent absurdity that is Protestantism.” Joyce felt that the restraints placed on thinking was absurd and that people should think on their own, without the church telling you how to think.

James Joyce’s was interested in discovering the truth in his writings and revealing it. He was a good observer of reality, which he loved, and he always wanted to get at the truth behind the appearance. Joyce voluntarily exiled himself from Ireland, but still Ireland was never far from his mind, and his writing. He also exiled himself from the church yet wrote about it and its constraints often. He left his childhood behind and chose to write his childhood autobiography under a different name. He observed other people’s reality and yet chooses to ignore his own. He left Ireland, the church, and his childhood, psychically, but he never left them in his own unconscious. He chooses to write about his life and feelings in other people’s words and in other people’s mouths. Still wishing to exile himself from his life, he almost felt as if by leaving all these places on the outside he would leave all his feelings behind also. He wrote about the topics he chooses to distance himself from, as if to get an unbiased look at them, and to write about the real truth.

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William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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