Stephen’s Refusal to Sign His Name
In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, MacCann, one of the protagonist’s friends, tries to collect students’ signatures. The purpose of this signature-collecting campaign is to send a letter of appreciation to the Czar who called for the Hague peace conference. However, Stephen refuses to sign his name and says, “Keep your icon. If we must have a Jesus let us have a legitimate Jesus.” However, specific reasons are not disclosed to the readers and what Stephen really means by these words remains to be a secret.
This campaign was actually carried out in 1899 by Francis Skeffington, the model of MacCann, and Joyce himself also refused to sign his name. Therefore, the biographical materials of Joyce and Skeffington must give us the clues to the reasons why Stephen refuses his signature. In this essay, the personality and ideology of Skeffington will be revealed with ideas of his influencer, W. T. Stead, and the reason why Stephen refuses will be probed into.
According to Gordon Bowker, Skeffington is a “genuine eccentric” in Dublin. He was a feminist, a pacifist, a nationalist, an antivivisectionist, a vegetarian and a teetotalist. As these titles show us, he was a serious and idealistic person.
The circumstance in his childhood and the education helped to form his character. He spent his childhood in the County of Down in the present Northern Ireland. The majority of people in the county were Protestant, pro-British and anti-Catholic, and he experienced injustice and persecution when he was very young. These experiences led to his strictness about injustice and persecution, and he would take part in the nationalist movement later on. In addition, his father, who was a school inspector, didn’t allow his son to go to school and educated him by himself. As a result, his son became a virtuous person, but, on the other hand, he got to be assertive and to take little heed of what others said because he had never communicated with people of about the same age in his childhood.
In their university days, Skeffington forced his idealistic views on Joyce and criticized Joyce’s attitude about religion and sexual behavior, which were important matters to Joyce. Therefore, Joyce was troubled by his criticism.
According to the novelist’s brother Stanislaus, he said secretly to his brother, “he was the most intelligent man, after himself.” Because he thought Skeffington was intelligent, Joyce tried to face his words seriously and wanted to refute him.
Skeffington’s ideas came from W. T. Stead. Stead was an English journalist and social reformer, and one of his brilliant careers was related to the social purity movement. It was firstly aimed at preventing child prostitution and proliferation of venereal diseases, but also exercised strict control over literature, which led to the rigid censorship and the limitation of writers’ freedom of expression. Its claim was to protect chaste English people against foreign evils. It is an imperialistic idea that emphasized the superiority of English people. Although such an imperialistic idea should be despised by the Irish, Irish nationalists including Skeffington utilized its idea to claim the purity of their own people, and they condemned artists for their expressions in violation of their ideas. In Portrait, their folly is described with their hysteric cries in Stephen’s reminiscence of the opening night of the Irish Literary Theatre.
Stead also sympathized with the Czar’s proposal and supported the success of the Hague Conference as a journalist. The thought of the Czar and Stead was also imperialistic here. They thought world peace would be attained when small nations were disarmed and came under the control of the Great Powers. The Irish hoped to become independent of England, so it is contradictory for them to sign their names for a letter of appreciation to the Czar. Furthermore, history shows that the Czar was never a pacifist and his expansion policy gave rise to some wars.
In conclusion, it can be said that Joyce refused his signature because Skeffington believed in the ideas inappropriate for Ireland and forced his friends to act like him. Then, through his novel, Joyce refuted Skeffington’s ideas which had been troubling him.
本稿は，2017年10月28日に行なわれた日本英文学会中国四国支部第70回大会における口頭発表「A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man における友人たちの肖像」の内容の一部に大幅な加筆，改変を行なったものである。
Hiroshima studies in English language and literature
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