Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man

Center of the Novel

"Hell is the centre of evils and, as you know, things are more intense at their centres than at their remotest points. There are no contraries or admixtures of any kind to temper of soften in the least the pains of hell. Nay, things which are good in themselves become evil in hell. Company, elsewhere a source of comfort to the afflicted, will be there a continual torment: knowledge, so much longed for as the chief good of the intellect, will there be hatred worse than ignorance: light, so much coveted by all creatures from the lord of creation down to the humblest plant in the forest, will be loathed intensely. In this life, our sorrows are either not very long or very great because nature either overcomes them by habits or puts an end to them by sinking under their weight. But in hell, the torments cannot be overcome by habit. For while they are of terrible intensity, they are at the same time of continual variety, each pain, so to speak, taking fire from another and reendowing that which has enkindled it with a still fiercer flame. Nor can nature escape from these intense and various tortures by succumbing to them for the soul in hell is sustained and maintained in evil so that in its suffering may be the greater. Boundless extension of torment, incredible intensity of suffering unceasing variety of torture- this is what the divine majesty, so outraged by sinners, demands, this is what the holiness of heaven, slighted and set aside for the lustful and low pleasures of the corrupt flesh, requires, this is what the blood of the innocent Lamb of God, shed for the redemption of sinners, trampled upon the vilest of the vile, insists upon" (page 119, A Portrait of The Artist As A Young Man)

With such a long passage, many ideas of eternity, cycles, and circles come to mind. Geometrically, a circle is made up of all points equidistant to the center, which is to say that one can never get to the center. It also refers to the point that a circle has no beginning or end, and is, therefore, eternal. On to the idea of centres, this passage talks of hell being the "centre of all evils" in that one will always suffer for eternity because one can never, in a circle, get to the center. I think this idea is extremely important as one thinks about the opposing battle Stephen Dedalus faces with his morality and sin. This prominent issue is also located at the center of the novel. It is also something Stephen can never get to the center of, therefore, it becomes a hell for him. As the sermon builds, it builds in Stephen, like the eternal fire of hell. This plays a huge part in Stephen's "autonomous" world and hell.

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