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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – Internal Conflict leading to Growth and Development

The word “conflict” usually has a negative connotation. However, are you sure it’s negative, or does it help you discriminate between the positive and negative? Just a thought to help you understand that not everything is black or white. Things can be grey, dark grey or even light grey. The book, “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” by James Joyce, is about a man’s internal conflicts, which eventually led to his growth and development on a scale that is so out of the world.

A person religious upbringing does help him or her to become a good person. However, if not taught correctly, this religious journey can create confusion and conflicts in people’s minds and enable them to become either a rebel or a confused follower.

“A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” is the first novel written by James Joyce in the early 1900s. James was a modernist writer with a keen eye and remarkable observation skills. James simplifies everything so that anyone can understand the story and the hidden meanings within. Indeed, James was among the most important and influential writers during the 20th century.

In the book, the main protagonist, Stephen Dedalus, is from Ireland. Stephen is conflicted between his own beliefs and the catholic and Irish beliefs he’s grown up. The story is not only about one’s journey towards finding himself and his beliefs; instead, it’s about his growth and development intellectually, morally and spiritually.

As per Goodreads,

“A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” is a novel of sexual awakening, religious rebellion and the essential search for a voice and meaning that every nascent artist must face to blossom fully into themselves.”

Stephen Dedalus struggles with the smallest life decisions in seeking the happiness he desires. The struggles led him to rebel against the beliefs he lived for decades. At the same time, these struggles also taught him the most important life lessons. Many critics and the literary crowd states that the book is somehow related to James’s artistic life journey where he saw struggles and conflicts amongst different things.

Many writers bring variation in their writings based on their characters. However, James Joyce took these variations to a new level altogether, and in a positive sense. At each stage of the protagonist’s development, he altered and attuned his writing to match the development- from the kid’s baby talk to an adolescent to a mature high-minded aesthetic thought. James showed everything just the way people experience in real life.

By the end of the novel, the protagonist, Stephen Dedalus, moves towards his life’s artistic goals while detaching himself from society’s constraints, religion, and family. He leaves Ireland and moves to Europe to explore and understand more about his calling to be an artist.

Here’s an excellent review of the book and its author shared by the fan of James :

“How seldom does one encounter a genius’ mind. One wonders: what does such a being see and feel and think? Understandably, we assume they all reside on some remote Olympian peak shrouded in impenetrable ideas and fog. But James Joyce’s enduring gifts are his accessibility and powers of observation – and, of course, ability to turn-a-phrase. Reading him is like riding a time machine back to old Ireland where the manners and sights and Catholicism permeate every phrase. Savour the book, taking it in slowly as one would an elegant soaring sunrise.”

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