A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

“He still tried to think what was the right answer. Was it right to kiss his mother or wrong to kiss his mother? What did that mean, to kiss? You put your face up like that to say goodnight and then his mother put her face down. That was to kiss. His mother put her lips on his cheek; her lips were soft and they wetted his cheek; and they made a tiny little noise: kiss. Why did people do that with their two faces?”

James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), pg. 11.

Demonstrating affection towards a mother or any other person through a kiss is an act commonly done without much thought put into it. Stephen’s questioning of what it is, it’s meaning, whether it’s wrong or right, and why people do it caught my attention. The dissection of the gesture, the phrasing of the questions, viewing it objectively rather than subjectively, they have an adult-like quality to them, being given to us through a child.

 

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

“Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo. . . . ”

The first few lines of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man suggest that Joyce is trying to portray the characteristics of a young child. The words “moo cow” “nicens” and “baby tuckoo” could be words that would come from a child.