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The Key Elements Of A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man

1883 words - 8 pages

The Key Elements of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man     

James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man provides an introspective exploration of an Irish Catholic upbringing. To provide the reader with a proper interpretation, Joyce permeates the story with vivid imagery and a variety of linguistic devices. This paper will provide an in-depth of analysis of the work by examining its key elements.

The central theme of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is Stephen Dedalus' alienation and separation from his trinity of family, country and religion. Stephen's separation from his family is evident when he literally flees from his father by "walking rapidly lest his ...view middle of the document...


Further alienation is added when Stephen is unfairly punished by Father Dolan for accidentally breaking his glasses. An indirect reference to Stephen's difference with his Catholic beliefs is found in his admiration of the poet Byron, who his companions consider a "heretic." Also, Mr. Tate, the English master, criticizes Stephen for having "heresy in his essay." As an artist, Stephen views the world objectively and questions established church doctrines.

Several subsidiary themes exist to assist in explaining the character and maturation of Stephen Dedalus. Two of these themes are Stephen's weakness and the lack of a true father for him. When compared with regular children, Stephen's artistic aptness is contrasted with his physical ineptitude. When playing football, he describes himself as "small and weak amid [the others], and his eyes were weak and weary." Later while discussing politics among his family, he again feels "small and weak."

During Stephen's childhood he is consistently deficient of a stern and just fatherly figure. At home his father never gives him valuable advice, except for the prosaic warning never to tattle on friends. Stephen also feels betrayed when he overhears his father talking in jest about his 'triumph' over Father Dolan. Meanwhile, at his religious schools the priests fail to exert a comprehensive model for him to follow. Father Arnall and Father Dolan are both inefficient and inadequate. Stephen also views the clergymen as austere to the point of evil. Stephen is angered when Father Dolan calls him a "lazy little loafer!" for breaking his glasses. He feels that the priests had gone too far. Furthermore, he thinks that the graphic, fire and brimstone sermon given by Father Arnall is excessive. Even though it temporarily makes Stephen return to church doctrine. Stephen diminishes his fear and respect of the priests by realizing that they are humans, just like him.

Joyce cleverly follows a repetitive path for beginning and ending each of the five chapters. The endings of all the chapters result in a triumph for Stephen. The first chapter ends with Stephen's triumph over Father Dolan, who unjustly disciplined him. Afterwards, his classmates celebrate his victory by throwing their caps in the air and commending his actions. In chapter two, during his encounter with the prostitute, Stephen reveals that he has "suddenly become strong and fearless and sure of himself." Stirred by Father Arnall's powerful sermons, in chapter three, Stephen proudly vows to begin "Another life! A life of grace and virtue and happiness!" In the end of chapter 4, Stephen affirms to himself to follow the "name of [his] fabulous artificer." Then, he solemnly observes a beautiful girl looking out to the sea, and undergoes an epiphany, which makes his "body... aglow" and lets him experience "profound joy." At the end of the work, Stephen triumphantly is ready to leave Ireland for the mainland and the day before...

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