Olimpiada de limba engleza – faza judeteana
The excerpt from “A portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”, by James Joyce, holds, in a condensed form, numerous symbols, biblical and Greek myths, a highly metaphoric language- all in order to depict the pure form of creation and of its beholder.
Through an omniscient point of view, James Joyce brings a high level of immediacy to the text. The languages, the sentences, the figures of speech build a special sonority, the text is almost rhythmical and vibrating through its every chord to the feelings and ideas expressed.
The starting point of the text is represented by the apostrophe from the beginning of the excerpt: “Stephanos Dedalos!”. The first name is also the Character’s name- Stephen, and its Greek correspondent- crown turns into a symbol throughout the text by the repetition of related terms: sovereignty, Stephanou-menos, Stephaneforos, crown. Thus is revealed the first and foremost trait of “an” artist, of “the” artist: he is a superior being, above the “world of duties and despair”, above “the pale service of the altar”. Even his name is a sign, an indicator towards his true destiny, which should be revealed through symbols.
The second part of the apostrophe, “Dedalos”, stands for the name of a mythical character and brings forth one of the most beautiful and enduring myths of creation. The myth of Scarus, son of Dedalos, who, together with his father, were incarcerated in the Mynothaurus’ labyrinth- a monstrous creature, resembling a bull- “boas”. In order to escape they build themselves wings from feathers and wax. However, overcome by ecstasy, Icarus disregards his father’s advice and gets too close to the sun. his wings melt and he falls in the sea and dies. Therefore, creation can have a destructive side, can dominate its own creator and defeat him.
Another distinctive feature of the artist is his power to transform ordinary things into magical ones, his ability to see and feel and understand more than others. Thus, through the “vesture of the hazewrapped city” he can see “the ancient kingdom of the Danes”, and only the mere sound of the name “Dedalos” can revive the entire scene in his mind. Emotional and imaginative strength, sensitivity and knowledge- blend into one superior being- the artist.
He can not be referred to as “an artist” because he has discovered the purest and greatest secret of all- the secret of the making. And his portrait is merely “a portrait” because no one can build a perfect picture of the artist, no one can encompass his true being.
The second side of creation is represented by the divine, the biblical myth of the making. In order to build this image, the narrator has transformed the four basic elements into symbols, through the same means of repetition and has shown their ambivalent force: to create and to destroy. “The sluggish matter of the earth”, the fire through the picture of the sun and the repetition of the word “radiant”, water and its various forms- “hazewrapped”, the sea, waves, mists and the air, particularly depicted through breath, wind and various images of flight.
However, all this elements would be sterile, empty of meaning, without the true force that enlivens them and wines them: the spirit. Through it, one can bring to life “a new soaring impalpable imperishable being”. But the spirit has to be “wild”, implying purity and the origins of life.
The rhythm of the text is very alert, the repetition, the symbols and the apostrophes transfigures the ordinary language, the conjunctions and the sentence structure transforms the ordinary cadence into a chant, a mystical invocation. The text ends symmetrically with the same apostrophe “Stephaneforos”, bringing a sense of ambiguity to the text and to Stephen’s flight, amplified by the short dialogue passage, too.
“We live in an age that reads too much to be wise, and thinks too much to be beautiful.”(Oscar Wild) But where should we look for wisdom, and how can we achieve beauty, perfection, balance? Should we even look for them or leave ourselves adrift on the waves of Fate? Impossible! Humans are legendary for their constant struggle against everything that stands in their happiness. And what other three words can better describe this state we call “happiness”, than “love”, “youth” and “wisdom”?
Impossible, again! You’ll say. How can anyone put “youth” next to “wisdom” and not obtain a contradiction? Or how can anyone see any connection between “love” and “wisdom”? Shades and details are the key to this puzzle.
First of all, we should bear in mind that wisdom does not equal intelligence, youth is not related to age, and love has various and numerous forms. For example, a person who has just turned seventy can be a lot more “lively” and active than an eighteen- year old TV or internet- addicted teen. On the other hand, that eighteen- year old can have a larger capacity to love than the older one, or even a unique type of wisdom.
Therefore, we shouldn’t base on judgments on pre-conceived notions or on appearances. We might pass on a chance to meet a beautiful, young spirit in the body of an old person or a marvelous mind and life philosophy in the body of a young one.
Another point which we should take into account is that love, youth and wisdom are qualities given to us at birth. However, they can be learnt or taught. There is no soul hard or dry enough, that cannot feel love, there is no mind that cannot borrow or build its own piece of wisdom, no matter how little or insignificant, there is no age, man or woman that cannot see where true youth can really be found.
Furthermore, our blind search for happiness and its various shapes: wealth, love, health, youth, wisdom, power, fame- can sometimes lead us on a wrong path. We search for the wrong things in all the right places or we search for the right things in all the wrong places.
Therefore, instead of asking oneself: “Who can love me?” one should ask: “Whom can I love? And how much love do I have to give?” Instead of counting the lines on one’s face and the ages of one’s grandchildren, one should count all the ways in which the world can be made a better place through one’s existence, all the things yet to be done, all the people yet to be met.
And as for wisdom, it is said that old men know everything, grown-ups doubt everything and young people believe everything. Nevertheless, all people need is the wisdom to see what they truly have, the ability to acknowledge that more than often the things we are looking for are already ours and that all we have to do is to see them, pick them up and call them ours.
Banuta A. Madalina Elena