A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)
This is a semi-autobiographical novel, which narrates the life of Joyce’s fictional double, Stephen Dedalus, who as the author lives his early years in Dublin rebelling against his family, his religion and his nation. The protagonist’s name comes from Stephen, the first Christian martyr, and the mythological character Dedalus, who wants to escape to reach the neutrality of art. The character goes through different transformations: the first is from a child to a bright student, the second is from innocence to corruption, the third is from sin to religion, and the fourth and last one is from religiousness to fully formed artist, who dedicates himself to aesthetic beauty.
In this book, Joyce uses for the first time the stream of consciousness technique, in which the author has no authority and thoughts and emotions are expressed in a flux.
The stories were written when Irish nationalism was at its peak, and a search for a national identity and purpose was raging; at a crossroads of history and culture, Ireland was jolted by various converging ideas and influences. They centre on Joyce's idea of an epiphany: a moment where a character experiences a life-changing self-understanding or illumination, and the idea of paralysis where Joyce felt Irish nationalism stagnated cultural progression, placing Dublin at the heart of this regressive movement. Many of the characters in Dubliners later appear in minor roles in Joyce's novel Ulysses. The initial stories in the collection are narrated by child protagonists, and as the stories continue, they deal with the lives and concerns of progressively older people. This is in line with Joyce's tripartite division of the collection into childhood, adolescence and maturity.