A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Suggested Essay Topics

James Joyce

Suggested Essay Topics

Chapter 1
1. Discuss Stephen’s relationship with language in his chapter. Why is his interest in language significant at this early age? Does this make him more or less engaged with the other students his age? Are there any political implications, in light of the Irish nationalist movement, to his identification of English as “his” language?

2. At various points in this chapter, Stephen proposes a theory of language based upon onomatopoeia—the idea that a word’s sound has a kind of concordance to its meaning. Examples of onamatopoeia would be “splat, bam, pow.” In what ways does Joyce’s narration in this chapter use the sound of language to achieve its effects? How would you characterize the tone of the narrator at the start of the chapter? At the end? Is there a thematic connection?

3. Stephen’s senses are very acute, and throughout the first chapter Joyce makes us aware of the color, smell, temperature, and sound of Stephen’s surroundings. Trace the language of the senses in this chapter. How does Joyce use repeating sense-images to characterize Clongowes or Stephen’s home in Dublin?

Chapter 2
1. Stephen’s attitude toward authority and authority figures undergoes some important changes in Chapter Two. Discuss some ways in which Stephen’s behavior in this chapter contrasts with his behavior in the first chapter. Examine specific scenes and passages where this contrast is evident.

2. Throughout Chapter Two, we learn much about Stephen’s attitude toward women. From the Mercedes-figure in the early pages to the prostitute at the end, we see his idea and ideal of women develop. Compare and contrast the female-figures in the novel (Mercedes, Emma, the prostitutes) and the place they hold in Stephen’s imaginative life.

3. In what ways does this narrator seem to undercut Stephen’s sense of uniqueness and singularity? Examine some scenes where it seems that the narrator takes an ironic view toward Stephen.

Chapter 3
1. In many ways, Chapter...

(The entire section is 860 words.)