A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man brings readers along on a journey through a man’s life, from his childhood through adulthood. The protagonist, Stephen Dedalus, begins life with fear and confusion of the world, but as he grows older and becomes more educated and world-wise. The novel follows him through his days at a Jesuit college with a strict administration, through his family’s difficult economic times, his return to religion and faith as an adult, and his eventual mistrust in established societal institutions. Because the story follows Stephen through a large portion of his life, readers are able to connect and understand his perspective on the world and see how his thoughts and identity develop.
This novel is complex and nuanced, and is a brilliant example of James Joyce’s literary prowess. Joyce wrote a personal story that skillfully parsed his more modern philosophies, and the result is this novel that keeps readers thinking for generation to come.