William York Tindall, A Reader’s Guide to James Joyce [1959] (London: Thames & Hudson 1960, 1963)

A Portrait
‘Joyce was familiar with Butler, Meredith and Goethe. Whether deliberately based on this pattern or not, A Portrait generally conform to it. In Joyce’s Bildungsroman, as in most of the others, both before and after his, we find a sensitive youth shaped by his surroundings, feeling their pressures, and rebelling against them to become himself.’ (1959 Edn, p.51.)

‘Whatever his inventive power, an artist must get his materials somewhere, where he can. Preferring to write about what he knew about, Joyce took his materials from himself and his experience. These, however, were things to be selected, shaped, and, however personal, to be depersonalised. A few examples make this clear. However much Simon Dedalus owes to Joyce’s father, he is not that man nor is Stephen’s attitude toward his father Joyce’s towards his. Intending a story of son rebelling against father, Joyce changed the father whom he loved to Stephen’s irresponsible and contemptible old man. Intending the story of an unhappy egoist and a romantic rebel, Joyce, who was was commonly (though not always) gay and witty made Stephen solemn.’

[Ftn. cites “Jocax’’, Tristopher & Hilary in FW21, and ‘pseudojocax’, FW63.]

[...]

‘Not autobiography, A Portrait is work of art. The word Portrait in the title is significant; and it is no less significant that the article preceding is the word A, not The. This novel, like a painter’s work, is one of several possible interpretations of the subject. Not representational, the distortions and arrangements [...] are expressive.’ (p.53.)

‘[Stephen’s] first attempt at exile is unsuccessful. The first chapter of Ulysses shows him back in Ireland, still silent, with cunning unimpaired. At the end of Ulysses he tries again, more successfully maybe, though we never know. if for the moment we may confuse Stephen’s undisclosed but implied future with Joyce’s past, Stephen is to remain obsessed with what he has rejected. He only thinks he has given up being a lover of the place he is a lover of. Physically abroad, he never leaves home; for exile fails to diminish his concern with Ireland and her traditions. Indeed, [58] coming to terms with Ireland (at a distance) seems to be Stephen-Joyce’s success. Though this success is implicit in Ulysses, it is altogether absent in A Portrait, which ends with the artist’s beginning. However improper the confusion of Stephen with his creator, the future of this future artist, however hypothetical, cannot be avoided. The suggestions are inescapable.

The making of an exile determines structure, an important part of form or harmony of parts. In each of the five chapters [of A Portrait], faithful to Stephen’s nature, reveals a stage of its development.’ (pp.58-59.

‘Escape, despite Stephen’s idea of it, is not the creator’s necessary condition. [...] In any case, his first attempt at exile is unsuccessful. [...’ ; p.58]

‘The making of the exile determines structure, an important part of form or the harmony of the parts. Each of the five chapters, faithful to Stephen’s nature, reveals a stage of its development. The first chapter concerns infancy at Bray, a town to the south of Dublin, and childhood at Clongowes Wood. The second, which includes childhood at Blackrock (also to the south, but less remote), the removal to Dublin, the first years at Belvedere, the visit to Cork, and, subsequently to the whorehouse, shows childhood becoming adolescence. The third chapter, exploring the troubles of adolescence, concerns sin, guilt, confession, and communion. The sermons are central to this difficult period. A very short one, the fourth chapter is nonetheless climactic. Starting with repentance and austerity, this chapter proceeds through rejection of one priesthood for another - of Catholic priesthood for that of the more or less secular imagination. Stephen’s encounter with the wading girl, the climax of this climactic chapter, is the climax of the book. The last chapter, though a kind of diminuendo, recapitulating while it resolves, shows the inevitable consequences of his vision. The University, the aesthetic theory, the poem, and the last interview with Cranly are the major materials of this long, important chapter, where Stephen stands fully revealed. Fragments from a diary may disappoint our expectation of a strong ending; but, as we shall see, these fragments, functional, necessary, and less feeble than they seem, provide the final revelation.

This five-part structure, with climax in the fourth and resolution in the fifth, is that of classical drama, Joyce’s model maybe. Uncommon in the novel [...] this veritable quincunx was anticipated by Conrad’s Nigger of the Narcissus. Other analogies suggest themselves [...]’ (pp.59.)

[ top ]

‘Although I do not understand the function of every part, I am sure from what I understand of Joyce that no part could be omitted or placed elsewhere without injuring the great design. Uncle Charles in the garden house at the beginning of Chapter Two must be important because all of Joyce’s openings are important; yet Uncle Charles remains mysterious though plainly representing the tradition from which Stephen must escape and curiously anticipating, by burlesque, the exiled artist.’

[Tindall goes on to compare the ‘subjective-objective method’ as ‘the invention of Henry James ... [of]ten called “impressionism”’ which he equates with Joyce’s narrative method in Chap. 4. of A Portrait - and speaks of it as ‘adapted by Joyce [63] to his portrayal of his egoist [... a] point of view [which] is no less suitable to the purposes than mereedith’s comic objectivity.’ (p.63-64.)]

‘Joyce’s attitude toward Stephen and the tone by which he is presented to us are what, knowing Joyce and Stephen, we might expect. The tone demanded of Joyce by the nature of Stephen is also a consequence of the chosen point of view and maybe among the reasons for choosing it. Stephen is as solemn as Meredith’s Sir Willoughby or as Molière’s Tartuffe. Taking any of these on their own terms, though possible, is neither rational nor civilized. But the civilized comedy of Meredith and Molière requires an objectivity beyond the limits of impressionism, which is at best an uncertain mixture, half out, half in. Taking a stand within a subject may forbid comedy, but a virtue of impressionism is that it allows the author to stand alongside his subject as well - at a little distance. Not enough for comedy, this distance is suitable for irony, as civilized and critical as comedy and far more disagreeable. Distance lends disenchantment to the view. A value of Joyce’s method is that Stephen exposes himself while Joyce, at that little distance, exposes Stephen. The difference between their views of the same thing constitutes an irony so quiet that it escapes many readers, who, reducing two to one, take Stephen at his own estimate. To miss Joyce’s estimate, however, is to miss half the meaning and all the fun.

That Stephen, less admirable than he thinks, is not Joyce seems proved again by Joyce’s irony. “I have been rather hard on that young man,” Joyce told his friend Frank Budgen, emphasizing the last words of his title. Young man no more, Joyce looks at a young man with compassion, to be sure, but with mocking eye. The first word of his title, that indefinite article, also seems significant in this connection. Meaning not only one of several possible portraits, the article may imply a portrait of a particular kind, ironic perhaps. The kind of irony tenderly lavished upon one’s self to enhance it may not be altogether absent; for though not Stephen, Joyce had been young. He was humane moreover and a creature of his romantic time. But his tone, generally more distant than sentiment prefers, seems the real thing, not its sentimental substitute. There is room, of course, for disagreement here. Rebecca West and Frank O’Connor think ironic Joyce sentimental; but she is English and O’Connor Irish. I am unable to share their detestable opinion. In judging Joyce national differences sometimes make all the difference; but there are texts to base my difference on.’ (pp.64-65.)

[ top ]

Ulysses
Ulysses is the story of three Dubliners and their city during June 16, 1904. Nobody knows why Joyce chose this day, though there have been many speculations. Maybe it was the day of Joyce’s own renewal by Nora or the date on a newspaper that lined the exile’s trunk. However arrived at, June 16 is celebrated now as Bloomsday. [...] Likely at first to single Stephen out, we discover Bloom next, and finally, after many readings, Mrs. Bloom. Understanding her is the sign of understanding and its achievement. These three are individuals; yet, more than individuals, they represent man and two of his aspects. Stephen is intellect, Mrs. Bloom, flesh, and central Mr. Bloom, uniting the extremes, taken together, compose mankind, which Ulysses celebrates. Celebrating it on Bloomsday or any other day, we celebrate art and man.’ (p.124.)

‘[N]ot entirely aware of what he [Stephen] needs and wants, he finds both by meeting Mr. Bloom and, with his aid, apprehending Mrs. Bloom. Meeting human Mr. Bloom and suddenly understanding humanity, Stephen becomes a kind of Bloom, leaving pride for charity, and inhumanity for acceptance of mankind. It becomes increasingly apparent that in meeting Bloom and seeing Molly [sic], Stephen meets himself for the first time. Becoming mature, he becomes himself. Discovering the father, he becomes capable of fatherhood. That Stephen is Bloom, and Bloom Stephen at last is all we need to know; but how they establish this strange equation is our problem, as establishing it is Stephen’s and the object of his quest.’ (Ibid., p.125.)

[On “Circe”:] ‘To render Bloom’s nightmare Joyce chose the form of a play, complete with speech tags and stage directions - of a dream-play like Strindberg’s. Since dreams give objective solidity to desires, the form is suitable, far more efective than analysis and far more vivid than the stream of consciousness. Abandoning discourse, psychoanalysis becomes drama. Rising from his couch, the patient walks a stage, attended by a company as solid as he is.’ (p.208.)

[Bloom’s] quest is for home. When he gets there he finds an empty pot of Plumtree’s Potted Meat in the kitchen and a few flakes of the stuff in Molly’s bed. [...] Stephen’s unconscious quest is for charity, humanity, maturity, and self. Discovering Bloom (“Everyman and Noman”) Stephen discovers mankind. Joining Bloom, he becomes himself. “Blephen” sits down with “Stoom” - not that the two elements of Blephen Stoom, the new compound, are identical. Still opposites, they are united for the moment by Bloom’s love and Stephen’s apprehension. Their “coincidence” reveals hitherto “concealed identities”. Given understanding of humanity by Bloom’s humanity, no longer separaed by pride and childish ego from every other man, Stephen sees himself as everyman, himself as grown up. [Ftn. averts to the statue of Narcissus brought home by Bloom which Molly ‘definitely’ associates with Stephen.] [...] Communing with everyman is art’s preliminary and its condition.

So prepared and conditioned, Stephen goes off to encounter [222] reality for the millionth time and first time and to reforge that experience in the smithy of his soul. Off he goes to the sound of a “jew’s harp”

[...]

The hunt for the father is over; For Blephen has the father found. That this is all as “jocoserious” as Bloom’s sacrament is not surprising in a book where things divine are all too human and all too human things divine. (pp.222-23.)

Why, becoming Bloom, does Stephen leave him? Why not? If “centrifugal departer” were to stay with “centripetal remainer” (U688) that the frustrated departer would remain a simple bourgeois, not the creative coincidence of bourgeois and vagrant that Bloom has made him. Bloom has done his job, and Stephen necessarily goes off to do his. [...]

Why do Bloom and Stephen appear to change places at the end? Stephen the child, goes off to be a man; whereas Bloom, the man, getting into bed with a kind of mother, becomes “the childman, weary, the manchild in the womb.” (U755) [Ftn. remarks that Bloom’s position in bed is foetal.] [...] Bloom will be man again tomorrow. Man now, Stephen will be childish enough, God knows. Childman is manchild, as every woman knows.

Finding self and departing may constitute success for Stephen, but what wort of success is Bloom’s foetal retreat? What sort of success is getting home to that home? As everyman, Bloom pursues a round, going away from home in the [223] morning, coming back at night. Tomorrow for Bloom like today, will be another day. But getting back, a daily success, is a success, however unfinal. [...] Bloom returns to house and bed. Circumspectly, prudently and reverently, he enters the bed of conception, birth, consummation, adultery, sleep and death. Thinking of death, Stephen issues forth from Bloom’s gate, reborn. Life and death are the reality each encounters and we are also faced with it.’ (U715-16).

Understanding Bloom and seeing himself in Bloom or Bloom in him are only part of what departing Stephen takes along. his final enlightenment is the sight of Molly’s window, a “visible luminous sign”, a light shining in the darkness. [Ftn. [...] Having put out Circe’s lamp, Stephen accepts Molly’s.]

[...]

It is a credit no less to Stephen’s imagination and sensibility than to Bloom’s suggestive eloquence that Stephen is able to share Bloom’s vision. Undersanding Bloom as prepared the way for the fundamental and more charitable understanding Molly demands. What Stephen apprehends is [224] revealed in the next chapter. Knowing Bloom and Molly, as every writer must, Stephen knows humanity entirely. Let him go away now and write about it. (pp.223-25.)

[Referring to the two men’s urination:] ‘is the celebration either suitable or seemly? This is a “jocoserious” book, remember, unlimited by middle-class decencies or habits of mind. Consider biscuit tin, bathtub, snot, and cocoa. The indecorous, the vulgar, the commonplace, reveal the higher things.’ (p.225.)

Finnegans Wake
Finnegans Wake is about Finnegans Wake. That is this: not only about everything, the book is about putting everything down in records and interpreting them. Such records, their writing, and their reading compose the book or, at least, a great part of it. To say, then, that Finnegans Wake is about our ideas about itself is to say, then, that Finnegans Wake is about itself is to say that, including our reality, Finnegans Wake is about our ideas about it and they are Finnegans Wake. Turning in upon itself yet including all our troubles, it is a great thing entirely.

A trouble is that something in which everything involves everything else demands notice of everything at once. This demand, to which Joyce was equal, is plainly beyond his readers. Yet, however formidable, Finnegans Wake is less formidable that it seems on first looking into. However unfamiliar it seems, there is much that should be familiar to readers of Ulysses [...] Anyone who enjoys Ulysses will find Finnegans Wake readable enough. Anyone who enjoys Ulysses will have lots of fun at Finnegan’s wake.’ (p.236.)

[ back ]
[ top ]