Joyce uses imagery in order to provide a thematic unity through the novel.
This starts in Chapter 1 where there is the basic imagery observed through a
child’s eyes. Here it is basic, wet/dry, hot/cold and light/dark. This ‘senses’ imagery continues with the section dealing with Stephen’s ‘baptism’ in the cesspool.
Much of the imagery is associated with birds and these have been highlighted
in the various Summaries and Interpretations – e.g. the greasy football, the birds on the library steps and the portrayal of the girl on the shore etc.
Birds are associated with flight as was Icarus, and Stephen’s artistic soul yearns to break loose from its cage and fly over the sea in order to obtain full expression.
Another image in the book is a skull; some are obvious such as the skull on
Father Conmee’s desk at Clongowes, and the Director at Belvedere whose description reminds us of a skull.
Joyce’s description makes him look like a religious icon framed against the stained-glass window, but his stance is that he is leaning on a crossblind, which provides the reader with a clever pun indicating that the Director will lean on Stephen about choosing a religious vocation. The skull emerges again with Cranly, which is an abbreviation of ‘cranium’ meaning ‘skull’. He is Stephen’s priest-like companion to whom he confesses his deepest feelings. When Stephen tries to focus on Cranly’s image, he can only remember his facial features and nothing about the rest of his body, so he appears like “a severed head”.
We obtain a graphic description of the Dedalus’ new home in Chapter 2, “the
parlour fire would not draw '' half-furnished uncarpeted room '' weak light over the boarded floor” and so it goes on providing an atmosphere not only inside the stark house, but the surrounding streets in foggy
In Chapter 1, we have covered the description of Stephen’s first day at
There are many other instances of imagery in the book e.g. the prostitute in
the pink dress, the girl wading at the water’s edge etc. that have already been covered.