Essay about A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Essay about A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Stephen Dedalus - Rebel Without a Cause?

His soul had arisen from the grave of boyhood, spurning her grave-clothes. Yes! Yes! Yes! He would create proudly out of the freedom and power of his soul, as the great artificer whose name he bore, a living thing, new and soaring and beautiful, impalpable, imperishable

Throughout A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man Stephen Dedalus is persistently portrayed as the outsider, apart from the society he and his family inhabit, connecting with no-one and seeking solitude and isolation at every turn. Does this self-imposed exile lead to or directly influence his artistic awakening or not? This essay will examine (both thematically and stylistically) Stephen's alienation from the traditional voices of authority in his life and explore how this impacts upon his budding artistic talent.

A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man was Joyce's first published novel, written in neutral Switzerland but published in New York in 1916. Europe was at war and Michael Collins had been taken prisoner during the Easter Rising in Dublin. This novel is therefore bound up with an Irish history rich in rebels and freedom fighters. A real history was raging in Joyce's homeland where the Fenians were fighting against English rule, the oppressive landlord system and eventually the Catholic church in hock to the English rulers. The novel, however, as the title suggests, is not a story of revolutionary politics but of the quiet but dogged rebellion of a young man in search of his artistic voice.

From the opening pages the reader realises that this is no traditional narrative. There is no safe 3rd person distance from the main protagonist, the reader never escapes S...


... middle of paper ...


...cape. As the Ovid quote at the start of the novel states it was Dedalus who...altered/improved the laws of nature. By the conclusion of chapter 5 therefore we see Stephen the creator who chooses exile rather than the daring Icarus-like youngster seeking escape but doomed to failure,

His soul had arisen from the grave of boyhood, spurning her grave-clothes. Yes! Yes! Yes! He would create proudly out of the freedom and power of his soul, as the great artificer whose name he bore, a living thing, new and soaring and beautiful, impalpable, imperishable (p.170)

Stephen's rejection of the environment that shaped him is now complete and his diary entries at the conclusion of the novel show a purposeful young artist seeking expression in Europe.

Reference:

Joyce, James. A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. Wordsworth Classics. Wordsworth Editions Limited 1992

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