Make your own free website on Tripod.com

A Portrait of Ireland as a Young Nation

This essay does not attempt to show irreconcilable difference. It does not emphasize the contradictions inherent in comparing a work of literature to actual history. It does not remove the texts in question from their rightful contextual backgrounds to further mangle and probe them. It does not find significant correlation between the sexes with regards to the text or context. It does not attempt to examine the psychological affinities of the characters. Finally, the essay does not attempt impose an external bias upon the text. It merely sets the novel within its intended context and background.

The books, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, have protagonists which mirror the developments of the Irish nation. Patrick Clarke, called Paddy, reflects the Irish Protestants. Stephen Dedalus mirrors Saint Patrick and Irish intellectuals. These modern protagonists are reflections upon Ireland's history.

Four centuries before Christ, Celtic tribes once roamed Ireland; Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha reflects the ancestral Ireland by resurrecting the concept of the tribe early in the book. "For a day, we called ourselves the Vigour Tribe" (58). To bond and unite the members of the tribe, each member had a green V drawn on his chest. Even Sinbad had a V on his chest. As a tribe, they raided hanging laundry and had competitions. By mirroring the Celts of early Ireland, Doyle establishes that Sinbad and Paddy are reflections on Irish history. During this time, the religious differences that separate the Protestant Irish and the Catholic Irish are not present. Just as Paddy does not demean Sinbad during the Vigour Tribe activities. The allusion to Celtic tribes in Paddy Clarke adds cultural and historical aspects to the conflict between Paddy, a "Protestant" aggressor, and Sinbad, the "Catholic" underclass.

In Portrait, Stephen Dedalus mirrors both the myth of Daedalus and an Irish story of imprisonment and escape, Saint Patrick. "You have a queer name, Dedalus ... your name is like Latin," said Michael Athy (34). Dedalus refers to the Greek myth where Daedalus and his son, Icarus, escape from the island of Crete. They escape when Daedalus makes wings out of wax and feathers. In Irish history, there is a similar escape. Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, came to the island first as a slave. Escaping, he went to France and became a priest. In 432, Saint Patrick returned to Ireland and introduced Christianity to the Celtic tribes. Beyond the similarities with the escapes from imprisonment, these myths share a common thread of intelligentsia. Daedalus was known in the Greek world as a brilliant builder and innovator. Saint Patrick also was educated and brought the alphabet to Ireland during the fifth century. Stephen melds these two historical tales together by expressing his oppression, his quest for freedom, and his yearnings for liberation through the intelligent art of writing.

Events in Stephen's life suggest imprisonment and enslavement similar to the experiences of Saint Patrick and Daedalus. Stephen experiences many of the feelings a slave may experience and has "not forgotten a whit of [his tormentors'] cowardice and cruelty ..." (81). He wanted to "go up and tell the rector that he had been wrongly punished" by the prefect of studies (58). Stephen, however, thinks he cannot and feels trapped as a slave would feel. Just as Saint Patrick and Daedalus were trapped against their will, Stephen finds himself in a similar situation with the prefect of studies. Thus, Stephen resonates with the historical figures: Daedalus and Saint Patrick. Stephen, unlike Saint Patrick, does not accept the call to the clergy due to his view that priesthood "should assign to him so clear and final an office" (141). Slavery meant that one became the property of another for all perpetuity. Likewise, a priest, a servant of God, would be bound to the service of Lord. Like two figures in history, Daedalus and Saint Patrick, Stephen experiences the imprisonment and the injustice of a slave.

Stephen escapes his tormentors through writing. Saint Patrick brought the Roman alphabet along with Christianity thus allowing Ireland to step out of the dark waters of ignorance. Stephen, who rejected the church, hears the call of flight of Daedalus and Icarus, he felt "a desire to cry aloud, the cry of a hawk or eagle on high" (150). He prefers to soar and fly like Daedalus in the "dappled seaborne clouds" (147). With words and phrases, Stephen flies away from the oppression of his masters: the Church and his teachers. James Joyce, through the autobiographical protagonist, Stephen, mirrors the intellectual developments in Celtic Ireland. Because of the alphabet brought by Saint Patrick, Ireland became one of the world centers for learning during the fifth and sixth centuries. James Joyce pioneers modern writing, once again paralleling the accomplishments of the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick. "[Stephen] drew forth a phrase from his treasure ... perfectly lucid supple periodic prose .... A new wild life was singing in his veins" (147, 148, 151). Writing became his music, his savior "from the grave of boyhood," which allows him to escape and be free. Like Saint Patrick who in the history of Ireland escapes from slavery and returns to pioneer Christianity and writing, James Joyce, as Stephen, escapes his tribulations through the written word and pioneers modern writing.

Emulating, in his own manner, the actions of the Protestant Irish landlords, Paddy enjoys "getting [Sinbad] into trouble" (65). He finds that he can pretend to be helping Sinbad but actually hurt him at the same time. Although the Protestants helped by offering land to the Catholic Irish, they created tension and forced the Catholics into subsistence, dependence, and poverty by charging high rents. Like a frustrated debtor, Sinbad "kept crying, bawling over and over like a train" (65). Paddy, under the pretense of alleviating the racket from Sinbad, compounds the problem by threatening physical violence against Sinbad. Just as Irish Catholics worried over debts to their landlords, the Protestant land owning class violently persecuted the virtual peasant class with rents and evictions. Paddy's bent toward hurting Sinbad reflects the historical Irish Protestant bent toward persecuting the Catholic underclass.

Stephen Dedalus mimicks the Irish intelligentsia of the late nineteenth century who developed the idea of Irish independence. Stephen says, "I will not serve that in which I no longer believe whether it call itself my home, my fatherland or my church" (213). Stephen feels no longer a part of the system that he grew up in. England invaded Ireland many times to try to control the Celtic and Catholic Ireland. During the nineteenth century, the people of Ireland no longer wished to serve or be ruled by the English. They formed the Sinn Fein and the Irish Republican Brothers (IRB). Just as Stephen rejected his church, the Irish did not want to serve or to be a part of the Protestant Church of England. The Irish no longer had faith in their home, their father land, or their church. Stephen mirrors that lack of faith and declares that he no longer feels connected to his peers, church, or his home.

Roddy Doyle places a small microcosmic history of Ireland within Paddy Clarke. Our hero plays in the sewage trench in front of his home. Paddy's dad comments on the job of the workers, "It's dirty work. Messy" (105). The trench which "was right outside [Paddy's] gate" parallels the trenches during the Great War. Germans were portrayed negatively as barbarians. As the allies took German trenches, there were piles of the dead German "barbarians." Similarly, the trenches in Paddy Clarke are designed to carry equally disgusting sewage. Paddy experiences some of the emotions that a war would bring when he runs through the cement pipes that are placed along the trench. The dare was to "run all the way down, from the outside of [Paddy's] house down to the seafront in the pitch black ..." (106). He comments that the pipe runners would run faster that normal to get out of the dark pipe and into the light. Paddy, playing along and in the trench, reflects the soldiers of the Great War.

For Paddy, "Hating him [Sinbad]. It was easier" (242). Despite Paddy's thumping and torments, Sinbad is unresponsive and does not react. For Paddy, it is easier just to be violent than to sit down and talk to a statue. Just as it was easier for the Protestants and Catholics to break out in violence during the 1960s, Paddy, paralleling the Protestants, despite his love for his brother, just has to hit him even though he promises not to. Talking and mediating disputes between the Irelands has been difficult because of the long history of the conflict between the Protestants and Catholics. Similarly, Paddy Clarke's conflict with Sinbad has been a long and grueling one. The reactions as Paddy tries to talk with Sinbad can reflect the Ireland of today where the Ulster and Sinn Fein still refuse to sit down in one room and talk.

Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man are both hopelessly intertwined with Irish History. Just as a young child in the United States grows with the American myth of George Washington and the apple tree, so have the young men portrayed in the two texts. One becomes the modern Saint Patrick, bringing the written word to life. The other reflects the whole spectrum of the Anglo-Irish conflict. The characters represent some cultural characteristics like Protestants and intellectuals of Ireland.

Q. E. D.

Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. R. B. Kershener ed. Bedford Books, 1916, 1993.

Doyle, Roddy. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. Penguin Books, 1993.

Gillmor, Desmond A. "Ireland." The World Book Encyclopedia. World Book, Inc., 1988.

Merritt, James Douglass. "Irish literature." The World Book Encyclopedia. World Book, Inc., 1988.

"Northern Ireland: Edging Forward." Economist. Sep. 13, 1997.

"Sinn Fein comes on board." Economist. Sep. 20, 1997.