Stephen Dedalus’s dichotomous view on woman was created by his highly religious upbringing. Subconsciously he is questing for the impossible combination of nurturing mother and pure virgin, like the Virgin Mary, who only exists to Stephen in his Christian teachings. His encounters with woman are affected by this instilled view. As the book progresses, Stephen loses connection with his faith, which also stops his search for the perfect woman.
Stephen looks at moral woman as either virgins or mothers, but throughout the book is looking for the combination of both. He looks to his mother figures as one who nurtures, but also the person who tells him right from wrong. In the first section of the book he knows that “his mother put on the oilsheet”(21), which shows he understands that she is the one who keeps an eye out for him when he needs to be cleaned up, nurturing him because of his youngness. Later his mother tells that “O, Stephen will apologise,”(21) for something he did, which implies that Stephen has done something wrong. This helps spawn his first poem and artist expression. His mother also “encourages his artist expression by playing the piano”(Henke 318). This makes little Stephen “dance”(21). Dancing is very closely associated with sensuality and thus suggests some oedipal longing. At this point Stephen doesn’t associate sensuality as sinful, but he is later made to apologize for something that isn’t made clear. A young mind could associate the necessity for the apology with the movement that was sprung from his mother, causing Stephen to repress his feelings later in life.
Dante is a different, but equitably motherly source for Stephen. Her role is on the nurturing side, but more on the training side of the word. Stephens first introduction to politics was because of Dante, although he wouldn’t have understood it at the time. She “had two brushes…for Micheal Davitt and …for Parnell”(21). The fact that he remembers the names of the politicians that Dante would have told him shows that he already associates the political names with Dante and will continues to do so later in life. She also is part of the forced apology later. She gives him the possible punishment should he not apologize, which is having “the eagles…pull out his eyes,”(21). Again the woman stimulates his art.
Although woman are seen as nurturing and teaching, Stephen sees men, at least in the beginning of the book, as the people who one must be followed and listened to. This following comes from the religiousness of his family again, as well as the social structure in Ireland, and most of the world. The man leads the house and is in charge. The church he would have been going to since an early age told him about the Virgin Mary, which would have made little Stephen look for her in the females, namely Dante and his Mother and later Emma the other girls of his imagination, in the ways he pays attention to them in the first section of the book. He is taught that priest are leaders and even gets to the point that thinks that one of the Fathers “knew more than Dante because he was a priest” even though Stephen knows“ Dante was a clever woman and a wellread woman.”(24) At this point in his life he is accepting everything he is taught.
Somewhere in his mind he still associates learning with woman because as soon as he “heard Father Arnall’s voice…all his eagerness passed away”(25) for his math work. This could be taken as his first form of rebellion, although not conscious and not even slightly realized by Stephen at the moment. After this loss of eagerness Stephen begins to think about the colors of roses. Roses are very closely associated with woman. So, Stephens mind set switches off from work because of a man’s voice, then his mind wanders into thinking about woman.
One of the things he mentions is about a “green rose”(25). He thinks of roses of many different colors, until he get to the green rose. This thought of a green rose is caused when he “remembered the song about the wild rose blossoms on the little green place.”(25) The thought of the green rose is only brought to Stephen’s attention through another’s art. This green rose is also something Stephen knows “you could not have”(25) but for some reasons still thinks it is “somewhere in the world,”(25). This could be Joyce showing the artist who wrote the songs quest for the green rose, or a quest for something impossible, is just as in vein as Stephens subconscious quest for the Virgin Mary. The green rose could be an allusion to Mary through its purity, because the a green rose would be purely green, or Joyce may be using green’s association with immaturity, but also fertility, because Mary was a virgin mother. Stephen could be fascinated with the green rose just because he subconsciously knows that he and the song writer are both aiming for the impossible.
Only slightly after this rose day dream Stephen longs “to be home and lay his head on his mother’s lap”(25-26). He wants to be with his mother and be nurtured by her. He wants to return to being a child, almost to the point of wanting to be fetal because of where he wants to place himself. He understands that “he could not: and so he longer for the play and study and prayers to be over and to be in bed.”(26). He wanted everything else of his day to be done with so he could be in bed and sleep. In his dreams he could control what was going on, and therefore do whatever it is that he liked to, which at that moment would have been to be at home with his mother. This is another form of rebellion, because he doesn’t want to pray.
The next day he is made fun of for kissing his mother, which caused a question in his mind. He was made laughing at for both answers, which created a huge ripple in his mind. He couldn’t decide “was it right to kiss his mother or wrong to kiss his mother”(27). He actually did kiss his mother goodnight, because that was what he wanted to do, and was brought up to do. This also would subconsciously change how he treated woman later. If it was wrong to kiss his Mother even on the cheek, then how could he imagine of going any further with any other woman? The boys making fun of him came from the church’s beliefs, because they were brought up to follow them. Although they didn’t condone bullying, they didn’t like any sort of physicality toward woman before marriage.
Soon after winter vacation came. At Christmas dinner the main discussion was over the issue of the priest “turning the house of God into a polling booth.”(41) Dante was offended by this statement because she believes “any man calling himself a catholic”(41) should follow what the priest suggests. The fact the character dispute the correctness of the combination of church and state shows that it was an issues even then. Mr. Dedalus and Mr. Casey believe that the church should be used to “pray to our Maker.” The males in the situation, who Stephen was always taught to follow is questioned at this point An even bigger and wider idea was brought up by Dante, who taught Stephen and was his first glimpse into politics. Dante sees the church as the people who “must direct their flocks.”(41) This concept of the church goers as a flocks suggest that people who attend church are birds, and not free thinking human beings. She sees the church goers, and therefore herself, as beings who need someone to tell them what to do, and she finds it in the God the church preaches about.
The conflict between male and female is a maturing point for Stephen. He needs to decide whether he should follow the sex who he was taught to follow, or the sex he has learned from and was first introduced to politics. This conflict is also the first time other people have questioned religion. This is another step towards Stephen’s open rebellion against religion. There is an interesting transition from the topic. Mrs. Dedalus brings up food, but at the same time puts “down her knife and fork.”(41) The knife and fork hold a violent connotation to them. Knives were always used as a weapon before it was a utensil, and the fork resembles a miniature pitchfork or trident. So, Mrs. Dedalus put down the aggressive “weaponry” in order to bring the peace. This is good for Stephen to witness because it shows that his mother is still trying to protect and keep him safe. He is starting to see that people don’t’ have to strictly follow what they are told, because Dante, who is suppose to listen to men because she is a woman, isn’t just accepting what the men say.
The topic of discussion was then brought to food for a moment, then quickly shifts back. Food is a very primal thing that every creature looks for. The topic shifts from a very thought driven need, to the physical need. Then the religious topic gets brought up again. This quick change suggests that one may try to cover up the mental needs with the physical, but the mental needs are much more important to everyone as people. Dante believes that the church was right to be against the leader because he “was a public sinner.”(42) The suggests that Dante believes the church leaders couldn’t have sinned because she wouldn’t follow them. Mr. Casey then brought up that “we are all sinners and black sinners”(42). These opposing views on who should lead suggests another topic of discussion. Should our leaders be thought of as perfect or thought of as people who have sinned like us? There is also more reason for Stephen to question his faith because the leaders in his world may also be sinners who shouldn’t be followed.
Stephen visits the chapel with his uncle Charles, while Stephen‘s faith is still . Uncle Charles “would often pay a visit to the chapel.”(66) The way Joyce phrases that is interesting. He uses the word “pay”(66) as if it is something that uncle Charles owes to someone. It suggests he may not be doing it fully by choice. It’s almost as if Charles is just following the flock, like Dante suggested at the Christmas dinner. The height of the font where they are getting the blessed water is also very meaningful. It is “above Stephen’s reach,”(66) which suggests that Stephen hasn’t grown enough to fully understand religion, but also would make him feel like he doesn‘t belong there. If he can‘t do it himself, how could he feel accepted by it? This might cause more thoughts of rebellion. He is being brought along by an adult who believes it. This concept of belief being passed on is suggested in how “the old man would dip his hand and then sprinkle the water briskly about Stephen’s clothes” (66). The concept that children are brought along and marginally forced to observe religion until they accept it. This could be suggesting that religion isn’t something one can chose. Its also interesting that Stephen didn’t get hit with any of the water, just his clothes. This could suggest that for Stephen religion is something that he wears on the outside, but doesn’t believe, which we find out is true by the end of the book.
The next image is of uncle Charles and Stephen kneeling. Uncle Charles kneels “on his red handkerchief.”(66) Handkerchiefs are used to wipe sweat from your head, or to wipe your nose. Depending on how uncles Charles uses it suggests different thing. If it used for sweat, uncle Charles is presenting his sweat because of hard work before his lord, or if it is used to wipe his nose, he is presenting his sickness. Either way it is presenting uncle Charles as just a human before his lord. He thinks he needs to show his lack of godliness to feel closer to god. Stephen “knelt at his side respect, though he did not share, his piety”(66) This again suggests that Stephen is showing religion on the outside, but doesn’t believe it in his head.
The bible the uncle was using is interesting. It had “catchwords…printed at the foot of every page”(66) Dictionaries also have the catchwords. The parallel brings up the way religion is going. Religion has become too much of a science for people to look for meanings in life, like people look for meanings in a dictionary. Religion’s focus changed from faith to science, even though religion isn’t suppose to be a science. None of this is something Stephen enjoys in a faith.
n the nights Stephen would read The Count of Money Cristo. He would imagine himself as the Count and imagine the scenery on his table and live his life through the count. For some reason he was “sadly proud,”(67) of refusing his made up woman character. He is sad because somewhere in his mind he wants to be with her, but proud because he is doing what religion has told him was right. He encounters this woman only through his thoughts because religion has created two forces against him having a real woman, one is the fear of making a woman impure, and the other is his quest for the perfect, which in his mind is the Virgin Mary.
Rather than making a woman impure Stephen ends up having sex with a prostitute. This is justified in his mind because they are already impure and don’t’ have a chance of being his perfection. They have already committed sins of the flesh so immaculate conception couldn’t be possible anymore. This is also another open form of rebellion for Stephen, although he does feel the need to repent at this point of the book. Part of this need to repent is also shows that he is looking for a real life Mary to be his mate. His sin, which had covered him from the sight of God, had led him nearer to the refuge of sinners. Her eyes seemed to regard him with mild pity; her holiness, a strange light glowing faintly upon her frail flesh, did not humiliate the sinner who approached her. If ever he was impelled to cast sin from him and to repent the impulse that moved him was the wish to be her knight(102).
Stephen is looking to be the Virgin Mary’s “knight”(102) and he compares confessing his sins on her name to “the savour itself of a lewd kiss”(102). Every woman he encounters for real is a mother figure for him because the girls he is attracted to he becomes afraid of, because of his fear of making them dirty, and the fear that church has in stilled in him, that physicality is wrong. He creates this fake world because the real one would create sins. As he loses connection with his faith he becomes more accepting of the physicality between him and woman.
As a open rebellion against the church he refuses to take part in “easter duty”(211), which is also slightly because he is starting to accept that his mother could not be pure. He is older and understands better that his mother isn’t perfect. This realization made him want to rebel, although one knows that your mother is someone you will always have to follow and have in your life. The fact that he would argue with his mother about doing it shows that Stephen is beginning to want to leave the nest and start his own life with a new female force and is finally coming into his own views on faith. Stephen tells Cranley that he “will not serve that in which” he “no longer believe whether it call itself my home, my fatherland or my church”(218). Little Stephen has realized that to be in the place he desires he must leave.
The big finale for Stephen’s love life is when he meets up with “her”(223) although he never tells us who she is exactly. Prior to this journal entry his encounters with woman were all made up when it came to having feelings for them. Stephen has matured enough to even touch her, which is a big step. When they “shook hands” she became as real as real can be, there is no way a figment of your imagination could shake your hand. He even says that he “liked her today. A little or much?”(223) he didn’t know, but either way he finally encountered a woman for real, only after he rebelled against the church and therefore rebelled against Virgin Mary. The reality of woman can now be shown to Stephen.