Mon. Jun 17th, 2024
Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man

In an autobiographical novel, the objective details of the characters, themes, and incidents of the story are similar to those of the author’s life. Still, they are presented in a fictional way. A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man is a semi-autobiographical novel about the education of a young Irishman, Stephen Dedalus, whose background has much in common with Joyce’s. 

Feature Of Modern Realistic Novel:

The modern realistic novel tends to portray the social and psychological experiences of the author. Regarding its autobiographical elements, this novel can be seen as a ‘Bildungsroman’ which describes the youthful development of the central character, and as an ‘aesthetic autobiography’ or ‘Kunstlerroman’. 

Joyce and the protagonist:

The chronological order in which the life events of the protagonist occur bears much similarity to the life events of Joyce. There are also parallels in Joyce’s life with certain features of Stephen’s life described in the third chapter. For example, Joyce’s sexual initiation occurred at a time when he was serving as perfect for the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin.

Like Emma in the novel Joyce also possessed a perverse longing to ‘adore and desecrate’ the one love of his life, Nora Barnacle. In the fourth chapter, after he confesses to the Capuchin priest, Stephen’s overcompensation for his past sins is Joyce’s mocking of his religious revival. 

Artistic Pursuits:

The intellectual development of the protagonist and Joyce follows the same path. Both of them break the bondages of family religion and nationalism to dedicate themselves to artistic pursuits. Like Stephen Joyce studied at the Jesuit institutions of Clongowes, Belvedere, and University College Dublin; suffering from weak eyesight; rejected clerical life; shunned extreme Irish nationalism, and settled abroad. Also read: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides book review


The novel is set in Dublin in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The Dedalus family has to change houses frequently because of poverty. Two powerful influences on society of that period are Irish Catholicism and the Irish nationalist movement. All these things are similar to the Joyce family. Like Stephen, Joyce also was born and brought up in Dublin, suffered from poverty, and changed their houses several times. Just like Stephen, Dublin was a place of discontentment to Joyce and the streets of Dublin were like a maze to him from which he wanted to fly away. 

Point of view:

An autobiography is written in the first-person point of view where first-person pronouns I, me, and mine are used. But the story of a novel is narrated from the point of view of the author. In this novel the narrator is anonymous. Though most of the story is in the third person, the point of view is Stephen’s. As Stephen develops as a person, the use of language and narrating style also develops with him. At the end of the novel, we see a section in which the story is told from Stephen’s diary. This section is in the first person.

In the novel sometimes the two personae, Joyce and Stephen almost merge but quite often a distance is kept though it is never too great. Sometimes its story seems to be based on a literal transcript of the first twenty years of Joyce’s life. Its emphasis on the emotional and intellectual adventures of its protagonist is notable. It is a bit more artistic or fictional than the author’s biography. Stephen’s destiny could be the destiny of any sensitive young man in Catholic Ireland, especially, if he had artistic ambitions. Joyce’s brother Stanislaus makes it clear that

              “Stephen Dedalus is an imaginary, not a real, self-portrait”. 


Joyce uses his personal life as a framework for his novel. Thus, the characters, settings, chronological order, and other details of this novel bear a strong likeness to the account of the early life of Joyce. Despite these obvious autobiographical similarities, Stephen is a fictional representation of Joyce’s art. 

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By Romana

Hi everyone I'm Romana the creator of "Literaturebs.Online". I've always had a passion for stories, so I decided to build this space to share my love of literature with fellow bookworms like you. From classic novels to modern masterpieces, I hope to inspire and engage readers of all ages. Join me as we embark on a journey through the wonderful world of words!"

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