chapter  3
20 Pages

Stephen Dedalus's Marketplace of Love

Towards the conclusion of Stephen Hero, Stephen Daedalus tells Cranly that poetry is the exemplary form for the artist to profess amorous desires because “song is the simple rhythmic liberation of an emotion. Love can express itself in part through song” (SH 176). However, while Stephen may endorse the ability of poetry to liberate these emotions “in part,” he acknowledges the limitations of expressing his specific desires through the antiquated language of the genre. Echoing Joyce’s early criticism of the “lying drivel” about “spiritual love and love for ever” (LII 191), Stephen argues that it is impossible for the modern lover to pledge eternal devotion to a loved one, and for that reason, he feels it necessary “to express his love a little ironically” (SH 174). Given that Daedalus and his Portrait counterpart unite such amatory poetry with their efforts to elude the repressive instruments of Catholicism and nationalism, Joyce’s attributing to his doppelganger a refusal of love that he had since discarded enables him to reflexively examine the aspiring exile’s responsibilities towards his fellow Dubliners and to criticize a desire for individual liberation so totalizing that it cannot accept others who do not share his commitment.