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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Wordsworth Classics) Paperback – 5 May 1992
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Joyce's work is not about the thing it is the thing itself. --Samuel Beckett
A highly autobiographical tale of the growth of a young man's mind, and his striving for independence.See all Product description
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Here we follow the young Stephen as he grows up and see what schooling was like for him. Of course our main character is an alter ego of the author, and so this is quite autobiographical, and gives Joyce the chance to select what he places on the paper and to contemplate things.
As we read this we see how language plays a large part as both Stephen’s use of it and his friends’ as well develops over the period this encompasses. Along with this is of course the development in character and the more adult thoughts that start to occur. This holds an interest for us especially in the schooling of the period in Ireland, where Dedalus is brought up by Jesuits. I should think most people are aware of the indoctrination in faith established at an early age so that those who have become part of an establishment are less likely to leave. We see how this affects the young Stephen who is even at one stage contemplating joining the priesthood.
Well written with a wonderful use of language and symbolism this is something that is easy to get into and thus makes it probably the most accessible of Joyce’s novels. We can also find here the beginnings of Joyce’s fascination with style and use of language as he experimented further with Ulysses and then onto Finnegans Wake, showing his avant garde style and the potential of the novel to be something more than just a traditionally told narrative.
We greet Stephen Dedalus in his early childhood and follow his strenuous journey from withdrawn child to a flourshing Young Man, and learn a lot about Joyce's own life, and Irish politics/religion all at the same time. The edition certainly has some nice facts footnoted at the back.
What's amazing about this novel though is the language and the masterly way Joyce handles it. In childhood the language is wonderfully childlike and innocent (and indded has some childish grammar mistakes) but this develops as Dedalus develops, and it makes us feel like we're growing up with him - a tactic wholly immersing and means the beautiful prose of the last few chapters really stands out. Furthermore, the knowledge Joyce himself shows off is delightful - philsophers and latin thrown around like two gold coins in a pit of beggars.
There is, however, a minor lull in the middle of the novel, when Dedalus enters religious camp (so to speak), and we too recieve the lengthy lectures about Hell and Eternity, which although are equally elegant in their style, can get a little tedious. But it must be remebered that that is the whole point of the novel; expressing the moments that shape a man (not matter how boring there are!).
But as a conclusion, this novel is a great intorduction to Joyce and is (in my humble opinion) a better read than his more famous Ulysses. Read this, for a wonderful insight into youth and experience, and for inspiration to become a similar young artist like Dedalus.
This book is partially autobiographical, though beign a novel there are clearly a number of differences. Nevertheless it does give a god indication of Joyces' htoughts and psyche as a young man, both through the story itself, and the way in which it has been written. It is a book of self-awareness and self-realization, a bildungsroman journey 'When the soul of a man is born in this country there are nest flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets'. The book leaves the reader both thoughtful and inspired. It is most definitely worth reading.
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Gave it 5 'cos it was free.Can't get much better than that.