Sociology of Joyce’s Women in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and the Irish Parallel

In his novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce traces the traditional roles of women as mothers and sexually objectified beings. Particular evaluation of the Christmas dinner party scene and the Ballyhoura Hills woman encounter provides evidence of women continuously fighting their conventional, subordinate positions to men. Yet, there seems to be apparent confusion between the expectations of silence and self-expression, as demonstrated by the dual nature that women take on in the novel. Joyce further exemplifies the estrangement of his female characters from social norms by paralleling their behavior to his own sentiments toward Mother Ireland, which he and his novel’s protagonist Stephen both come to resent and leave. With the subtlety of biblical references and the characters’ duplicitous behaviors, Portrait paints a confounded dynamic between the desire for personal liberation and institutional incarceration within both the novel’s women and Joyce himself.

For full PDF copy, please refer to page 60 of the Stanford Undergraduate Research Journal, 2016.

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