A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
by James Joyce
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Theme of The Home
This concept of home is massively important on two levels. First of all, the familial home is a constant source of instability and unhappiness throughout the book. The Dedalus family loses wealth and status throughout the novel, and they have to move around a lot to save money. Secondly, the uncomfortable idea of Ireland as home influenced both our protagonist and his real-life contemporary, Joyce. The novel asks us to examine how connected one should be to a homeland, especially when that homeland is trying to clarify its own political and cultural identity. That said, Stephen continues to reassert his Irishness in subtle ways, and he feels connected to his people even as he leaves – perhaps he’s even more connected to his people because he leaves. Chew on that for a while.
Questions About The Home
- Do you think Stephen will actually find the new life he hopes to attain once he leaves Ireland, or will he simply continue to chafe against new limitations?
- What role does the Dedalus family’s series of moves play in Stephen’s development? In the absence of a consistent home life, where does he turn for guidance?
- In your opinion, what does Stephen mean when he declares that he will "forge in the smithy of [his] soul the uncreated conscience of [his] race?"
- Despite the fact that we see Stephen in just about every other situation, we very rarely witness everyday life in the Dedalus home – in fact, we don’t even know exactly how many siblings Stephen has. Why do you think Joyce made this choice?
Chew on This
Stephen’s unstable home life makes it necessary for him to create his own identity, which is totally independent of his family.
For Stephen, art is essentially a tool to bring about social and political change.