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The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

By unlimiteddorks Oct 30, 2005 743 Words
Through the course of a man's life, he will continually change until he becomes himself or his true self whether through moral reconciliation or spiritual reassessment. In James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, we enter the life of a young boy and travel through his experiences that shift his views drastically. It is apparent at the close of the novel that this is not exactly the cliché happy ending, but one in which we can realize a changed man and relate his journey to the one we are on. Joyce presents change through an interesting way of the variegation of one young man, Stephen Daedalus from one form to another, yet these pieces, or lessons, contribute to his whole revelation at the end of the novel. Joyce first shows Stephen's soft memories of what it was like to be young, almost infantile in the first few sentences but by the end of the chapter he is a young, fearful servant of God, a role that beleaguers him throughout childhood. However, the end of the second chapter sees a completely different Stephen. He first throws himself at the mercy of the Fathers that teach him while trying to get himself friends in the schoolyard at the same time and this proves to be quite a task. Eventually, from a friend, he gets the courage to stand up to his unjust whipping and humiliation in front of the class and it changes him forever. He now, at the end of the first chapter is more confident that he can talk to adults and stick up for himself. This is the first step toward what he will later learn that, " He was destined to learn his own wisdom apart from others or to learn the wisdom of others himself wandering among the snares of the world. (Joyce 156)" On the other hand, Chapter II focuses on his break from childhood into his development as a young man as he has his first sexual experience with a Dublin prostitute. Shortly thereafter, Stephen feels immensely bad for what he has done because to him, he has committed the ultimate sin of lust. This is only part of his complete maturation. After Stephen goes through his first violently sinful experience, he tries to repent for his sins, not realizing that this is unnecessary for him in order to be a devout Catholic. In the end, it is his rejection altogether of Catholicism that lets him be a complete person, free from the slavery, which was his piety. He first listens to a lecture at a so-called "retreat" for the students to share their experiences with Christ. Instead, he is given almost a migraine when he listens to what Hell is like for its' inhabitants. Stephen, almost sure it is waiting for him, becomes even more of a "saint" trying not to tempt himself from the indulgences of everyday interactions. "On each day of the seven days of the week he further prayed that one of the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost might descend upon his soul and drive out day by day the Seven Deadly Sins which had defiled it in the past... (154)" Soon, this becomes wearing on him so he stops abruptly, only to embrace the artistic life completely, "the dawn of his new life as an artist." The opening of the flower symbolically represents the opening of his eyes to not only have the ability to see things now as a man, but as an artist, which again, changes him completely. While he doesn't abandon the once St. Augustine-like piety he had, it merely shifts into a more human and esoteric existence. Stephen flees from the religious obsession, which nearly mentally kills him to take flight as an artist, only as a young man to discover himself. He expresses his adamant defiance of his situation and excepts his true self, "I will not serve that in which I no longer believe, whether it call itself my home, my fatherland or my church: and I will try to express my self in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can using for my defence the only arms I allow myself to use, silence, exile, and cunning. (241)" His eyes are now open to the rest of the world, over a vast ocean to another continent.

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