Individuality in a Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Topics: Daedalus, Stephen Dedalus, Minos Pages: 2 (691 words) Published: March 12, 2006
One of the most notable features of James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is the use of Stephen as the main character, as well as a sort of literary device. Joyce, whose life so acutely resembles Stephen's, gives the character the surname "Dedalus," after the fabulous artificer of Greek mythology. As Stephen tires of his "borrowed" Irish culture, he starts to compare himself to the original Daedalus, who built wings for himself to escape the prison of King Minos of Crete. Like Daedalus, Stephen eventually decides that he must create a new soul that will allow him to rise above the miseries of his life, develop an identity, and pursue his destiny as an artist.

Joyce's novel is narrated in a unique "stream-of-consciousness" style, such that the reader sees the story through Stephen's eyes. The novel begins, "Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo." In this opening sentence, Joyce describes how a children's story being read by Stephen's father sounds to Stephen himself. He uses little punctuation, representing the adolescent Stephen's inability to separate thoughts. Likewise, the first portion of the story is jumbled and disorganized, as though a small child were writing it. As the story progresses, paragraphs and sentence structure become well-ordered as Stephen becomes more mature. Joyce uses no quotation marks throughout the entire book, however, simply in order to maintain the stream-of-consciousness narrative. Joyce's style of writing allows the user to relate to Stephen in the same way that Joyce himself likely did, and thus does the novel becomes the story of Stephen Dedalus as seen through his eyes.

Stephen is originally accepting of his Irish culture and at one point becomes a religious zealot, intentionally denying himself of earthly pleasures and becoming a model of Christian piety. Like in many...

Bibliography: Rolfe Humphries, (Mar. 1989), "The Flight of Daedalus and Icarus," The English Journal, Vol. 78, No. 3, p. 23.
Joyce, James, (1966), A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. New York: Viking Press
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