Finding One’s Way

This may or may not prove intertesting to readers of this post, but after reading A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (and another book I'll post on soon), I watched the movie(s) the book(s) inspired. It occurred that while many others may have read one and seen the other, maybe they haven't drawn a contrast. So I'll give it a shot.

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image via amazon.com

 

The 1977 movie version of Portrait accomplished a rare and admirable thing: it strayed not a whit from Joyce's book. If the flick had any shortcomings in that respect, it was that the ninety minutes remaining after editing gave much of Joyce's autobiographical self, Stephen Daedalus, short shrift.

But to this viewer's interesting part.

While my reading of the book seemed what was probably not an abnormal coming of age in early twentieth century Ireland (or much of anywhere else), the movie's nuances seemed markedly different. In the book, Daedalus' childhood found him, after acclimating to his family's strictures, in a parochial school that placed discipline above learning, fear of the Divinity above spiritual growth. As young Stephen matured, he explored religion, sex, learning (of a more generic sort), arriving at something of a provisional personal philosophy that was (we assume) to govern his adult life.

The move version, though, seemed to add another dimension to this journey-to-adulthood – – that each phase was an attempt at seduction. I'm emphasizing that because, first, that's what cinema does: it's sensorial, and it seduces. Second, it's easy to add such emotional leverage to such a well written and eminently well thought out book. But more importantly, because that's what life gives us at the end of the day – offering after offering of seduction. It offers the inviting security of family, the lure of faith in what is beyond our ability to perceive, and it entices us with attack after attack of intellectual enthrallment. 

What makes Portrait an important book in the western literary canon – and what I think the movie makes clearer than the book – is that while we're all subject to such a gauntlet in our youth, how we deal with these various seductions determines precisely who we become as adults, what we believe about ourselves and the world, and what we do with our lives and our talents.

 Visit Bob's website here and his FB fan page here.

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