Describe how A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce is a study of the conditions of the development of an artist.

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iandavidclark3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce is chiefly concerned with describing the development of Stephen Dedalus not only as a young man, but also as a writer and an artist. In many ways, the narrative is a quintessential example of the bildungsoman, a story that tells of the growth and maturation of a character and that often functions as a coming-of-age tale. In addition to describing his family life and his spiritual development, the narrative focuses on Stephen's growing consciousness as a writer, chronicling his formation of an artistic philosophy and aesthetic.

Additionally (and more importantly) the narrative style mirrors Stephen's development. When Stephen is a young child, the narrative is written to resemble the thought processes of a child. Later on, when Stephen is a mature intellectual attending college, the writing style has also matured to reflect this change. Thus, the artistic style of the novel parallels (and, by extension, illustrates) Stephen's development as an artist. In this way, Joyce gives us a radical account of the conditions for artistic development, and the novel remains an example of innovation despite its age (having been published in 1916, Portrait recently turned 100). 

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