Ray O’Donnchada – Portrait of the Artist as a Jung Man – A Cock and Bull Story

THE LETTER 35 (Autumn 2005) pages 59-63

When Ben Dollard sings the Croppy Boy half way through the day in the course of Stephen’s quest for father, it is as if the old Wexford rebel song about the betrayal by the father is somehow a shattering of the dream. Not only is his own real father not who Stephen would like him to be, not who he needs him to be; he is not what any self-respecting father would want to be. The archetypal father, in the form of the priest in whom we know we can trust, is not who the croppy boy thinks he is. The brutalised father, (the soldier in the song masquerading as a priest), reneges on the trust of the son, contaminates the true ideal father. A scenario which is mirrored in modern Ireland in the abuse by members of the church, the erosion of the true masculine by the lotus leaves of drink, work and golf, and to a lesser degree by the usurpation of the masculine by the modern Medusa. It is this lack of faith in the father which plagues Stephen throughout the struggle of Ulysses. But if we look closer we find that this is also the lowest point in the search for the father, it is the point at which the search has no place to go except up. It is also the point at which the father figure in the book, Bloom, reaches his nadir and loses all sense of masculinity to the cock an carra as his wife goes to blazes.

But to see Ulysses as simply the search of a son for his father is to simplify and to therefore miss out on the archetypal richness of Joyce. It is much more about the inexorable drive to manhood, the ‘adolescing’ of the child and the proud march of the boy out of the wandering rocks of boyhood and into the brave new world of Ithacan manhood. Ulysses is the personification of, as Jung puts it, the attenuation of the parental archetype with all its attendant insecurities, hardships and excitement. It is at once the confluence and the conflict of need and want in the search for fatheringness, and fatherness. It is about Stephen’s faltering, sporadic, and…

 

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