What I have noticed that interest me and that I would like to explore more in the future is a recurring mirror/glasses motif. As existentialist like Sartre tells us a subjective self can only emerge through encountering the other.

I would also be interested in seeing how Lacan’s mirror stage can be applied here since Lacan says that this identifying with the other doesn’t necessarily have to be an other person but can be any object. This conception of an emerging consciousness through the other, by way of this mirror/glasses motif, is seen at the very beginning of the novel, “…his father looked at him through a glass” (20). It is here that Steven first begins to identify with something outside himself– a story, “He was a baby tuckoo.”

Steven’s development of religious and political beliefs begin to form when he goes home for Christmas and is allowed to sit with the adults. Stephen’s father is looking at himself in a mirror, and Mr. Dedalus beliefs will be a mirrored opposite to his son’s beliefs by the end of section two. Once at the table, Mr. Dedalus, “put up his eyeglass” (39) and talks to his son. This scene which shows Steven’s reverence for the adults in his life is sharply contrasted later in the novel when Steven travels with his father for the auction of the old house.

Within the first two sections, this culminates when Stephen breaks his glasses and begins to truly assert an independent subjectivity. With his glasses broken, Stephen gets unjustly punished for not doing his work, but it is because of this moment that Stephen shows his first real sign of breaking away from his families beliefs and becoming his own person. The contrast here is sharply felt. This comes soon after the scene in which Dante tells Casey and Mr. Dedalus that the Holy Roman Church and its priest should be followed above all else, with blind faith. Stephen sympathizes with Dante wondering why his uncle would be against a priest, “But why was he then against the priest? Because Dante must be right then” (44). But Stephen now challenges the authority of the priest by going to the rector and telling the rector how Father Dolan had been wrong. While it can be argued that Stephen needs the prodding of his classmates, I believe this just shows the emerging of Steven’s identity; this is his Being-with-others in a Heideggerian sense which says that Being is always thrown into the world “with-others.”

I believe this moment is the beginning of Stephen’s cynicism towards his faith. This is, not the first time in the novel Stephen questions his religious belief, but the first time he actually verbally articulates it, “The prefect of studies was a priest but that was cruel and unfair” (59). As is seen, this act is so cruel and unfair that Stephen goes and informs the rector. Questioning the authority of a priest is something that Stephen would not have done earlier, but with his growing subjectivity and consciousness, Stephen grows to challenge all the beliefs he had at the beginning of the novel.

To continue this mirror motif, I think there is a mirror to Joyce and Yeats. While Yeats uses more obscure themes and mystical symbols to deal with Irish identity and his own personal everlasting salvation, Joyce is steeped in the everyday.