(King James Bible, Psalms 34:1)
With patriarchal systems prevalent in most societies, masculinity is often exalted as a source of universal power. Critics, often focused on the issues of political correctness and moral integrity in such sexist assumptions, never object to the actual existence of beliefs in male dominance. But the strength of men born into these earthly patriarchies is meaningless before God, reduced to the weakness inherent to any subordinate group. Just as Eve was formed of Adam's rib, so did the Lord God [form] man of the dust of the ground, and [breathe] into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul (King James Bible, Gen. 2.7). Men are entitled to the control of the carnal bodies of women but are not themselves in control of their eternal souls. Women, taught to follow since birth, fulfill their Christian roles naturally; Mary is idealized throughout the religion for her acquiescence and the literal contentment she feels when obeying the formative power of God (Podles 36). However, men can only be forced into obedience, feminized by their forfeiture of leadership and autonomy. They can only be controlled through fear.
[...] But still he is convicted of the crime, the sin of sloth. He learns his greatest lesson at this point: at all costs, he must not sin. The punishment at the hand of the prefect is only an earthly representation of the punishment he will receive at the hand of God on the day of his judgment as a sinner. He must never be this sinner. The accident along the cinderpath that resulted in the pair of broken glasses, the accident that resulted in his punishment as a “little schemer,” as a sinner consumed by sloth and idleness, must never be repeated (50). [...]
[...] He fears the sin that results from such wasteful acts, knowing that the body exists only to provide life for the Christian soul and mind, and knowing also that aggression hinders the development of his relationship with God. His poetry, his intellect, and the calmness with which he spends his time in thought and reflection are the true paths to salvation, and his weakened body, cleansed of masculine inclinations, is never a source of disappointment when he remembers the power of his Christian soul. [...]
[...] The subservient position required of men in the Christian Church, as exemplified by the literary characters of Othello and Stephen Dedalus, is reinforced by the constant fear of sin and of their own innate savageness, an obsession that results in the denial of their masculine roles. Men fear sin because as sinners they relinquish their rights to Heaven. The will of God is Christian law, and like any set of regulations, it firmly ensnares its followers in the tight boundaries of conformity. [...]
[...] The eagle, the symbol of Hell and sin and eternal punishment, is countered by the beauty of the seabirds. The girl becomes Stephen's seabird, and before her, he is only a speechless observer, not a sexual predator, subservient to the feelings of wonder and the love he feels for God through His art. The women in his life, beginning with his mother, are also sources of comfort, pure and untarnished by sexual need. His relationship with his mother is the epitome of Christian intimacy: when Wells questions, “Tell us, Dedalus, do you kiss your mother before you go to he cannot understand why the other boys laugh when he says he does (14). [...]
[...] The reality of his punishment, the punishment he will receive when he dies, the punishment that is only worsening with his growing weakness, has not yet been realized in his mind. He experiences a kind of masochistic pride in his sinfulness, images of the beds he has shared with these women swirling before his eyes even as he carries on his Christian duties. He finds himself intellectually equal to the Church, able to passionately study the rigid doctrines with complete indifference to his own condemnation. [...]
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