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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

by James Joyce

Analysis: Booker’s Seven Basic Plots Analysis: The Quest

Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.

Plot Type :

The Call

The night of the Whitsuntide play

Stephen’s difference and alienation become impossible to ignore. This is where we see him actually deviate from the normal(ish) adolescent track he was on up to this point. The play and its aftermath show Stephen’s warring desires to participate in society and stand apart from it; his excitement on stage, then the comedown of post-performance disappointment literally send him running into the Dublin streets, searching for some kind of meaning.

The Journey

Stephen’s adventures in sex, hell, and repentance (Chapters Two through Four)

After dallying with some sinful seductresses, Stephen takes a metaphorical journey through the actual underworld via Father Arnall’s sermon. He then immerses himself in a kind of rigorously structured personal hell, that of his intense and hyperbolic period of religiosity. This period of tensions ends when Stephen calls upon Daedalus, who serves as a model and guiding spirit.

The Final Ordeals

Discussions with Cranly, Davin, and Lynch in Chapter Five

These verbal jousting matches are a series of final tests Stephen has to go through before he can leave. He attempts to justify his beliefs and actions to his three questioners, and to his readers. The completion of this stage proves that Stephen is ready to leave Ireland and take on the world.

The Goal

Stephen’s diary entries, Chapter Five

Instead of attaining "kingdom, Princess, and everlasting treasure," Stephen ultimately triumphs by leaving these things (embodied in Ireland, Emma, and religion) behind him. His real goal is to gain the freedom to express himself artistically. As he sees it, the possibility of freedom can only lie on the path of exile. We see him as he is about to embark on that path, and his last victorious lines proclaim his independence.

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