Better Students Ask More Questions.
Comment on Joyce’s narrative technique in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
2 Answers | add yours
Joyce’s first novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. takes the central character, Stephen Dedalus, from infancy to his early 20s, and it ends with Stephen on the verge of leaving Dublin for Paris, where he hopes to begin his life as a poet. Although Stephen’s artistic vocation marks this novel as Modernist, his devotion to art is always presented ironically. At the end of the book, as Stephen prepares to leave his home and family, we can’t tell if he’s on the verge of doing something foolish or something great.
One of the novel’s most famous scenes is a bitter debate over the fate of Parnell. In this scene, Stephen’s father gets off a number of hilarious lines but also indulges in maudlin self-pity. A Portrait also includes a number of bitter comments on the state of Irish civilization. The ugliness and dirtiness of the city is relentlessly exposed, and Stephen is not exempted from that critique. Finally, the novel expands on the stories’ critique of the Church. Joyce liked to say that Ireland was subject to both Roman and British domination, but he did not hesitate to acknowledge his debts to the Jesuits.
Another important feature of A Portrait is its irony: Although the work is autobiographical, the main character is seldom presented in a flattering light. As a boy, Stephen is timid and anxious. Above all things, he fears being mocked, and that fear becomes the basis for much of his later behavior. Even Stephen’s later devotion to art and literature is presented ironically. Indeed, it’s hard to decide if he really has what it takes to succeed. At the end of the novel, as Stephen prepares to leave for Paris, we can’t tell if he’s on the verge of doing something foolish or something great. Like Lawrence, Joyce wants to leave things open at the end, avoiding the extremes of both comedic and tragic resolutions.A Portrait takes Stephen Dedalus from infancy to his early 20s, following his experiences both at school and at home. There’s a love story buried deep in this novel, but the main action of the novel is Stephen’s increasing realization that he wants to devote himself to art. The novel ends with Stephen on the verge of leaving Dublin for Paris, where he hopes to begin his life as an artist. Stephen’s artistic vocation is one sign of the growing self-consciousness that characterizes so much Modernist literature.
Posted by epollock on February 26, 2010 at 5:12 PM (Answer #1)
Middle School Teacher
In true modernist form, Joyce is seeking to define his own method of narration. In the absence of any other accepted structure of narration, Joyce's stream of consciousness helps to allow the reader to better understand the character of Stephen. The narration changes over the course of the novel to reflect the change that Stephen undergoes throughout the novel. From the opening lines of the "moocow" as an infant, to the young boy who has to be introduced to political strife internally in his own home, to the forced acceptance and then rejection of the church, to the embrace of the artist and non- serviam credo in search of beauty, the narration style changes to reflect these changes in Stephen.
Posted by akannan on February 26, 2010 at 10:07 PM (Answer #2)
Related QuestionsSee all »
Join to answer this question
Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.