Is Stephen Dedaelus, in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, a voluntary or involuntary exile?
As Stephen comes of age in Joyce's work, he begins to fully grasp the implications of his "non- serviam credo." The establishment of his identity and his sense of self allow him to view both himself and his world in different contexts. As he awakens through age to embrace his conception of himself as an artist, he begins to see that he is increasingly separate from his world. He is not linked to political struggle, traditionalist forms of religion, and his desire to create a realm where are stands for its own sense of self creates a level of division between himself and society. The exile that he undergoes as an artist is, thus, both brought on by his embracing of an identity that sees himself as uniquely different from others, and is one that is brought ou by this very difference. Naturally, he takes the active steps to leave his world and believe in his own sense of self; "old father, old artificer, stand me now and ever in good stead." However, I think that there are elements of both voluntary and involuntary exile present in his decision to leave.
Stephen, the boy-hero of Joyce's novel, is the author's alter-ego growing in Dublin from his nursery through his boyhood and adolescence to his coming of age. It is a novel of growth that ends with Stephen's decision to leave Ireland in order to search for his dreams of art and aesthetics. He is, in that sense, a voluntary exile. But the intellectual as well as religio-philosophical awakening that leads to his decision of going abroad to Europe has been a highly complex and conflicting process through shades of many voluntary and involuntary encounters. The rebellion of Stephen against the conventions of Catholic fath and Church education, and against the conventions of Irish culture forms the background to his ultimate option to be an exile committed to summons of art.