A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Questions and Answers
by James Joyce

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man book cover
Start Your Free Trial

How is epiphany used in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man?

In James Joyce’s novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the author uses epiphany as a method of showing revelations that occur suddenly while the protagonist views ordinary objects or scenes from his own perspective. Whereas traditionally the literary device was used to show manifestations of God’s presence in the world He created, Joyce adapts the concept to include secular experiences.

Expert Answers info

JJ Botta, J.D. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseCollege Professor, Professional Writer

bookB.A. from Seton Hall University

bookM.A. from California State University

bookJ.D. from New York Law School


calendarEducator since 2020

write203 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Law and Politics, and History

Epiphany is traditionally a manifestation of God’s presence in the world. The literary device was originally used by Christian writers and philosophers to demonstrate how people were enlightened by sudden revelations consistent with religious doctrine. Author James Joyce in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man adapted the concept of epiphany to secular rather than religious experiences.

Protagonist Stephen Daedalus is a young Irish would-be writer. His quest is to gain the knowledge and independence he desires in order to achieve his literary goals. Joyce uses the “stream-of-consciousness” technique to relate the story to his readers. The narrator is an omniscient third party who rambles randomly through the minds of the novel’s characters in order to show readers the “truth” as perceived by the protagonist. The effect allows readers to see Stephen’s thoughts as they flow from one idea to the next. This style is perfect for the use of epiphany to demonstrate when Stephen has...

(The entire section contains 4 answers and 1,349 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Felicita Burton eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2018

write5,468 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Pauline Sheehan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2012

write2,387 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Math, and Social Sciences

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write16,848 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

check Approved by eNotes Editorial