In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the author James Joyce creates the character Dante Riordan, a religious and faithful woman who seems to be an influence to Stephen during his childhood life. During Stephen’s childhood, Dante seems to be an important figure for she is the representation of the church and the opposing force of the Parnell campaign. Dante seems to possess a fire burning within her that allows her to continue having faith and being able to defend her church. Dante is faithful to her Catholic church and believes that if anyone disobeys the church’s order they are making a mistake or worse, committing a sin.
In one passage, Stephen wonders about Dante and notices everything she does. For an example, “when Dante made that noise after dinner and then put up her hand to her mouth: that was heartburn” (28). James Joyce includes the word “heartburn,” but what if this heart burn was her fiery passion for her religion. The passion she possesses for her religion symbolizes how strong she believes in the Catholic Church. When Stephen was a child, he had a crush on a Protestant girl, Eileen and once Dante has found out along with his mother, he must apologize or “if not, the eagles will come and pull out his eyes” (28). Since Dante was Catholic, she believes that Catholic should only be able to marry other faithful Catholics, so she does not allow Stephen to indulge himself with a Protestant girl. Dante’s strong faith towards her religion marks the beginning of Stephens’s development stage.
It is also through Dante that Stephen possesses knowledge of land, “She had taught him where the Mozambique Channel was and what was the longest river in America and what was the name of the highest mountain in the moon” (28). James Joyce uses the character Dante as a reference to land and possesses knowledge of the land seems to relate Dante with Dante Alighieri, from Inferno. In Inferno, Dante Alighieri possesses much knowledge of Hell and land because he journeys through Limbo and Hell in order to enter Heaven. Dante can compare to Dante Alighieri because he is also someone who honors his Catholic Church and defends his beliefs. By relating the two, Dante can be symbolized as Stephen’s salvation if he had committed a horrible sin.
In another passage, Stephen is finally home for his first Christmas dinner with the family. It is his first time sitting at the adult table and he is to witness, Dante and Mr Casey argues about religion and politics. Dante along with her “heartburn” for her belief ends up defending herself and her religion in what seems to be a battle against Mr Casey and politics.
-“I’ll pay you you dues, father, when you cease turning the house of God into a pollingbooth.” -“A nice answer, said Dante, for any man calling himself a catholic to give to his priest.”
(41). Along with every argument Mr Dedalus and Mr Casey has to offer, Dante offers a counterattack. She sticks by her religion and understands that “a priest would not be a priest if he did not tell his flock what is right and what is wrong” (41). Dante believes that what her religion tells her, it is the correct answer whether it is right or wrong. By sticking to her belief she is able to triumph over the dinner table and have the last comment, “Devil out of hell! We won! We crushed him to death! Fiend!” (48).
Dante is not only knowledgeable but seem to possess a quite amount of power that can be viewed as an independent woman today. She is able to stick up for herself, while two men are attacking her with the subject of politics. Dante believes there isn’t anything that should go against the Church for it is an immoral sin. By going against the Catholic Church, she believes is going against God. This influences Stephen most during his childhood to his adolescent life. He is mystified by the meaning of religion and thus creates deep thoughts about what it really means to him.
In the end, Dante is created for the sole purpose as what seems to be Stephen’s consciousness. When Stephen sins, he thinks about Dante and he wonders how he would face Dante with this subject. He feels ashamed and believes he created a moral error that would break him from his religion. Stephen sins become his guilt and this guilt becomes his conscious towards Dante. To Stephen, he believes that by sinning, his sins will never replenish because his guilt still remains in his consciousness.
Dante is created in the novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, in the sole purpose to serve Stephen’s way of thinking and how he develops into a man. She also serves spiritual power and background of the family and becomes Stephen’s conscious. Lastly, Dante believes that if one against the Catholic Church, one is against the almighty God.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
Over the Waters
I am a Vietnamese immigrant, who migrated with my family or more accurately escaped to America. As thuyền nhân, or boat people during the Vietnam War era, my family has overcome many hardships during their lifetime. They have seen people dead before their eyes, and it has influenced their beliefs and what they expect from me; most of the men in my family were soldiers, including my father. I have lost many of my relatives during this war. They have taught me to appreciate freedom and the opportunities that go along with it.
In my family of six, I am the oldest of three brothers. My family was not rich; we struggled to make ends meet. We began our lives in the projects of Malden, Massachusetts. Since I was the oldest, this meant great responsibility was pushed onto me. Like the typical oldest brother; I would be blamed for everything I did not do and punished severely for what I did do. Although I admit, I was quite rebellious. In my family, punishment would include a swift stick to the rear end or chopsticks onto our hands and feet. Through time, I learned to cope with the abuse, but I developed a terrible temper, a temper that festered until I was eleven. Even though I developed a temper, I never used this temper against my family; it was usually towards kids that would bully me. Strangely, along with this temper, I achieved all A’s on my report cards since first grade and was very popular among my peers.
Also I grew up to know what death meant at an early age. I suffered a terrible loss; my grandmother, who died at the age of forty-six. I cherish the memories of my grandmother. She was an important figure in my family. In fact, she saved my whole family from a whirlpool when they traveled to Hong Kong on boats. I believed that she was somewhat of a super hero, invincible and courageous. Then I became aware of her mortality when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. At this point in my life, I was confused and too young to understand what death was; I was five. I now know that death is inevitable, but it was the manner in which she died that left me with a lot of questions. Cancer became my greatest enemy, but ultimately I will be its conqueror.
She was a woman with great respect, beautiful and fragile yet she saved my whole family from a dangerous whirlpool. To travel to Hong Kong on boat is a dangerous risk, but we had no choice. My grandmother’s instincts told her that we were heading straight towards it. Yet, she chose not to go with her instincts; we could be caught by enemies that followed. A little further and my grandmother’s ears began to hear the flowing sound of water, violently swooshing and swishing about. She leaps up from her spot and climbs over forty people, on a maximum hold of fifteen a boat, and stops the men from rowing. Then they witness another boat filled with people. They ended up in the awful whirlpool, there were no survivors, and it was not much longer that my grandmother began rowing in reverse, going against the strong pull of the whirlpool. If another five seconds had passed, there wouldn’t be any survivors, if it wasn’t for my grandmother.
Thus, I aspire to be the first college graduate and plan to earn a doctorate degree. As a Vietnamese immigrant, through experience and family history I have learned that life is difficult, but I possess the strength to continue striving forward no matter the situation. As an older brother, I am glad to experience all the hardships that followed because I became their role model. Cancer is still my enemy, it will be defeated.