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Whether Artists Reject Society, or Are Rejected by Society?

To begin with, a person of an artist in all times was the theme of intensive discussions in terms of high points about morality and culture. The artists usually contributed to the society’s distinct values of character and traditions. This approach also contemplates that artists differ from other people. Their view on various processes confronts inadequate reaction from the side of people living in the society. That is why the conflicts may appear between people of culture with the majority of those, who “are not able” to perceive the reality sensitively and somehow naturally.

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No one can express the feelings of an artist except another artist. That is why the paper deals with the ideas of two well-known writers, James Joyce and Kurt Vonnegut, about the person of an artist. Their views are supported with ideas of other authors according to the value of artists and their attitudinal background towards society and vice versa. I intend to prove that artists are not social rejects; so much as they choose to reject society. It is a common stereotype of an artist to be misunderstood and tortured – therefore, would-be artists manifest their identity to mirror this, to fit in.

The excluding the role of the artists in society is to show the world as it is and to find appropriate ways to better represent such a picture of a creative approach for the rest of people. The aesthetic touch, in this case, is vital. There are many points in which people differ from each other. Artists are those who are capable to feel and shape the world through the light of their understanding of the world. According to the theory of “borders”, assumed by Gloria Anzaldua, it is hard for a person who is successful in perceiving the world, life, people, and nature to find the border to overcome the obstacles of the realities (Klages 162). In other words, it is hard for the artists to transform their language and minimize the conceptual base of it so that to make it understood for the vast majority of the society.

James Joyce in his book A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man lively demonstrates a feeling of personal supremacy, which a young artist Stephen Dedalus experiences at the beginning of his career. Thus, the protagonist outlines in one episode a wrong flow of people living in the society which conform to the public opinion: “If they took a fool’s advice they would confine their attention to religion” (Joyce 26). Moreover, this example of an artist is not surprising for the epoch, when the Modernist approach emerged greatly, and the art-centered theme was raised in the literature (Ryf, p. 9).

A discreet nature of art symbolizes away, which presupposes an adherence of people toward examples of masterpieces. It is a result of peoples’ imagination. Visual arts are thought to be more impressive for people sharing them. A piece of misunderstanding provides a kind of torture for an artist due to the points of alienation. Those prejudices and a sort of haughtiness provide in an artist a kind of inner rage. Rage appears as a result of irrelevance between people and an artist.

A soul of an artist is incorporated in his works. No one knows whether it was a product of the author’s inner tortures or just a slight passion. The artist and every significant and distinctive representative of art is a man, who incorporates thousands of other men due to a wider outlook on the realities. This becomes a result of their tortures. An artist becomes an outsider in society because of his/her sensitiveness and ability to express in detail what is common for people but not possibly seen directly at the moment.

The destiny of an artist to be misunderstood is greatly emphasized by David Pichaske. In his journal article, he outlines the role of the artist, as an “outsider”. This author is quite motivated to state such a fact pointed out by Norbert Blei: “What’s wrong is the system in this country which often forces artists to prostitute their talents to survive. The artist is to blame only in his moment of weakness. And the quality of his work will suffer for it” (Cited in Pichaske 218). Kurt Vonnegut’s Bluebeard is a novel where the artist, Rabo Karabekian, got accustomed to the destruction of the society and places where people live, but he rejects to think so and promotes a personal way of realities’ evaluation (Rampton, p. 16). Thus, an artist is intentionally constrained to be within the destruction in masses, so that later to depict it on canvas. Such intentions look like an influential instrument for artists. Those things being today’s drawbacks with long-lasting effects will surely be depicted by an artist in attempts to stop wrongness in social development.

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Although, an artist is a person, who has a talent from God, as I think. That is why it is a privilege of him/her to laugh at and to weep with the changes in society. These changes can be of two directions, namely: negative and positive. Kurt Vonnegut being an artist in some respects shows his ability to project the truth of life encoded in the text on the example of one of his multiple interviews: “Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion, to the futility of thinking and striving anymore” (Klinkowitz, p. 26).

The nature of artists presupposes a difficult structure of their reasoning with points on what is hidden usually from ordinary people. The thing is that in the case of Stephen Dedalus the importance to separate artistic people into the exclusive group increased in him. It is seen in one of his laconic statements when he outlines: “forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race” (Joyce 96). Thus, the author straightforwardly contemplates the reasons why artists are left alone in society with their dreams, attitudes, and perspectives.

Non-verbal communication of an artist with the outside world is applied in the complex of signs and stylistic devices which are incorporated in the paintings. This is well understood when stating a personal evaluation of people about this or that picture. Then, when comparing a person’s understanding of the picture concept with that of an artist’s, one can set the record straight. Liam F. Heaney (1995) providing a scope of recognition about the words of Stephen Dedalus also admits, that the language of an artist is highly patterned and promotes “the phenomenon of artistic conception, artistic gestation and artistic reproduction” (Heaney, p. 313).

The metaphorical estimation of the world is a hinted thing in an artist’s hands. It presupposes his/her extraordinary character. Being a luminary, an artist can project as well as reflect the advantages and drawbacks maintained in society. Moreover, the soul of an artist due to such things is prone to suffering. It is seen in the case of Rabo, who feels pain when trying to describe the picture of war. That is why an ordinary man cannot usually take into account a point of extra-sensitive emotional peculiarities of an artist given by God. The ability to feel realities rightly is of great importance for true artists.

In this case, the significance of redemption for people plays a great role. When reminding the figure of Jesus Christ, one can note, that he outlined the things being incorrect in the ancient society of Israel. He made every possible attempt to demonstrate the significance of changes. He behaved as an ideal artist. This manner can be assumed to contemporary and previous artists with views on life in a definite community.

When looking at the picture of artistic talent and thought, it is necessary to note that people urge to experience all beautiful emotions throughout the works of art. Artists, on the other hand, do not always urge to satisfy spectators. It would not be a true art then. Artist’s destination is to implement his/her vision according to the art movements or trends of a definite epoch with a sort of philosophical coloring. The book by Thomas F. Marvin examines the peculiarities of Vonnegut’s novels. Here the author is inclined to explain why an artist goes through the process of alienation. He looks at an artist as “an example of mere “narcissistic doubling of the creative experience” (Marvin, p. 39).

A narcissistic nature of an artist can be explained due to the sophistication in tastes and peoples’ characters. Moreover, alienation is taken into account by artists until there is a grave motivation to present his/their works, as proved masterpieces, to society. On the other hand, a man is both a biological and social creature. One should outline men’s living in a state or in the society, where there are various principles and rules. These rules are not to be violated. That is why an artist cannot go without society.

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Artists surely may adhere to the self-martyrdom attitude toward their person. They can state their exclusiveness, provide many arguments so that to support their ideas. One question remains to be answered then: Is it the way they intentionally choose? Looking at the examples of Stephen Dedalus and Rabo Karabekian, there is no doubt that these two agreed to be different. It was a decision of theirs, as a form of separation from the extent of the society. In the case of Karabekian, it is seen that his tendency toward bordering his world and the world of the rest is quite apparent. Accompanied with Hartke, he uses “the surface confines of the page or canvas as an arena within which to act” (Cited in Klinkowitz, p. 44). In this description of the book episode, Vonnegut tries to convince a reader using a suitable metaphoric comparison of real things. The protagonist demonstrates his choice in terms of his profession and destination as well.

In the case of Stephen Dedalus, it is necessary to suppose that his radical refusal from what was considered to be right in society is outlined by his intentions to behave so. “A sadly proud gesture of refusal” was an important attribute of his behavior and manners which called attention to his surroundings (Joyce, p. 59). His righteousness props up against the truth of peoples’ hypocrisy in affairs and communication. Wisdom of the life and his environment, in particular, seemed to him indistinct.

As far as I am concerned, artists prefer to be united with their thoughts, ideas, and muse, because of their image as an artist. When one intentionally grabs the attention of other people, it serves as an additional point for popularity. When apart from it there is also a complex of self-esteem, self-confidence, self-conviction, it can characterize a person as a distinguished one. In this prospect, it is rather necessary to invoke the consciousness of the majority of people toward the experience which is supposed to be in the life of an artist. In Vonnegut’s novel, Rabo Karabekian is highly motivated to keep his position untouchable. He is an old man taking part in World War II and having seen more as of the truth of life and people in it. Stephen Dedalus, on the other hand, provides in his early ages a model of how the artist should behave and appertain toward things being significant in life.

Figuring out the identity of art and the artists, as its representatives, these two protagonists follow the path of a so-called ascetic way of life in contrast with other people. They have their methods of how to better perceive the world. However, they demonstrated a different approach toward it. Rabo is interested in the extent of a man’s soul and his idea of soul peculiarities depiction excites him much. He never thought of this grandiose initiative to refer to the mysterious space of this inner world of a man. Expressing soul in his paintings Rabo provides his vision of death and life (Ryf, p. 59). Both protagonists can show reality. The only thing is that they promote it employing different implications in their works.

Gloria Anzaldua in this case urges to outline the true intentions of people being involved in art affairs. She underlines that the issue of identity is like an issue of lifestyle: it should bear an individual character in person. “Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity – I am my language,” – stresses the author (Cited in Klages, p. 162). Suchlike identity of an artist and the language which he/she uses to touch upon peoples’ souls contemplates those features to be similar to the destination of an artist on the whole. Focusing on originality in thinking, reasoning, acting, and attitudes, an artist can assume the points of all pros and cons in the universe. Looking at Stephen and his perception of the world James Joyce writes: “For some time he had felt the slight change in his house, and those changes in what he had deemed unchangeable were so many slight shocks to his boyish conception of the world. The ambition which he felt astir at times in the darkness of his soul sought no outlet” (Joyce, p. 60).

Thus, the person of an artist provides versatile peculiarities like such people. On the examples of both novels by James Joyce and Kurt Vonnegut the concept of an artist is considered with points of alienation, identity, self-martyrdom attitude, refusal of the society. Stephen Dedalus as well as Rabo Karabekian demonstrate how in different ages artists tend to characterize sublime values of life concerned with the soul and psychology of people.

Works cited

  1. Heaney, Liam F. “The Essence of Language: Metaphorically Speaking.” New York: Contemporary Review  1995: 313.
  2. “The KING OF Nothing to Do; God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut.” Manila: Manila Bulletin  2007: NA.
  3. Joyce, James. A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man. New York: Kessinger Publishing, 2004.
  4. Klages, Mary. “Literary theory: a guide for the perplexed”. Guides for the perplexed. Harrisburg: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2006.
  5. Klinkowitz, Jerome. The Vonnegut effect. Richland County: Univ of South Carolina Press, 2004.
  6. Persell, Michelle. “It’s All Play-Acting Authorship and Identity in the Novels of Kurt Vonnegut.” Kurt Vonnegut: Images and Representations. Ed. Marc Leeds and Peter J. Reed. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000. 39-49.
  7. Pichaske, David. “Norbert Blei: Portrait of the Artist as Outsider.” New York: Studies in American Fiction 32.2 (2004): 215-220.
  8. Rackstraw, Loree. “The Paradox of “Awareness” and Language in Vonnegut’s Fiction.” Kurt Vonnegut: Images and Representations. Ed. Marc Leeds and Peter J. Reed. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000. 51-64.
  9. Rampton, David. “Into the Secret Chamber: Art and the Artist in Kurt Vonnegut’s Bluebeard.” New York: Critique 35.1 (1993): 16-26.
  10. Ryf, Robert S. A New Approach to Joyce: The Portrait of the Artist as a Guidebook. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1962.

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