In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the author James Joyce uses the development of Stephen from a sensitive child to a rebellious young man to develop the plot of the novel. In this novel, Joyce suggests that through Stephen's experiences with religion, sexuality and education, Stephen not only becomes more mature but these experiences also inspire him to redefine his world and his understanding of his true feelings about art.
Religion, besides the practical need for food and shelter is one of the most powerful drives in Stephen's life. Religion serves as Stephen's guidance and saviour yet it is also responsible for his tormented youth and distracting him from his artistic development. As a child growing up in a strict Catholic family, Stephen is raised to be a good Catholic boy who will follow the teaching of Catholism as his guidance in his life. The severity of his family is shown when his mother tells him either to "apologise" (4) or "the eagles will come and pull out his eyes" (4). Stephen is taught by his mother to be tolerant when she "[tells] him not to speak with the rough boys in the college" (5). Similarly, Stephen's father also taught him a Catholic quality by telling Stephen "never to peach on a fellow' (6). Evidence of Stephen following the "never to peach" (6) quality is shown when Stephen agrees not to tell on Wells for pushing him into a ditch. However, as Stephen matures into his adolescence, religion becomes his savior rather than his guidance. As Stephen's family condition declines, he sees priesthood as a way to escape poverty and shame. In fact, priesthood is an opportunity for Stephen's personal gain...
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...lly as [he] can, using for [his] defence the only arms [he] allow [himself] to use - silence, exile, and cunning" (226-269). By discussing how education affects Stephen from a child to a young man, Joyce has shown the reader Stephen's development as an artist and human being.
The novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is an autobiography of James Joyce who delivers the influential aspects in his life and his artistic development to the reader through the eyes of the fictional character of Stephen Dedalus. In the novel, Stephen's journey to maturation and to become an artist is influenced by his religion, sexuality and education. Yet, Stephen is able to overcome the obstacles result from these aspects and experience his life to its fullest.
Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. 1916. New York: Penguin,1993.
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