Study Guide

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Spirituality

By James Joyce

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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 isn’t Spirituality kind of uncomfortably similar to the last theme you discussed, Religion?" And that’s our cue to stare you down and say "Yeah right! Stop being so darn reductive. GEEZ." One of the transformations our protagonist undergoes is a shift from zealous, super-disciplined belief in Catholic doctrine to a more unrestricted, self-created sense of spirituality that’s closely intertwined with his drive to create art. Spirituality is not limited to the worship of any one religion, or even of any specific god – rather, there is something profoundly fulfilling and potentially redemptive in the worship of Art and Beauty.

Questions About Spirituality

  1. How does Stephen’s dedication to art relate to his spiritual beliefs?
  2. Does the figure of Daedalus, the "old father, old artificer," ultimately replace God for Stephen?
  3. What, if anything, replaces Stephen’s faith in the Catholic Church after his epiphany in Chapter Four?

Chew on This

Once the overlying artificial structure of religion is removed, we see that Stephen’s spiritual beliefs are ultimately linked to his pure and simple love of beauty.

Stephen’s sense of spirituality at the close of the novel does not focus on the explanation of mysteries; rather, it emphasizes the importance of questioning.

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