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Joyce, James - Analysis of A portrait of the Artist as a Young Man


A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is James Joyce’s second novel. It was published in Dublin in 1916, it’s a semi-autobiographical novel.
The title of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man relates to its main character, Stephen Dedalus. Joyce portrays the life of the young Stephen Dedalus: the novel deals with Stephen’s childhood, adolescence and finally with his life as a young artist.

Title

- ‘A’ portrait, because the poet can only offer one vision of that man, everyone can give an interpretation
- 'artist' and 'portrait' refer to Stephen's identity as an artist

Name

This name, Stephan Dedalus, is very significant:
- Stephen is the first christian martyr ( somebody who dies for his own ideals. He was stoned to death. The protagonist fells him as a martyr, somebody who is not understood, who had to obey to the others.
- Dedalus is a mythological name ( Dedalus was closed in a maze, like the poet is closed in a prison. He made a pair of wings made by wax in order to get free in the same way Stephen and the poet himself feel in prison in Dublin - they want to escape on the wings of his art –.

Plot

Everyone want him to became a priest (like the poet) but he understands he has another way: becaming an artist. So he breaks up with his family with its strict education ( the novel mirrors Joyce’s life up to age 20, when he left Dublin for Paris) and he flights away from Ireland.
Stephan Dedalus is also one of the three protagonists of Ulysses.

Technique

This novel shows Joyce’s innovation in the literary world: it starts to make use of new techniques such as stream of consciousness narration, the interior monologue, ...
There is also an evolution of the language ( costantly adapted to the age of the protagonist ) : at the beginning infant language, then the slang of university students.
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