In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce is experimenting with literary techniques, especially the use of stream of consciousness. He uses the third person to describe the experiences of Stephen Daedalus, but everything in the novel is seen through Daedalus. Joyce does not explain what is going on objectively, he simply describes it as Daedalus experiences it subjectively, in short, episodic accounts. At the beginning of the book, when Daedalus is a child, Joyce uses childlike prose, as in the opening lines:
ONCE UPON A TIME and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo…
By the end of the book, when Stephen is at university, the dialogue and the narrative is much more sophisticated:
His mind when wearied of its search for the essence of beauty amid the spectral words of Aristotle or Aquinas turned often for its pleasure to the dainty songs of the Elizabethans. His mind, in the vesture of a doubting monk, stood often in shadow under the windows of that age, to hear the grave and mocking music of the lutenists or the frank laughter of waistcoateers until a laugh too low, a phrase, tarnished by time, of chambering and false honour, stung his monkish pride and drove him on from his lurking-place.
This passage also demonstrates the use of stream of consciousness technique. It describes the way that Daedalus interacts mentally with his world rather than objectively describing that world itself. In this way, Joyce is able to show with remarkable nuance how Daedalus develops mentally. Other techniques are employed as well, but much of the novel is written in a form that can best be described as stream of consciousness. The fact that he does so by using the third person adds an additional layer of complexity to what is considered one of the great modernist works of fiction.