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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

by James Joyce

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Discuss this proposition with specific references to crisis eposides in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. "The religious crises that play such a central role in the novel lead Stephen toward his conception of himself as a priest or redeemer of the secular world and the race."

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As the end of Chapter 3 makes clear, Stephen Dedalus experiences an epiphany that leads him to believe that he will dedicate the rest of his life to religion. Ironically, in spite of his initial fervour, he becomes disenchanted with the idea when pressed to think about whether he wants to join the priesthood or not. However, as the above statement indicates, his final decision to become an artist has definite overtones of the priestly task about it. Note how this is referenced through the following quote in Chapter 5 which comes as Stephen speaks to the dean of studies and he realises the way in which his language has been influenced by the English who colonised and oppressed Ireland for so long.

—The language in which we are speaking is his before it is mine. How different are the words home, Christ, ale, master, on his lips and on mine! I cannot speak or write these words without unrest of spirit. His language, so familiar and so foreign, will always be for me an acquired speech. I have not made or accepted its words. My voice holds them at bay. My soul frets in the shadow of his language.

Stephen experiences something of a religious crisis in this quote, as his reference to the word "Christ" indicates. This reference shows the way in which even the Irish religion has been influenced so greatly by the English and is not free. However, from this realisation stems Stephen's decision to pledge his life as an artist to taking the language of Irish English and using it as a tool to capture and express the soul of the oppressed Irish. Stephen thus develops through the various religious crises that he undergoes to see himself as a secular priest charged with expressing the reality of life for the Irish through his art.

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