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James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Essay

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The need for the protagonist, Stephen Dedalus’ artistic expression is emphasized in James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Joyce juxtaposes Stephen Daedalus’ creativity with a commitment to his catholic religion while on his odyssey to find his identity. Which calling will he answer to—artist or priest? The text follows the protagonist through both his positive and negative experiences with priests and his early revelations of artistic talents. Stephen is surrounded by financial, political, and religious tensions in his family and reveals to Stephen how paralyzing these influences can be on one’s life. Joyce conveys the artistic manifestation that seems inherent in Stephen throughout his journey, whereas, portrays Stephen in a constant battle to accept the priesthood while often in doubt about the importance of religion. Joyce delivers a narrative of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man that believes that art is higher than religion. This idea embodies the description in Stephen’s love for art versus his apprehension for theology points to a plot that hints that art is better than religion.
Stephen grows up in a family that is Catholic, with his mother and nurse Dante, being the most devout; this sets up the tension between Stephen’s double calling to art and theology. From early on we see the world through the eye and mind of young Stephen and realize that he has a very imaginative mind. While his father tells him a story, his imagination kicks in, and he thinks, “He was baby tuckoo. The moocow came down the road where Betty Byrne lived: she sold lemon platt” (3). Stephen already shows the artistic qualities that he will continue to develop on his journey to manhood. Stephen also has his first exp...


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...rt, in the same way if he indulges in sexual pleasures he it too would take away from his capability to create. Stephen has the final epiphany in the end when he sees the young woman alone on the beach. They stare at each other without exchanging words and Joyce writes, “Her eyes had called him and his soul had leaped at the call. To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life!” (213). Here Stephen knows that he has to create art out of the beauty that surrounds him. Throughout the text the narrative sets up the artist as the hero, and the priest as living a life of torment and boredom. Thus, reflecting that art is higher than religion as it allows one to experience the beauty of the world and creatw and recreate works of art.



















Works Cited
Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. New York: Viking, 1964. Epub.


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