A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, Part Two

Daedulus and Icarus – Flying too High

In Part One, I introduced James Joyce’s novel, A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, and the character Stephen Dedalus. The character of Stephen Dedalus is also an allusion to the infamous craftsman  Daedalus of Greek mythology. Daedalus, or “clever worker” in Latin, was a skillful craftsman, artisan and father of Icarus. Daedelus is most well-know for the creation of Labyrinth on Crete as well as fashioning a set of wings for his son Icarus.


The story of Daedalus’ son Icarus was memorialized in Ovid’s Metamorphis. Daedalus was locked in a tower by King Minos in order to preserve the secret of the Labyrinth he had created, housing the Minotaur. To escape, Daedalus fabricated two sets of wings; one for himself and one for his son Icarus. The base of the wings he designed were to be secured with wax. Before departing for their maiden voyage, Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too low as the foam from the sea would soak the wings. More importantly, he warned Icarus not to fly too high either; the heat from the sun would melt the wax.

With that, Icarus and Daedalus soared from their tower and began their journey to freedom. It wasn’t long until Icarus, forgetting his father’s advice, soared higher and higher. The intense heat from the sun began to melt the wax, causing Icarus to lose his wings and plummet to his death in the oceans below.


Much as A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man had a profound effect on the path of my life in the past, the story of Icarus serves as a guiding light for the journey ahead. It is a reminder that no matter what, as a young lawyer, I can dare to sore high. But, I must heed Daedalus’ advice and never fly too close to the sun. While the profession I have chosen is torn between illusions of grandeur and the realities of an enduring struggle, there is no denying it is a profession with which great power may be achieved. And with great power comes great responsibility.

In Book 8 of Ovid’s Metamorphosis, Daedalus’ advice to his son is to “[t]ravel between the extremes.” As a young lawyer, it is imperative not to succumb to societal illusions of grandeur. To not fly too high. Just as important though is the other extreme. To not fly too low. I cannot allow myself to become comfortable in the life of a young lawyer and forget the task at hand – to change the world and make a difference one client at a time.


2 thoughts on “A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, Part Two

  1. Pingback: #DailyBookQuote 27June2013 : James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man | Whatever It's Worth...

  2. Pingback: To Be or Not To Be, Part 2 | Portrait of the Lawyer as a Young Man

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