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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

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Identity

Portrait of the Artist is ultimately the story of a search for true identity. We know from the title that the protagonist’s fate is to become an artist, but we still follow the emotional susp...

Transformation

One might argue that the only things that actually happen in Portrait of the Artist are a series of transformations. One might then argue that this demonstrates that growing up is simply a series o...

Youth

One might guess from the title that Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man has something to do with Youth. This book is a classic coming-of-age story that allows us to follow the development of the...

Dissatisfaction

Many of the events of this novel are seen through a haze of murky discontent. Joyce poses dissatisfaction as a necessity of the developing artist. Our protagonist’s unhappiness with his setti...

Language and Communication

Stephen’s fixation on language is what alerts us to his artistic inclinations from the very beginning of the novel. Both Joyce and his protagonist demonstrate a deep fascination with the pure...

Religion

Marx famously wrote that religion is a kind of drug constructed to keep the masses bovine (cow-like) and contented, chewing their cud comfortably and not confronting the true nature of life. Joyce...

Spirituality

This choice might raise some eyebrows. You wouldn’t be alone if you wanted to nervously avoid our gaze and say, "Hey, um, Shmoop, I know you’re trying to be thorough and everything, but...

Sin

Sin and temptation play central roles in this novel. Our protagonist goes through a period of indulging fully in his bodily lusts, which then leads to a swing in the opposite direction, an attempt...

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 a...

Literature and Writing

Literature and Writing provide the underlying backbone of meaning that draws this whole text together. This theme plays a fundamental role in the lives of both the fictional Stephen and the real Jo...
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