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James Joyce on Epiphany

            Defined by Merriam-Webster, an epiphany is: a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something; an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking; an illuminating discovery; a revealing scene or moment. The term "epiphany"" is used as a revelation in James Joyce's Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. This process of revelation through thought and action is imperative both for the reader and for Stephen Dedalus, the protagonist in Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. Stephen's epiphany begins on a visit to the beach when he falls asleep. When he wakes up he immediately sees a beautiful girl standing several yards away, gazing at some distant object over the water. James Joyce writes, "She seemed like one whom magic had changed into the likeness of a strange and beautiful seabird"" (171). He is completely overcome by her beauty and the magnificence of that moment. The image of her awakens in his soul. Joyce writes, "an outburst of profane joy," crying, "Heavenly God!" (171). That is his revealing moment, his epiphany. Joyce writes, "Her eyes had called him and his soul had leaped at the call. To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life!"" (172). Stephen immediately decides he must commit his life to art and to expressing the beauty he sees in the world. The confused Stephen had come to a turning point in his life. He now has the confidence to go forward in his life, he now has a clear path. Joyce writes, "He felt above him the vast indifferent dome and the calm processes of the heavenly bodies; and the earth beneath him, the earth that had borne him, had taken him to her breast" "(172). .
             From the opening of the novel, to the close of the final chapter, Stephen Dedalus's life has been a journey. A jumble of politics, religion, and family ties left Stephen needing to escape. When Stephen's friends call out variations on his name, he is reminded of Daedalus, the great artificer of Greek mythology, who created wax wings so that he and his son, Icarus, might flee from the Labyrinth.

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