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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

In the opening chapters of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce couples the development of Stephen Dedalus as a human being with the development of his skills at language. The character is always surrounded by and fascinated by language and by the act of telling a story, and this is mirrored in the structure of the novel and in the way the language is structured as well. Stephen's interest in language is created as he interacts with the world around him and as he is motivated to explain that world to himself first and then to others. The novel recreates the development of a writer, one who works with words, communicates with language, but also one who understands the world and himself through his fascination with language. In the early chapters, Stephen's sense of language and storytelling remains in its early stages and does not develop to full artistic communication.

In order to understand Stephen's fascination with language and how it is reflected in the novel, it is important to know the entirety of the story and thus to see how the early chapters fit into an overall development of character. The novel as a whole is clearly described by the title, which tells us that Stephen Dedalus will become an artist and that this story is about his early life as he was formed into the incipient artist. His artistry will be with words, and thus it is not surprising that his development as an artist should include a fascination with the structures and possibilities of language.

In the first chapter, we are introduced to Stephen and taken through his childhood from about age six to nine, a period in which he is enrolled at a Jesuit boy's boarding school, where he stays all year except to return home for the holidays. In the second chapter, Stephen's life is detailed as he moves to another Jesuit boys' school. His family has moved to a less fashionable area of the city of Dublin, and the fortunes of the family are ...

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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 14:02, March 19, 2019, from