Rejection and Isolation in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Essay

Rejection and Isolation in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Essay

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As James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man unfolds, the central theme of isolation and rejection becomes evident. From birth to adolescence, the protagonist of the story, Stephen Dedalus, responds to his experiences throughout life with actions of rejection and isolation. He rebels against his environment and isolates himself in schoolwork, family, religion and his art, successively. James Joyce uses Stephen Dedalus' responses of isolation and rejection to illustrate the journey that the artist must take to achieve adulthood.

Even as a young boy, Stephen experienced rejection and isolation at school. On the playground Stephen "felt his body [too] small and weak amid the [other] players" (Joyce 8). His schoolmates even poked fun at his name. In response to his rejection by the other boys Stephen makes a conscious decision to "[keep] on the fringe of his line, out of sight of his prefect" and the other boys. Stephen is later depicted as choosing the "warm study hall" rather than the playground with his friends outside (Joyce 10). His rejection at school leads him to isolate himself in his schoolwork, thus putting himself on a scholarly path that will give him the intellectual skills necessary for the artist within him to achieve adulthood.

In his later years at school, Stephen's isolates himself through his "relationship to authority [and conformity] and his rebellion against it" (Ryf 27). In the classroom Stephen is "pandied" (beaten with a cane) and accused of being a "lazy little schemer" by a Jesuit priest for not completing his homework due to his broken glasses (Joyce 50). In rebellion, Stephen reports the injustice to the rector only to later discover that the rector took th...


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...g above the waves and slowly climbing the air? a prophecy of the end he had been born to serve and had been following through the mists of childhood and boyhood, a symbol of the artist forging anew in his workshop out of the sluggish matter of the earth a new soaring imperishable being" (Joyce 169). Stephen breaks with his past to achieve adulthood and an unrestricted artistic vision that allows him to connect to the world that he had rejected.






Works Cited:

Joyce, James, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The Viking Press: New York, 1916.

Ryf, Robert S., A New Approach to Joyce. University of California Press: Berkeley, 1962.


Works Consulted:

Connely, Thomas E., Joyce's Portrait Criticisms and Critiques. Meredith Publishing Company: New York, 1962.

Litz, A.. Walton, James Joyce. Twayne Publishers: New York, 1966.

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