A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
by James Joyce
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Language and Communication Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Section.Paragraph). Within each chapter you will find unnumbered sections. These sections are separated by asterisks; in our citations, we’ve numbered these sections for simplicity’s sake.
Eileen had long white hands. One evening when playing tig she had put her hands over his eyes: long and white and thin and cold and soft. That was ivory: a cold white thing. That was the meaning of Tower of Ivory. (1.3.46)
Stephen doesn’t fully understand the religious imagery of "Tower of Ivory" (a symbol for the Virgin Mary), so he appropriates the language to describe the hands of his friend, Eileen.
…the cry that he had strangled for so long in his throat issued from his lips. It broke from him like a wail of despair from a hell of sufferers and died in a wail of furious entreaty, a cry for an iniquitous abandonment, a cry which was but the echo of an obscene scrawl which he had read on the oozing wall of a urinal. (2.5.10)
For once we see Stephen’s mind overtaken by his body – the cry he utters is a shocking moment of brute expression.
It was too much for him. He closed his eyes, surrendering himself to her, body and mind, conscious of nothing in the world but the dark pressure of her softly parting lips. They pressed upon his brain as upon his lips as though they were the vehicle of a vague speech; and between them he felt an unknown and timid pressure, darker than the swoon of sin, softer than sound or odour. (2.5.17)
This quote really could have gone under several different sections, but what we’d like to highlight is the sapping of Stephen’s linguistic powers – when he "surrenders himself" to the prostitute, her kiss effectively blots out his mind, and the best communication we can hope for is "vague speech."