A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Summary and Stephen Dedalus’ Analysis:
‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’, written by James Joyce, is a story about the younger self of the writer described with both irony and sympathy. The novel is about a character called Stephen Dedalus. The story starts with descriptions from the childhood of Stephen Dedalus and continues through his years of youth in which he makes decisions about leaving Ireland and becoming a writer. His evolution from a suppressed child who was brought up by very strict parents into an independent young adult, is portrayed by mentioning the experiences he goes through and epiphanies he has.
Stephen Dedalus, the main character of the story, is the fictional version of James Joyce. Stephen’s parents want to send him to best schools and to a university. However, they had financial difficulties. While Stephen is growing up, he learned sense of duty from his mother. Oppose to this, his father tells him to feel free to be irresponsible for finding the personal freedom. It is so tough for Stephen to find which is the best for his life.
Through out the story, Stephen has several critical changes. When he was six, he was sent to Clongowes College. At that time he was feeling under pressure of inadequacy and homesickness. From this suppressed child, Stephen becomes a bright student. He finds his place among the other boys. He is able to notice the social relationships and the world stats to make sense to him.
The second change of him becomes with his first sexual experience. Due to the financial difficulties of Stephen’s parents, Stephen is not able to go back to the Clongowes College. The family moved to Dublin. His school has changed. He is confused and ashamed of his poverty. He is trying to get used to the new school. By that time, he is also feeling sexual urgency as a typical adolescent. His sexual urgency ends by sleeping with the Dublin prostitute. This is the end of his innocence.
The third change happened when Stephen listens to Father Arnall’s Judgement Day speech on hell and death. After participating in Father’s three day long religious retreat, Stephen feels so guilty and shameful about what he has been experimenting at that time about his sexuality. He feels very consumed with these negative feelings that cause him to fear and he decides to confess all of his sins to Father Arnall. Even though he feels shameful, he manages to confess all that irritates his mind with the friendly and soft approach of the priest. At the end of their conversation, Stephen promises to never do what he has done and vows to purify his life, devote himself to Christianity and behave in a way that the church approves. Accordingly, he becomes a model of a religious young person. He begins attending Mass everyday, becoming a model of Catholic piety, abstinence and self- denial. However, his devotion-to-Christianity phase ends up being very short-lived. When his devotion attracts attention, he gets offered to enter the priesthood. Considering this offer makes him go through another phase in life.
The final change that Stephen goes into is explained in Chapter 4. In order to go to university, Stephen refuses to become a priest. This decision causes him to achieve his greatest transformation because he starts from being religious so strongly and ends up changing his mind completely and decides to devote him to art and beauty. This exact transition is made very