A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
James Joyce first wrote Portrait as a one-thousand page novel, full of well-developed scenes and long explanations of Stephen’s motives, but he decided to trim it into a short book with a new sort of style. The novel tells the story of the first twenty years of Stephen Dedalus – a young Catholic boy growing up in late 19th century Ireland. As the title suggests, this is the story not just of a young man, but of a boy developing into an artist. His search for knowledge and undestanding, and the decline of his family’s circumstances, lead him to revelations on the nature of art and politics. His personal renaissance makes him feel unwelcome in his own nation, and forces him to decide whether to leave and accept exile, or to stay and fight. An semi-autobiographic novel, featuring a fictionalized character as Joyce’s alter-ego, it traces his formative childhood years that led him ambivalently away from a vocation in the clergy and into that of literature.