Voices in Dubliners and A Portrait

Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:

While his mind had been pursuing its intangible phantoms (…) he had heard about him the constant voices of his father and of his masters, urging him to be a gentleman above all things and urging him to be a good catholic above all things. These voices had now come to be hollow-sounding in his ears. When the gymnasium had been opened he had heard another voice urging him to be strong and manly and healthy and when the movement towards national revival had begun to be felt in the college yet another voice had bidden him be true to his country and help to raise up her language and tradition. In the profane world, as he foresaw, a worldly voice would bid him raise up his father’s fallen state by his labours and, meanwhile, the voice of his school comrades urged him to be a decent fellow, to shield others from blame or to beg them off and to do his best to get free days for the school. And it was the din of all these hollow-sounding voices that made him halt irresolutely in the pursuit of phantoms.

As described in The Put-on, McLuhan’s life from the time of his boyhood onward was filled with contending voices. This ultimately raised the questions for him of the validity of any one of these voices and of what to make of their multiplicity.

In the Portrait passage above, Joyce described some of the voices Stephen Dedalus heard about him as he grew. Meanwhile, he described their collective murmur in the Dubliners:

The grey warm evening of August had descended upon the city and a mild warm air, a memory of summer, circulated in the streets. The streets, shuttered for the repose of Sunday, swarmed with a gaily coloured crowd. Like illumined pearls the lamps shone from the summits of their tall poles upon the living texture below which, changing shape and hue unceasingly, sent up into the warm grey evening air an unchanging unceasing murmur. (Two Gallants)

His investigation of voices would be continued in Ulysses, while the murmur of language itself, embracing all these voices, indeed all possible voices, would be treated in Finnegans Wake.