Portait Analysis

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic
This essay explains the figurative side to the novel "A portrait of the Artist as a Young Man".

Submitted: December 18, 2014

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Submitted: December 18, 2014

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Alexis Chandler

Period 5

Throughout A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Joyce uses Stephen to represent finding identity. This was portrayed through many motifs throughout the novel and Stephen’s journey toward discovering himself.

In chapter 3, Stephen is starting to become more curious and wanting to try new things in order to find himself. He is starting to find that path towards maturity and becoming a young man. “ He would pass by them calmly waiting for sudden movement of his own will or sudden movement of his own perfumed flesh ” (109). Here, Stephen is starting to feel the need to branch out but also not knowing how to go about it. This experience with the prostitutes was something new to him but he believed it would make him more of a man. Stephen symbolizes Ireland wanting to branch away from the United Kingdom. However, Ireland also has doubt on whether it is best to have their own identity. Similar to Stephen not being sure of his role as a boy who is trying to become a man. This connects to the language of the novel because Joyce uses Stephen’s identity to portray the fight for independence. As Stephen fights to find himself throughout the novel.

Another example of Stephen finding who he wants to be as a person is in Chapter 5. At the end of the novel, Stephen finds the freedom he had been longing for. He becomes more optimistic about the future and leaves his anxieties from his childhood behind. “To discover the mode of life or of art whereby your spirit could express itself in unfettered freedom”. (267)  Since Stephen is talking in the first person we know he is beginning to express himself. Joyce uses Stephen’s transformation throughout the novel to represent the escape to his own internal freedom. At this point in the novel Stephen has made his own decision to leave. Which is an example of maturing and finding his own identity.

Throughout the novel Joyce uses the motif of flight to represent escape. Stephen has a desire to escape and be free in order to find his own identity. “Then he was to go away for they were birds ever going and coming, building ever an unlasting home under the eaves of men’s houses and ever leaving the homes they had built to wander”. (245) Stephen is watching the birds fly by and then leave. He is thinking about escaping and flying away himself. This has another figurative connection, Stephen represents Ireland trying to break away and find its own identity.

These figurative examples all connect Stephen’s maturing and self-discovery. Joyce portrays identity as similar to life’s journey. It takes time to figure out what you are going to do and who you are going to be.  


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