Although Joyce rejected Catholic beliefs, the influence of his early training and education is pervasive in his work. The parallels between Biblical text and The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man are abundant. As Cranly says to Stephen, "It is a curious thing, do you know, how your mind is supersaturated with the religion in which you say you disbelieve" (232).
The novel progresses in a way that seems Biblical in nature; thematically it compares with the creation and fall of man and/or Lucifer. In addition, the style is at times similar to Biblical text, using familiar rhythm, repetition, phrasing and imagery.
As with the Bible, Joyce begins his novel with the importance of the word. He then relates sensual impressions, as if a newly formed creature were experiencing the physical world. Then, as the center of his universe, Stephen also learns the meaning of words and the power of words. He is like Adam bringing order to things by giving them names. But Stephen's knowledge comes not only from the material world, he learns through a sudden-knowing, similar to spiritual understanding, a process Joyce calls intuitive or epiphany. His thirst for knowledge both intellectual and sensual brings him in conflict with his father (Jesuit and heavenly). He falls from grace and experiences hell (through the power of word and his very vivid imagination). Because of his terror of hell he responds at first with repentance, but after reflection, with defiance. At the end of the novel he leaves his homeland, his place of origin, and prepares to begin a new life in a new land.
In the beginning was the word. Throu...
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...because of what has happened to him, but because of his response to those events. He was not the only young Irish boy to have a self-sacrificing saintly mother and an irresponsible drunkard father. He was one of hundreds if not thousands of boys to be indoctrinated and trained by the Jesuits. What made him different was his response and that response was unique to him, and that uniqueness was born in him. So, the ultimate conclusion of the novel is that the artist is born, not made by human ways, but created by the powers of nature and/or God.
Joyce, James. The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. New York: The Viking Press, Inc., 1958.
Joyce, Stanislaus. My Brother's Keeper James Joyce's Early Years. New York: The Viking Press, 1993.
Levin, Harry. James Joyce, A Critical Introduction. New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1960.
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