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.
A feverish quickening of his pulses followed, and a din of meaningless words drove his reasoned thoughts hither and thither confusedly. (4.2.18)
Again, we see Stephen without any power of expression in a time of distress. Unlike the previous two instances, this "din of meaningless words" has nothing to do with physical lust. Rather, it’s an indignant response of that simply scatters his thoughts for a moment, rather than oppressing them.
The phrase and the day and the scene harmonized in a chord. Words. Was it their colours? He allowed them to glow and fade, hue after hue: sunrise gold, the russet and green of apple orchards, azure of waves, the grey-fringed fleece of clouds. No, it was not their colours: it was the poise and balance of the period itself. Did he then love the rhythmic rise and fall of words better than their associations of legend and colour? Or was it that, being as weak of sight as he was shy of mind, he drew less pleasure from the reflection of the glowing sensible world through the prism of a language many-coloured and richly storied than from the contemplation of an inner world of individual emotions mirrored perfectly in a lucid supple periodic prose? (4.3.3)
Stephen returns to his appreciation of the physical world after he decides not to become a priest. As a result, Joyce rewards us with this rich explanation of why Stephen loves language so much. An interesting biographical note – Joyce himself was extremely shortsighted (he eventually went almost completely blind), so this is a personal explanation of the author’s love of language.
His own consciousness of language was ebbing from his brain and trickling into the very words themselves which set to band and disband themselves in wayward rhythms:
The ivy whines upon the wall,
And whines and twines upon the wall,
The yellow ivy upon the wall,
Ivy, ivy up the wall.
Did anyone ever hear such drivel? Lord Almighty! Who ever heard of ivy whining on a wall? Yellow ivy; that was all right. Yellow ivory also. And what about ivory ivy? (5.1.15)
You know when you look at a word for so long that it ceases to have any meaning? That’s what we thought of when we read this passage. Language, which is so important to Stephen, starts to frustrate him when it loses significance. The topic of controlling (or not controlling) language that we saw earlier also makes an appearance here.