A Portrait Of The Artist As a Young Man Essay

840 WordsFeb 9, 20124 Pages
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man The novel begins with Stephen Dedalus' first memories, when he was about three years old. The fragmented lines are from a childhood story and a nursery song, and are linked with family associations, sensory perceptions, and pieces of conversation. In this opening scene, Joyce is presenting to us the genesis of a future artist's perception and interpretation of the world. Moving from Stephen's infancy to his early days at Clongowes Wood College, a Jesuit boarding school for boys, Joyce focuses on three key incidents which significantly affect Stephen's personality. First, Stephen is pushed into an open cesspool by a bullying classmate, and, subsequently, he develops a fever which confines him to the school infirmary; here, he begins to discern that he is "different," that he is an outsider. Later, when he is probably six years old, Stephen returns home to celebrate Christmas dinner with his family and is invited, for the first time, to sit with the adults at the dinner table. This extraordinarily happy occasion is marred by a heated political argument between Stephen's old nurse, Dante Riordan, and a dinner guest, Mr. Casey, leaving Stephen confused about the issues of religion and politics in the adult world. On returning to school, Stephen accidentally breaks his glasses and is unable to complete his classwork. He is unjustly humiliated and punished by the cruel prefect of studies, but after receiving encouragement from a friend, Stephen bravely (if fearfully) goes to the rector of the school and obtains justice. The success of this meeting instills in him a healthy self-confidence and ennobles him, for a moment, in the eyes of his classmates. After a brief summer vacation at his home in Blackrock, Stephen learns that his father's financial reversals make it impossible to return to Clongowes Wood; instead, he is
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