AN essay I had to publish as part of my English final
|Symbolism of Ireland’s Politics
Charles Parnell was one of Ireland’s most talked-of political leaders of his time. In Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce intertwines the politics of Ireland in Stephen Dedalus’ life. The first time is when Stephen sees Dante’s brushes, “The brush with the velvet maroon back was for Michael Davitt and the brush with the green velvet was for Parnell” (3-4). And how “One night during free study [Flemming] had colored the earth green and the clouds maroon” (12). This is before Parnell’s scandal with Kitty O’Shea was known, and Parnell and Davitt were the team of the Land League. Dante has two brushes for two popular Irish political leaders. These leaders had the capability to unite the Irish people together. Dante is a representation of the Irish people at this point, showing a want for an Irish-ruled Ireland, instead of an English-ruled Ireland, since the brushes are not of English leaders but Irish. When Flemming drew a picture of the land colored maroon and green, it is showing how there can be a free Ireland with the proper rulers that the Irish support, composed of Davitt and Parnell. Even characters in the book saw Parnell as a leader for the Irish, such as when Mr. Casey called out, “Poor Parnell… My dead King!” (39). The characters of this book, either consciously or subconsciously, saw and wanted Parnell and Davitt as leaders of a free Ireland.
Yet there are other ways that England and Ireland are compared. During the Christmas dinner, “A great fire, banked high and red, flamed… under [green] ivytwined branches” (25). The red banked fire seems to symbolize Britain, while the green ivy Ireland. The ivy is purposely set above the fire by Joyce, who is showing that Ireland and most of the people of that house want to be independent of Britain and their harsh control.
There are other parts of Ireland’s political state as well. The Catholic Church is deeply intertwined with Ireland’s politics, such as with the ivytwined branches in the quote mentioned above. Joyce is showing that although it is possible and craved for Ireland to stand alone from Britain, it is almost impossible to separate religion from Ireland, as it is too deeply ingrained into Ireland’s culture.
There are other symbolisms between the tension of the Irish and the church. Stephen, as a representation of Ireland, and the rector, as the Church, is one of them. When Stephen is unfairly punished for his broken glasses by Brother Dolan, he speaks to the rector on the matter, who says, “Very well… it is a mistake and I shall speak to father Dolan myself” (59). Stephen, representing Ireland, stands up to the church in order to stop them from interfering in interests that shouldn’t have to do with them, such as when the Church had a tendency to mingle with politics and speak on them.
This idea is painted clearly when Mr. Casey says during Christmas dinner, “The priests and the priests’ pawns broke Parnell’s heart and hounded him to his grave” (33). The idea that the Church staying out of politics is only started to be openly discussed once Parnell is dead. This idea is a huge step for the characters since Ireland is so integrated with the church that it can hardly be fathomed as two separate ideas.
Dante is also used as an image of the church when Stephen is in a dreamlike state while viewing teachers mourn Parnell’s death, he sees, “Dante in a maroon velvet dress with a green velvet mantle hanging from her shoulders walking silently and proudly past the people” (25). Dante wears a maroon dress because she is in support of Davitt, who, after Parnell’s affair was discovered, opposed Parnell returning to leadership and sided with the Catholic Church. She is wearing the green cloak in mockery of Parnell and the support that was not fully there and could be shed as easily as removing a cloak from one’s shoulders.