A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Critical Essays

James Joyce

Sample Essay Outlines

Topic #1
Examine Stephen’s relationship to Catholicism as it develops throughout the novel. Use this as a way to comment on his attitude to authority more generally.

I. Thesis Statement: Stephen’s developing ethic of individualism requires him to reject the authority of the Catholic church. We can measure the progress of his artistic and individual development in part by an examination of the changes in his attitude to the priests in the novel.

II. When he was a child, the Jesuit priests at Clongowes represented absolute authority for Stephen.
A. His general attitude toward the priests.
B. The pandying incident with Father Dolan, and the “resolution” of this conflict by Father Conmee.

III. His religious awakening at the retreat.
A. The priest’s voice speaks “directly to his soul,” evidence of the authority Stephen grants him.

IV. His changing attitude toward the Jesuits as he gets older.
A. Chapter Four: the director’s offer; Stephen’s attraction to and rejection of the priesthood.

V. Stephen’s attitude toward Catholicism as the novel ends.
A. His conversation with the dean of studies.
B. His conversation with Cranly.

Topic #2
Examine the novel’s various “climaxes.” In what ways does the narrator tend to treat Stephen’s triumphs ironically, suggesting that he is perhaps deluded?

I.Thesis Statement: The narrative works according to a pattern whereby the climactic ending of each chapter is significantly deflated by the down-to-earth,...

(The entire section is 675 words.)