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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

by James Joyce

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How did colonialism influence the life of Stephen in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man?

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There are several ways in which we can examine Stephen's life as it relates to colonialism. First of all, Stephen lives in the British-occupied Ireland. We see that Stephen works on breaking free of the mold of life created for him. He struggles being a part of school and wants for more unique ideas and to create his own path. We also see his relationship with religion change throughout the course of the story. At one point, he devotes his life to God, and we see the divide between clerical and secular authority that was common in colonies. This means that there is a debate about whether politics and religion should intertwine, as Stephen witnesses in argument between the Dante Riordan and John Casey at Christmas dinner. The debate here is about whether Parnell, a member of British Parliament, should be involved with the Catholic Church in Ireland. Again, this is related to colonialism in the struggle for independence, the search for new ideas, and the bucking of authority, which we eventually see when Stephen decides to step away from the church and leave Ireland to pursue his art.

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