James Joyce

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What did James Joyce mean when he wrote "At last he had understood: and human life lay around him;a plain of peace whereon ant-like men laboured in brotherhood,their dead sleeping under quiet mounds" in his book "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man?"

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Considered a thinly-veiled autobiography, James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man provides insightful glimpses into the mind of one of history’s most fascinating authors, an Irish Catholic whose most widely-praised work, Ulysses, has rarely actually been read by many of those praising it.  The reason for this lies in Joyce’s modernist style of writing, in which he cast aside conventional narrative in favor of a more segmented style of storytelling.  Portrait’s protagonist, Stephen Dedalus, is Joyce’s alter-ego, and the book’s portrayal of a young author’s intellectual maturation while a student in successive Jesuit schools lends it special significance as a prelude to his later works. 

The passage specified in the question – “At least he had understood: and human life lay around him, a plain of peace whereon ant-like men labored in brotherhood, their dead sleeping under quiet mounds” – can only be...

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