What is the representation of "woman as mother" in James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man?  

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ajmchugh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man, as in many of Joyce's other works, the idea of the "woman as a mother" is subtly interwoven into the text.  Namely, Stephen Dedalus's own mother is a character based on James Joyce's own mother, and though she isn't a major character in the novel, she is a constant presence in Stephen's mind.  Early in the novel, Stephen recalls being dropped off at the Clongowes Wood Academy--an act which caused his mother some heartache.  Stephen, even as a child, seemed sensitive to his mother's upset.  Later in his life, when a peer questions Stephen about his mother's happiness, he is unable to respond, which suggests a sort of distance he feels between his mother.

Again, while Mrs. Dedalus is not a major charater in this novel, Joyce seems to be developing Stephen's relationship with his mother to set the stage for his next novel, Ulysses. As the action of Ulysses opens, Stephen's mother has just passed away, and he is riddled with feelings of guilt regarding her death and their relationship for the rest of the novel.

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