Friday, February 29, 2008

Casting Shadows

“His shadow lay over the rocks as he bent, ending. Why not endless till the farthest star? Darkly they are there behind this light, darkness shining in the brightness…Me sits there with augur's his rod of ash, in borrowed sandals, by day beside a livid sea, unbeheld, in violet night walking beneath a reign of uncouth stars. I throw this ended shadow from me, manshape ineluctable, call it back.” (48)

Literally, Stephen’s shadow extends down the rocky cliffs out to the turbid water’s edge. Meanwhile celestial bodies shine far above the shadow that they cast. Metaphorically, however, Stephen’s shadow is a foreboding projection of himself. Like the auspices of ancient Rome who would augur the future based on the flight patterns of birds, Stephen foresees his future as tied up with his shadow, inevitable and ineluctable.

Another important point in this passage is the idea of darkness and light, good and evil. Whereas Joyce had previously drawn a parallel between Stephen and “Averroes and Moses Maimonides” who flash “in their mocking mirrors the obscure soul of the world, a darkness shining in brightness which brightness could not comprehend,” here he solidifies the connection (28). Stephen’s shadow is the “darkness shinning against the light” (48). The imagery here reveals something interesting about the relationship between darkness and light. Light casts shadows. Stephen and his philosophical understanding is a product of his unique environment.

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