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Joyce’s autobiographical novel definitely qualifies as a “Bildungsroman”, a novel about growing from boy to man, just as Catcher in the Rye and Lord of the Flies. Stephen Daedalus goes from naivete to understanding, about sexuality, about loyalty to friends, about “how the world works.” What make it stand out in its genre is the self-conscious search of its hero, the wide-awake seeking of maturity, the alertness and articulateness of Stephen as he undergoes his experiences, as he finds his artistic signature, “his gradual growth into artistic self-consciousness.” He is not in a fog, going through his life bewildered, but rather like an explorer, observing and taking notes as he grows. That Daedalus turned out to be Joyce, the writer of Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake, makes his early novel all the more poignant.
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