Chiltern creates the most beautiful editions of the World's finest literature. Your favourite classic titles in a way you have never seen them before; the tactile layers, fine details and beautiful colours of these remarkable covers make these titles feel extra special and will look striking on any shelf. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man describes Stephen Dedalus's development from a bright young student to a promising clergy student to an artist. Set in Ireland at the turn of the century, It begins ...
Chiltern creates the most beautiful editions of the World's finest literature. Your favourite classic titles in a way you have never seen them before; the tactile layers, fine details and beautiful colours of these remarkable covers make these titles feel extra special and will look striking on any shelf. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man describes Stephen Dedalus's development from a bright young student to a promising clergy student to an artist. Set in Ireland at the turn of the century, It begins with his earliest childhood memories and progresses to his grand epiphany, in which he announces to his closest companions his decision to pursue art rather than a religious life. Stephen's decision results from a combination of factors: the temperament that colors his impressions of the world, his interactions with others, and his interpretation of social forces. From the start evidence indicates Stephen will be an artist. Readers first meet him as a very young child growing up in a rural community in Ireland and attending Clongowes Preparatory School. He is a timid child who doesn't socialize easily. Stephen has been bullied on the playground because of his small size and shy demeanor; when his glasses are broken following an accident, he is excused from writing exercises by his teacher. When one of his masters finds out, he beats Stephen's hands and heightens the boy's belief that his treatment by the universe is unfair. Family and friends at a Christmas dinner represent some of the differing political attitudes pervading Ireland at the time, both for and against the Irish nationalist politician Charles Stewart Parnell, and the Irish independence movement. As Stephen grows older and begins to develop love interests, he romanticizes these prominent political figures; he also fantasizes about the nature and landscape of the afterlife, encouraged by the fire-and-brimstone sermons of his schoolmasters. Both tendencies show the strong imagination of an artist. As Stephen matures, school authorities try to persuade him to join the priesthood. In many ways joining such a large institution makes sense. His family is Catholic and would see a life with the clergy as a fine vocation. The priesthood would offer stability as well; Stephen's family changes homes several times during Stephen's youth due to his father's financial irresponsibility, so a steady existence might be a relief. However, the novel shows a growing conflict between Stephen's impulse toward the priesthood and his development as an artist. Joyce offers numerous dialogues between Stephen and his friends about books and vast aesthetic and philosophical issues. These dialogues mirror Stephen's inner crisis and give insight into his psychological development. As he gets older, Stephen begins to visit prostitutes in Dublin. This habit becomes increasingly hard to reconcile with the priestly calling, and his guilt becomes more than he can bear. Gradually, Stephen comes to realize he has no zeal for the religious life and decides instead to become an artist. Joyce presents the last episodes in the book as a series of epiphanies and exchanges. Stephen sees a woman on the beach who represents, in his creatively inspired state, art itself. Later, on the streets of Dublin, Stephen encounters again a woman he loves and declares his intentions to her. As readers last glimpse the artist, he vows to forge the uncreated conscience of [his] race, or express to the world his sense of beauty and truth in the way he knows best: through art.
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James Joyce's autobiographical Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man famously 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 down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo. . ." It concludes with the protagonist Stephen Dedalus's journal entry: "Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race."
Between the opening of the bedtime tale recited in the father's voice and Dedalus's adult voice, Joyce effected a revolution in the structure of the novel. Enough has been said about the author's use of interior monologue, multivocal narratives, and stream-of-consciousness technique. What Joyce does so remarkably well is to inhabit Dedalus' mind so that the reader follows his inward journey through childhood, adolescence and early adulthood.
In the process, we have felt sensations of beauty and repulsion, meditations on the colonization of language, allusions to the Irish troubles, a pervasive sense of Catholic sin and damnation, and (like Joyce) Dedalus's growing opposition to the institutions of family, church, and state. The salutation that ends the novel is also a farewell to Irish repression, an assertion of titanic conviction and ambition (which would be fully realized in Joyce's masterpiece Ulysses), and a salute to the European continent's artistic freedom.
The novel contains passages of unsurpassed beauty. Here is a random example: "The chapel was flooded by the dull scarlet light that filtered through the lowered blinds; and through the fissure between the last blind and the sash a shaft of wan light entered like a spear and touched the embossed brasses of the candlesticks upon the altar that gleamed like the batle-worn armour of angels."
Apart from Joyce's obvious influence on novelists like Faulkner, Wolfe, Dos Passos and so on (but not Woolf), it should be said that the felt experience of reading Portrait of the Artist doesn't compare to many other novels. One has the sense that he or she is privileged to share the inner life of a bright, uncannily sensitive character. Dedalus (and Joyce) used the word epiphany to describe an augur or sign of the spirit in ordinary life. Be prepared to register a series of epiphanies when you read Portrait.
Apr 24, 2007
A study in Introspection
James Joyce tells a poignant story of his experiences in Jesuit run academy for boys in Dublin. His description of his home life, with many siblings, a financially insecure wage earner, and new deprivations set the stage for a young man entering a catholic academy. How he relates to his peers and Jesuit instructors,and his reactions to a strict catholic environment forms the earliest part of the book. His eventual "fall from grace", and how he deals with his sexual nature and guilt becomes the main discussion through his inner reflections, and eventual reconciliation with his faith. Nearing the end of the book however, conflicts arise in his beliefs, and he is challenged to find new directions for himself. I found the book to be a serious text of the self awareness of a young man, entering his maturity with many unanswered questions. I recommend it to those with a philosophical bent, and interest in human motivation.
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