Friday, January 30, 2015


Of all the characters that Stephen interacts with in Portrait, Cranly is the most interesting. He also ends up having an importance influence on Stephen towards the end of the novel.

The first time we meet Cranly (other than the roll-call in the classroom), he is almost ironically acting the comic character, questioning and answering Stephen in Latin. Cranly never seemed to be the bubbling, bouncy, smiling character even when he had his funny moments (and is described as "brooding", "sour", "bitter", "watchful", etc. to give us this impression). Later we see that Cranly acts the complete opposite--when he overemphasizes his annoyance by shouting/screaming/shoving (Temple on multiple occasions and then the portly kid who farts on the steps). I don't think Cranly is actually that angry (his "victims" always seem to be in good humor, maybe he acts like that a lot and they know he isn't really all that angry). Which again, makes him an almost comical character.

The main impression I got from Cranly is that he was the most mature student at the college. He sort of has this attitude like "Cmon guys, seriously?" over a lot of things that he finds petty. For example when Maccan and Stephen are sparring over the Tsar's peace petition paper, Cranly is sort of like "Are you guys serious? Can't get go play handball? etc.". Later when Cranly and Stephen are talking, Cranly acts as the voice of maturity and reason when he calls Stephen out on his babyish behavior regarding Stephen serving in church service. Stephen doesn't want to out of principle or whatever, and Cranly again has that "C'mon, seriously?" vibe going on. "Just do it dude, it's a small act... it wont kill you, it will make your mom happy" etc.

In class it was briefly mentioned that Cranly served the purpose of trying to bring out a little humanity in Stephen, and I think that adding this element to his character really gives him a lot more depth.

"Have you ever loved anyone?"

"I ask if you even felt love towards anyone or anything".

"Your mother must have gone through a good deal of suffering. Would you not try to save her from suffering more even if... or would you?"

"Do as she wishes you to do. What is it for you?"

Cranley asks Stephen.

These sort of questions only act to reaffirm Cranly's maturity.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Simple Twist of Fate

Joyce quotes are italicized 
Dylan quotes are bolded

So far we have seen Stephen's street ramblings change from a light, willful participation in a fantasy world (Blackrock) to a seemingly addictive, distorted, alien world (Dublin). The change can be "diagnosed" in part by more "tangible" causes--the lower social class, the increased sexual frustration, religious anxiety, etc. There may also be a more abstract element of "coming of age" that cannot be explained by events that effects the drastic difference in tone we see between the different ramblings. 

The Blackrock fantasy was much more grounded in the Count of Monte Cristo. It was much less confusing, very sunny, etc. 

There would come to his mind the bright picture of Marseille, of sunny trellises, and of Mercedes

The difference between the two is best shown in this passage: He returned to his wanderings. The veiled autumnal evenings led him from street to street as they had led him years before along the quiet avenues of Blackrock. But no vision of trim front gardens or of kindly lights in the windows poured a tender influence upon him now.

The appeal of a Mercedes comes from Stephens desire for an intimate relationship, and his inability to go about getting one (the tram scene is an example). He describes his Mercedes fantasy in the following passage...

He did not know where to seek it or how, but a premonition which led him on told him that this image would, without any overt act of his, encounter him. They would meet quietly as if they had known each other and had made their tryst, perhaps at one of the gates or in some more secret place. They would be alone, surrounded by darkness and silence: and in that moment of supreme tenderness he would be transfigured. He would fade into something impalpable under her eyes and then in a moment he would be transfigured. Weakness and timidity and inexperience would fall from him in that magic moment.


I think that the Bob Dylan song "Simple Twist of Fate", both musically and lyrically fits Stephen's street ramblings. 

I'll start with some Dylan lines. 

They walked along by the old canal
A little confused, I remember well
And stopped into a strange hotel with a neon burnin’ bright
He felt the heat of the night hit him like a freight train
Moving with a simple twist of fate
A saxophone someplace far off played
As she was walkin’ by the arcade
As the light bust through a beat-up shade where he was wakin’ up,

The imagery feels very similar. It's used to create a sense of loneliness surrounded by a bustling world. The protagonist in Dylan's song finds himself alone in the middle of the city of neon signs (neon always implies nightlife) and saxophones. There is this very real and very alive city that is completely separated from the protagonist. 

He hears the ticking of the clocks
And walks along with a parrot that talks
Hunts her down by the waterfront docks where the sailors all come in
Maybe she’ll pick him out again, how long must he wait
Once more for a simple twist of fate

Again, we have the lone soul walking among the bustling city docks. This time, he's hoping "she'll pick him out again" as he waits for a simple twist of fate.

In Portrait, we get very similar passages.

He passed unchallenged among the docks and along the quays wondering at the multitude of corks that lay bobbing on the surface of the water in a thick yellow scum, at the crowds of quay porters and the rumbling carts and the ill-dressed bearded policeman.

He had wandered into a maze of narrow and dirty streets. From the foul laneways he heard bursts of hoarse riot and wrangling and the drawling of drunken singers

By day and by night he moved among distorted images of the outer world. A figure that had seemed to him by day demure and innocent came towards him by night through the winding darkness of sleep, her face transfigured by a lecherous cunning, her eyes bright with brutish joy. 

These are all images of someone who doesn't know what else to do than look for a simple twist of fate--his Mercedes to step out of the shadow... or to "pick him out again". 

There are a lot more more parallels you could draw. The first passage in "Simple Twist of Fate" for example seems to fit Stephen's Tram Ride experience. Also the "she" in the song is widely considered to be a prostitute. Also the line "People tell me it’s a sin, to know and feel too much within" reminds me a lot of Stephen's religious anxiety. 

In any case, I highly recommend giving Dylan's song a listen to get the full impact... the whole song sounds like a theme-track to Stephen's street ramblings.