Free Expression and Flight

“His throat ached with a desire to cry aloud, the cry of a hawk’s or eagle on high, to cry piercingly of his deliverance to the winds. This was the call of life to his soul not the dull gross voice of the world of duties and despair, not the inhuman voice that called him to the pale service of the altar. An instant of wild flight had delivered him and the cry of triumph which his lips withheld cleft his brain.”

James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (p. 143).

The early portions of this chapter are marked by Stephen dedicating his time and efforts towards rejecting physical senses and existence and forcing himself to focus on the sanctification of his soul and his deliverance to heaven. He avoids all positive sensory stimulation and strictly limits his expression, such as by not controlling his voice to be unnecessarily loud or joyful in song or whistle. Stephen turning away from nature and vibrance is reflected in the style of this portion, which uses dull and somewhat morbid language, especially when Stephen reflects on his future in religious profession. After realizing that his purpose cannot lie in priesthood and accepting that he cannot avoid “falling” religiously, Stephen’s world, and the style of the text, becomes vibrant again, and he begins to remember the joy of sensory observations and free expression. This builds up to a climax in which Stephen feels the urge to cry out in triumph, and feels as though he is flying freely, in stark contrast to his earlier muted, restricted expression and sensation.