Essay on Analyzing Portraits of Young Men

Essay on Analyzing Portraits of Young Men

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Throughout childhood, parents are thought to be totems of support, someone to cry on, someone who will help to bandage a wounded knee, but not all adults are perfect role models. In Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the reader is given the opportunity to delve into a developing mind amidst a whirling fervor of confusing role models. Stephen Dedalus' biological father and shifting mother figure are at the center of the aspiring artist's barriers to fulfilling his calling in life. The book is a bildungsroman at its core, and the parental figures represent the obstacles that Stephen conquers to mature and discover himself.
Simon Dedalus is the most obvious wall in Stephen's path. Joyce portrays him as a man slipping from an above-mediocre position to a downtrodden failure of a man. Before Stephen had seen his father fall, he had respected the man. Stephen notes that his father was “a gentleman” (21), and he states that it was “his father's house” (32), not his. Though Stephen respects his father, the two were not very much alike. Simon preferred to boast about his accomplishments and opinions during social gatherings (“Is it for Billy with the lip or for the tub of guts up in Armagh? Respect!” [44]), while Stephen opted to sit and observe the proceedings (“His silent watchful manner had grown upon him and he took little part in the games.” [78]). Later, the family began to lose money, and Simon began to lose his mind too. His father turned to alcoholism and nostalgia to drown out the present situation. Eventually Simon Dedalus transforms to reflect some of the barriers that lie ahead.
His father travels to his old town of Cork to remember the good old days of his youth. Stephen recognizes this as a foolish waste o...


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...writes something indifferent and normal such as: “Yes, I liked her today, A little of much? Don't know” (253). He has finally broken down the barriers represented by his father and mother figures and has gained himself the skills needed to flourish as an artist.
Over the course of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen Dedalus faces blockades to becoming an independent artist in the form of parental figures. His biological father, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the prostitute, and his biological mother all represent a combination of obstacles that restrict him from flourishing as a poet. These figures connect to ideas like religion and exploration to national ties and free-will. Joyce gives the reader closure on the topic with the scene with Emma. Regardless of any preconceptions, a reader can take home Joyce's ideas about free-will and the need to be independent.

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