Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, A
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Joyce-s rich and complex coming-of-age story of the artist Stephen Dedalus-one of the great portraits of modern -Irishness-- is a tour de force of style and technique.

Customer Reviews:

  • FLAT
    I unfortunately found the stories lifeless. There was no spark or wonder to the characters or surroundings. ...more info
  • Charting your own course in life
    The narrative point of view of this book was very innovative for its day. Its not a traditional driving narrative where the author weaves together elements of a plot that leads the characters to a telling conclusion. The point of view is interior to the main character, but in the third person not the first, and the language changes as the character changes.

    The narrative follows the growing up and coming to age of Stephen Dedalus from his earliest memories. It shifts from exterior events to interior reflections and fades in a disconnected way into dream events. Some of the exterior events are quite striking and memorable, such as Stephen getting whipped for something he did not do, the bird-girl on the shore, and a long priestly harangue about going to hell. Many signs along the way acquire a mythic or symbolic significance. There are frequent references to birds and flying, which signify Stephen's growing intention to leave Ireland.

    The heart of the book is the story about a struggle against authority. The ability to rebel against dire warnings of everlasting punishment from disobeying a religious order requires considerable strength of mind from a lone individual. It requires inner resources, a constant source of solace that gives one an unwavering resolve. Stephen experiences the travails of youth, the giving into lust and subsequent shame, and then turning to the Church. He realizes that by becoming a priest all his material cares would be taken care of and the Church would allay his security anxieties. But his artistic temperament is awakened, most notably in the epiphany of seeing the girl on the shore; and he knows that he cannot endure the kind of sick drudgery that he would feel in the labors of renunciation of his self. Instead of having others chart his course, he awakens to the freedom of charting his own course....more info
  • A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man [Audio tape]
    My companion for driving; this makes traffic a joy and delays a treat....more info
  • Have a good measure of patience ready to exchange for keen insight and impeccable writing
    Actually, I listened to an audio version of this book - it was the only way I was able to finish it. Even so, it still took me quite a while to get through it. The writing is very dense, and self-absorbed. The book offers many rewarding insights into stream of consciousness thought processes, and typical youthful struggles with issues like religion, good and evil, aesthetics, books and learning, family relations, nationalism and politics, sex and love, asserting one's independence, and getting along with teachers and peers. The detailed accounts of Roman Catholic dogma were a bit tedious, yet I ran into references to them in other works soon after finishing those sections. Having been brought up Protestant, I was spared a lot of the gory details created by the human imagination regarding what hell must be like.

    A rather profound insight that came in handy one day while teaching was that people who work hard to live pious lives often end up with a short temper, impatient with the visible weaknesses of others. That also was confirmed in a separate context soon after I listened to that part.

    I had to give this work five stars - it is acknowledged great literature - but I wasn't so sure I liked the narrator that much the further I got into it. I guess anybody can be hard to like when they make an effort to be brutally honest about their thoughts and feelings. The narrator's ambivalence about things like his teachers and his interactions with them were sometimes disorienting, but that was certainly his purpose - to show that there are many possible views of the same interaction, and you have to make your own calls. The question posed to the narrator toward the end, about whether he had actually ever loved anyone in his life so far, put the entire work in a perspective worth pondering.

    I think for the razor-sharp insights and the utterly lucid writing, this work is eminently worth reading. But you may have to push yourself to make it to the end - I did, anyway....more info
  • Being James Joyce
    Several years ago a movie came out called "Being John Malkovich." I didn't see the movie, but the title was always intriguing to me. Essentially, this book is as close as one could come to "being" James Joyce as a young man.

    As other reviewers have noted, the book starts slowly. I did not find the storyline to be particularly compelling, but the revolutionary "stream of consciousness" style introduced by Joyce to the literary world in this book was quite compelling. While I could not call this book a "page turner," make no mistake: it is well worth the effort to persevere to the end. There is a reason why some books are considered "literature." This is one of them.

    My Viking Press edition contained no notes or explanations...just the simple, unadorned manuscript without someone's notes telling me what I should extract from the book, what I should think, why it was great literature, etc. Nothing to "coach" me in a particular direction. Now that I have finished reading it, I would enjoy exposing myself to notes and essays on this work, to compare my own impressions with those of others.

    The plot of the book is simple enough: a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story featuring Stephen Daedelus, Joyce's alter ego - hence, the title of the book. We follow Daedelus through his formative years, first as the young son of a wealthy family sent off to boarding school, then as the adolescent whose family has fallen from political grace and is now struggling to make ends meet as young Stephen changes to another school that while different, is still as much about religious instruction (Catholicism) as about secular topics. Then, we find him in his mid-teens undergoing a stage in which he abandons himself to lust and then swings the pendulum to the other extreme by attempting something approaching mortal perfection in his religious devotion and briefly even considers entering the priesthood. At the close of the book we find Daedelus in college demonstrating his clearly formidable intellect as he ponders and debates subjects with his professors and peers such as the meaning of beauty and the responsibility of the artist. Ultimately, Daedelus gives us his conclusion on how he intends to live his life that is at once both profound and clich¨¦: to express himself through his art (his writing) as freely and wholly as he can, even if it means being spurned by society and making mistakes. In today's vernacular, it would probably come out as something like, "I gotta be me." But of course Joyce leads us to this conclusion not as some airhead MTV-generation pronouncement, but as the result of his coming-of-age experiences and his deep philosophical ponderings about the meaning of life, the role of religion, and his purpose on this earth.

    The stream-of-consciousness style pioneered by Joyce in this book is remarkable, both in its originality to the literary world, and in its ability to give us the events of the story not just through the eyes of Daedelus, but almost through his subconscious. If you have ever wondered what it would be like to read someone's thoughts, right down to the sometimes erratic ways in which one thought leads to another or the impressions that occur somewhat randomly, this is what Joyce delivers. In these pages, he delivers not what it would be like to observe James Joyce, but what it would be like to actually be James Joyce.

    The language throughout is beautiful, many times a form of prose poetry. Often described as a novella rather than a novel, the rather sparse page count is rather deceptive: this is a dense book and will take as long for most people to read as a book three times its length. One thing in my edition of the book that was unconventional was Joyce's refusal to use quotation marks to distinguish dialog. He set off dialog with elongated dashes at the beginning of dialog sentences instead. Occasionally, I had to read passages several times to understand who was speaking because Joyce depars entirely from the convention we are all used to.

    All in all, this is an excellent starting place for those new to Joyce such as myself, both because it gives insight into the author, and because it introduces the character Daedelus who apparently figures prominently in other books by Joyce such as "Ulysses."
    ...more info
  • Not really my cup of tea!
    Although I have to acknowledge the wonderful use of language that Joyce displays in this work of fiction, I found that I had a great deal of trouble getting into it. This is a coming of age story and perhaps it would hold more relevance for a male than it did for me. There is some dispute as to whether or not this is an autobiographical story or not. What is is a "stream-of-consciousness narrative" and it is a style that Joyce is credited with developing in his body of work. The book centres around young Stephen, and his changing viewpoints as he grows up. We see how an innocent' idealistic youth changes his ideas as he matures and as life happens to him. It leads him to question his Catholicism and his idea of family values. The language is what is really beautiful about this story! I had a bit of difficulty getting into the story, but felt that it was an important enough work to persevere....more info
  • Young genius takes flight
    Portrait of the Artist is Joyce's Kunstleroman about the growth of sensibility in a young genius. The novel is luminous and because it is early Joyce, it's accessible as the writing style is straight ahead narrative modified to reflect the writer's age in various stages of his youth. It is easy to witness the writer's sensibility heighten as he matures: his sense of protest, his growing perspective of his life, church and nation. Proust and Joyce wrote at about the same time but met only once briefly in an awkward exchange and Joyce lived for years in self-imposed creative exile in Paris. In the later chapters there are stylistic similarities between early Joyce and Proust, whose style and narrative voice are consistent throughout the 4300 pages of La Recherche du Temps Perdu. However, Joyce's narrative technique changed radically as he grew as a novelist from Portrait to Ulysses and finally to Finnegan's Wake. In Joyce's willingness to experiment unfettered by style, voice, syntax, genre and diction he changed the English language: he left it better than he found it. Chapters 4 and 5 are brilliant and take flight like Daedalus, the inventive hawkman. If you seek an entry point into Joyce's work, this relatively simple, straightforward novel is your window. "To speak of these things and to try to undestand their nature and, having understood it, to try slowly and humbly and constantly to express, to press out again, from the gross earth or what it brings forth, from sound and shape and colour which are the prison gates of our soul, an image of the beauty we have come to understand -- that is art." I can't encourage you more strongly to explore Joyce -- he was the most luminous genius who ever wrote a novel. ...more info
  • "Portrait" holds you in its hypnotic trance
    I have never encountered a character quite like Stephen Dedalus. He is sad, happy, complex, strange, unlikable, but always fascinating. Stephen is the main character in Joyce's "Portrait of an Artist", which is a semi-autobiographical tale of Joyce's alter ego. The story is told entirely in third person, although most of the time you swear it is being told in the first.

    The story is not as important as the form, or as the emotion. These elements are precisely what makes "Portrait" so good. As far as plot goes, it is not concrete, yet that goes perfectly along with the flow of the story. `Portrait" opens boldly and brilliantly, charting Stephen's incoherent thought processes as a youth. Sentences wildly strung together, uneven, yet right on target on how a mind so young might work. The second part of the story is dark, menacing, and wandering. Almost like a nightmare with words. This goes along well with the emotional turmoil of Stephen's soul as he enters into sin. The third part of the story is controversial, ad it probes the positives and negatives of religion quite well. Stephen begins to turn his soul over to God at this point, mainly because of fear. The fourth part deals with Stephen's "awakening" as he breaks free of religion and starts to discover what he truly wants. The final part of the story is mostly scenes of dialogue, and is the most philosophical part of the book and the most structured. Here he is an intellectual, artistic poet and thinker. He still leaves his future wide open, yet has finally reached the point in his life that he feels will take him where he needs to go.

    Supposedly, "Portrait" has loads of symbolism. The book explores a variety of issues from Romanticism to Religion. I doubt if readers of this book are going to pick it all out with a single reading. I didn't. I wonder if the readers will care about that, or will just do as I did, and focus on how original the material all is. Even not knowing what was going on at times, I was drawn in by the story's hypnotic hold it had on me. I was riveted by the artistic use of words, similes and metaphors conjugated together to form an often confusing, yet always captivating story, or even a poem if you like. This book is more of a feeling than a story, and even though the book becomes a bit more structured as it progresses, it never loses its dreamlike war on words that keeps you locked it its trance.

    Even though I am giving "Portrait" a perfect rating, I don't think it is one of the greatest novels of all time. I wished I could have got just a bit more out of it. Possibly my view could change if I would just examine deeper into it. I doubt it thought. Like all enthralling dreams, one can't look too deep, but rather is mesmerized by the whole experience.

    Grade: A
    ...more info
  • The substance is in the self analysis
    A previous reviewer states that this book doesn't focus on substance, and that the substance (for him) is in the story. While I don't disrespect this view, it does seem unnecessarily limiting for oneself as a reader.

    In my opinion this is an innovative book because it focuses on internal response rather than external action--the internal is the substance of Portrait. Of course being innovative doesn't make it good--it's the fact that it does this introspection very well, completely, and unapologetically that makes the book a successful endeavor. One of my favorite moments is the first full paragraph of 254, which starts "A louse crawled over the nape of his neck...".

    I can understand that to some, this endless recording of introverted response might seem self-indulgent in its excess, but I think that the length and dramatic language is needed to express the depth that is inside, not just little Stevie Dedalus, but all of us.

    Isn't this one of the prime purposes of art? To force us to look at ourselves in a way that we haven't before? Of course, if we don't give the piece of art a fair chance, it can never succeed.

    Unlike other reviewers--I'm not reviewing based on whether or not I agree with the main character's conclusions (and therefore James's conclusions), but on whether or not the artist achieved his aims.

    Incomprehensible? It's only incomprehensible if you expect to read a clear and informative essay. That's not the purpose, it's to convey the innermost thoughts of one individual--and these thoughts/feelings/responses are not always perfectly clear--in fact, they rarely are, in any of us.

    Why a 4 instead of a 5? Because Portrait feels more to me like a series of stories that only happen to occur chronologically, rather than a bonified novel. I don't feel like I've gone from point A to B when I'm done. Maybe this aspect is unavoidable given the true goal of the book, as I've interpreted it, but I'm just being honest....more info
  • Read this book and you'll be a man, my son...
    There are writers and there are artists, and what Joyce could do with words was, unequivocally, art. This book is luminous. Awe-inspiring. Stendhalian. Five stars shortchanges it. Saul Bellow, Ernest Hemingway, and Wallace Stegner would cut off their DICKS in exchange for the talent Joyce had. This book transcends "subjectivity"...I didn't even LIKE it, being a philistine who prefers meaning over aesthetics, but I will be the nth bibliophile to say that this is a masterpiece, and that Joyce was a...genius. (I can off-hand think of only two peers for Joyce: Nabokov and Lowry.)

    Portrait is a bildungsroman that follows the life of Stephen Dedalus (Joyce) from childhood to young adulthood. We inhabit his mind as he confronts his milieu, his education, and his faith. We witness him sin and repent. We witness his intellectual evolution. We witness his increasing spiritual malaise. We witness his thoughts, his perceptions, and how he translates those perceptions INTO thoughts. The results are extraordinary. Some passages escape the confines of mere talent and nudge the ceiling of sublimity. Great stuff.

    Now, this book won't be easy to digest. Know that going in. You're gonna need to be PREPARED. This isn't something you absent-mindedly take to the can with you. This book demands effort, attention, concentration, and latitude. You'll need to roll with some punches. You'll need to hike up a few steep hills. You'll need to strap yourself in. You'll need to be able to keep up with the cognitive pace demanded...but take your time, and all will be fine. Joyce vacillates between prose and verse at times, and the deft treatment of language--of words qua words--will cause some stress and confusion. You have to push on through.

    The MLA got one right (mirabile dictu!) by anointing Portrait as the third best novel written in the 20th century. (NB: "Best" doesn't necessarily mean "fun to read.") This book is truly on another level. Give it a go--skip the worthless, pedantic Introduction by a nondescript egghead--and enjoy the ample rewards, richly deserved......more info
  • An autobiographic novel
    Although the hero of James Joyce's novel is called Stephen Dedalus, the events and characters depicted in it parallel the author's own experiences. In his early childhood, at the very beginning of the 20th century, Stephen was sent to Clongowes, a Jesuit boarding school near Dublin. He disliked the place because his classmates bullied him, because he was taught religion in a dogmatic way and because he was flogged unjustly by his prefect of studies. After that he spent a summer with his uncle Charles in Dublin. Stephen was then sent to Belvedere college, which he disliked as much as Clongowes. The spirit of quarrelsome comradeship couldn't turn him away from his habits of quiet obedience. He mistrusted the agitation and doubted the sincerity of such comradeship, which he felt was an awful anticipation of adulthood.
    Stephen was by then aware that he didn't belong. He also felt more and more estranged from his father after having accompanied him once to Cork and witnessed his drinking habits, a journey which ended in Stephen's first experience in love making - a sordid one.
    More disappointment followed as Stephen went to university, thus becoming a disillusioned young man - a disillusionment caused by academicism, love and sex, his parents, religion and perhaps also his own country, Ireland......more info
  • Challenging but rewarding
    James Joyce's fascinating novel takes us into the mind of Stephen Dedalus, a young Irishman longing to understand and express himself despite his ennui and nagging dissatisfaction over nearly every facet of his life: his social class, his education, his religion, his sense of morals.

    Every now and then I take down one of those venerable volumes of the English lit canon written mostly by dead white European males and, more often than not, I find that there is a good reason that they have been enshrined by generations of English professors. The most extraordinary thing about this novel is the way Joyce evokes the sense of a soul struggling for freedom beneath layers of received cultural baggage, breaking the shackles one by one until the conclusion, when Stephen has found the courage to set off into the world to express himself as fully as he can. I think that some other reviewers on this page have overemphasized the importance of preparation and study for appreciating this work. I read a bare bones edition and, while I don't deny that the experience would probably have been enhanced by more information, I did not find it to be essential. I found some sections toward the end of the book, when Joyce describes a more self-aware Stephen's developing theories of literature and aesthetics, to be somewhat boring, but I've always been impatient with literary theory. On the other hand, Stephen's internal struggles with religious convention are riveting. All in all, this novel will reward you for the effort you put into reading it.
    ...more info
  • Stephen Hero
    Portrait of the artist is a vitally important novel for anyone interested in writing, writers, genius, repression, Catholicism, intellectualism versus dogmatism, the life and mind of James Joyce and novels as an art form. The writing style mutates and develops throughout the story, reflecting the different ages of Stephen Dedalus, from the baby talk and visceral imagery of his parents, governess Dante and Uncle Charles in his early childhood, through his schooldays as he wrestles with his intellect, his faith, his sexual awakening and his guilt to the advanced articulate and experimental style he invokes in his late adolescence, including an experimental journal at the end of the novel.

    The themes in Portrait of the Artist cover the whole spectrum of growing up, but the principal drama surrounds the intellectual development of Stephen. He is a formidable mind, a free thinker. But his faith impells him throughout towards the narrow minded dogmatism of the Catholic Church. At times, the church holds the upper hand, as Stephen is terrified into confessing his sins with prostitutes in the face of Father Arnall's legendary, sensual, brutal 'Hellfire' sermon on the fate of sinners who don't repent before god. But Stephen wrestles with such demons, and grows, and fights, and ultimately prevails. He sees the image of the rotting cabbages in in the kitchen gardens and considers the disordered symbolism of this as more appealing to his natural essence than the neat tidiness of the shrine to Mary.

    Stephen realises he must leave this claustrophobic restrictive life behind. The end of the novel chronicles his last days in Dublin before leaving Ireland. His conversation with Cranley forces home the realisation that Stephen is growing up, his childhood is behind him, and, most importantly, he is prepared to err and make mistakes, even if this means damnation. He is able, as he says 'To discover the mode of life or art whereby your spirit could express itself in unfettered freedom'.

    Stephen, with all his passionate intellectual talent, is ready to hit the world, and the forces such as Father Arnall who seem ready to stamp on such independence with vitriolic counter ideological pamphleteering cannot stop him. Thank God for that. The original title of the book, Stephen Hero, is apt indeed. ...more info
  • Makes me want to read more Joyce
    I'm not quite sure what to say. Every time I wanted to pick up this book I had to force myself. However, as soon as I started reading it was not a chore. This book contains some of the most beautiful prose I have ever read. I think Joyce captured a young man's journey from childhood into adulthood with more truth than most writers. His seamless transitions from action to thought and back make you feel like you are Stephen, living and thinking those things. I don't feel like I took in even half of the content of this book. I'll definitely read it again after I've had a while (a couple of years, maybe) to process it....more info
  • A Portrait of Someone Familiar
    This book offers a unique perspective on the Catholic faith and its tradition. An Irish boy, Stephen Dedalus, who is brought up expected to believe whatever is presented to him is confronted with a very big problem: accept his faith without question and follow the conventions of his upbringing or pursue his dream to be an artist. Pursuing the path of an artist would make Stephen happy but should he risk alienating his family and fellow Catholics in favor of a dream?
    While most of us are not presented with that specific dilemma, we have all experienced a similar situation. Do we dare to be different or just go with the flow? James Joyce has created a very real character in Stephen Dedalus with which all of us can relate to on some level.
    A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a perfectly designed coming of age novel. It follows Stephen Dedalus from his young and impressionable years, incapable of thinking for himself, to his isolation from his peers in family while realizing that his Catholic faith is not all that he thought it was. We see him finally begin to explore his own way of thinking and stop following outdated customs. The inner conflict he faces and his confusion of right is wrong is something that is familiar to all of us and further helps the reader relate to his situation and empathize with the tough choice he must ultimately face at the end of the novel. ...more info
  • The smithy of the soul of the master artificer Daedalus
    This spiritual autobiography contains within it the themes which Joyce would expand and elaborate in his masterwork ' Ulysses'. But this work too is a masterpiece which gives us a portrait of an artist in development , and a picture of the society, the church, the family he would go into exile from . Joyce's center is in his consciousness of language, and his creation and recreation of it. He begins the autobiography in the baby language of beginning, and throughout adjusts styles to the situation and level of life he happens to be in. But the fundamental portrait is of the young artist in development, a development of his knowledge and artistic skills but also a development toward knowledge and estrangement from the world which he comes from. He will leave his family, and his native land and his church not so much for the exile of Trieste or Zurich or Paris or any place in particular but for that situation in which he can be wholly alone to shape in the smithy of his soul the uncreated conscience of his race. Joyce master of ironies sees perhaps the vanity of his own vaunted ambition but nonetheless is true to it to the end. This work is filled with remarkable and beautiful passages, interesting meetings and in a way memorable characters. It opens us to a new world the world of a great artist whose epiphanies on oval leaves will tell of the great transformation and development of his life- in which the spiritual realm is no longer the Catholic and conventionally religious but is usurpred by the great truth telling and beauty- creating realm of Literature. This work is in parts difficult to read, but even if with the help of some kind of crib it should be ventured . For it is a great work indeed. ...more info
  • Absolutely essential
    any reader who intends to be well equipped to approach the most challenging literature (i.e. Ulysses, Faulkner) must read Portrait. Its value as an engaging narrative won't be fully appreciated upon an initial reading, but it is a book worth several readings, and it will yield a reward equally rich in its depth as it is enjoyable. ...more info
  • portrait of a writer as a complete bore.
    if you ever meet someone who you have heard is a fan of this book, stick a pin in their arm to see if they are alive....more info
  • A Portrait of 20th Century Literature as a Young Form
    James Joyce is the single most important writer of the 20th century. Simply put, the form of the novel exists in two stages - pre-Joyce and post-Joyce; no other novelist approaches the impact on the literary landscape that Joyce acheived in perfecting his style. The story behind the actual writing of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (originally entitled Stephen Hero) is that Joyce began writing basically a semi-autobiographical account of his childhood up through his early adulthood. He then decided that he wanted to convey the events of his life in a form other than direct disclosure. The rest, as they say, is history. Enter stream of consciousness. Enter free association. Enter Freud, Shakespeare, Greek mythology, the Bible, Catholicism, the complexity of man, the simplicity of man, social class,and Irish lifestyle (to name a tiny portion of what this novel presents) without ever having to mention many of these influences by name. What it really boils down to is that this novel began a revolution in the way literature is read and written. Sounds over the top I know, but think about it. What Joyce experimented with here he later advanced in Ulysses (which is even better than A Portrait) and totally submitted to in Finnegan's Wake (of which I didn't understand a single word). His direct influence ranges from Faulkner to Proust to Nabokov. For those who are just getting into literature and may not know those names, those three are heavy hitters. Like sumo-wrestler heavy.
    The content of the novel itself reveals the inner character of Stephen Dedalus and, in turn, of James Joyce himself. As I said before, this novel is both largely biographical as well as psychological, perhaps more important in what it says about the human mind in general than what it says about the Irish mind of early 1900s Dublin. And frankly its just beatifully written. This is not Joyce's finest work (that would be Ulysses), but it is certainly one of the foundations upon which modern literature stands. And for that reason, even if you don't like Joyce's work (which is your loss to say the least) you have to respect it. To respect it is to at least read it. It's a tough style, but it's worth it. Trust me. ...more info
  • Signet Classic!
    If you're considering purchasing this book, or if it's being forced upon you and you are having a difficult time, or if you are like me and want to read and actually understand writers like Joyce, purchase the SIGNET CLASSIC edition of "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man." There is an absolutely fantastic introduction by Hugh Kenner that is, IMHO, indispensable. You can get all the SparkNotes and whatever else you want, but Kenner's intro is very concise, to the point, extremely clear and better than anything else I've ever seen as far as beginning to understand this classic.

    Plus it's less than 5 bucks!...more info
  • Splendid First Novel from James Joyce
    "A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man" is a fictionalized account of James Joyce's early life. But more importantly, it was a bold, radical departure from previous novels, since it possessed such a richly lyrical prose describing the artist's self reflection and maturation during his adolescence; perhaps it was the first important novel on self consciousness and realization published in the 20th Century. Its protagonist, Stephen Dedalus - whom we will encounter again in "Ulysses" - is none other than Joyce himself, striving to reconcile himself with the demands of his family, his faith and desire for artistic freedom. Ultimately it will be artistic freedom which wins out, as evidenced by the radical transformation of Joyce's initial, simplistic prose, to one which is truly poetic by the novel's conclusion. Set approximately around the time of the great Irish politician Parnell's death, Joyce offers fascinating insights into his early education, his relationship with the Catholic Church and his emerging sense of Irish nationalism, fueled by his admiration for Parnell. While this is not Joyce's best work of novel-length fiction, it certainly foreshadows his subsequent literary triumphs such as "Ulysses"....more info
  • On the Nature of Beauty and Life
    The perennial work of the great master of the 20th century, James Joyce, beginning his revolution in the form of how a story is told. The book shows us the adventure in growing to think for oneself, avoiding the snares of the culture one is raised in, discovering the very nature of beauty and it's relationship to the meaning of life. It gives a rememberance of sin and experience as well as the purpose of art not to provide an escape from life, but as a means for the honest expression of it.

    Some people will never like this book and think it too ponderous, but for those of us who love this book, we hold it all the more dearly in our hearts....more info
  • Joyce Truly is a Literary Giant
    I'd have to agree with the review below me. This is a tough book to get into, but more than worth it once you do. Joyce is well known for developing stream of consciousness, and this book is remarkable in that aspect. After reading this book, it is no surprise to see that Joyce is recognized as the literary giant that he is....more info
  • Somewhat Dated, But Incredibly Applicable to Modern Ireland [3][14][57]
    Good fiction uses narrative story to describe details of a character's life. Great literature does the same, but with the description, it capably details broader concepts and greater concepts.

    This book revolves around Stephen Dedalus, but really tells us about the Ireland of his time. Stephen is almost unanimously known to be the author. Joyce's depiction of his emotional and intellectual growth - preteen, teen and young man - paints a broad picture of Ireland - at least Joyce's Ireland. His Irish Catholic Ireland, where issues compound over religion, language and rite. He is confused as he questions the unquestionable -- Catholic religion's centuries-old traditions. And, his questions are eloquently asked on the pages of this novel.

    One friend of Stephen comments on this young man's realization of possible non-belief in religion: "It is a curious thing ... how your mind is supersaturated with religion in which you say you disbelieve." And, so this may accurately depict Ireland's strange and hypocritical relationship with the Roman Catholic Church.

    And, this book is chock full of Catholic quotations, recitations, and references. So much so, that my Penguin edition of this novel immensely aided me with its extensive endnotes (over 600 in total) describing the words (sometimes archaic or colloquial) and often describes people (often Irish history's leaders for or against the Catholic Church) or statements (often relating to the Bible). I highly recommend that all readers get such edition or a similar publication as the nearly 100-year gap in time and continent's division have made many passages herein obscure to modern American readers.

    As much as Stephan is confused about religion, he is confused about Ireland - not surprising as much of Ireland's confusions stem from religion. At one time, young Stephen says, "Do you know what Ireland is?. . . Ireland is the old sow that eats her farrow." Of course, this a curt response made impulsively in discussion when men are tired, inebriated, or both. But, it probably reflects what others felt, what others thought, and what others publicly proclaimed. Note: most of the other provisions regarding Ireland show pride - immense pride.

    Joyce admits Ireland had its faults. Inequitable and overly cruel torture placed upon the parochial students is described in detail. Religious zealots overstated their arguments to audiences too young to receive such extreme philosophy. Chapter III's amazingly well written speech of purgatory can only be deemed as provocative and funny. The humor comes from teenage Stephan's response: "thinking of sin" is a sin; and committing any one sin is the equivalent to committing all of the sins; and committing one sin is enough to prevent anyone from being free of purgatory. Hence, little Stephen concludes that his lustful thoughts of a girl guaranteed purgatory. He was a marked man. Then he goes to a confessional and discovers there are exceptions to the rule promulgated in the lecture. Catholicism, he discovers, is laden with exceptions to the rules. Grey lines, not black lines, define acceptable behavior. To a teenager this is perplexing, to the young man this is blasphemy.

    Incredibly insightful. Incredibly long lasting. Amazingly applicable to even today's Ireland. This book has lasted for decades for these reasons....more info
  • Highly moving coming of age story
    This is the semi-autobiographical coming of age story of Stephen Dedalus. I read it about 10 years ago when I was an undergraduate and found it fairly hard to get through, so I thought I'd give it another go. On my second reading I found I was able to relate far more closely with the protagonist and appreciate the quality of Joyce's prose. The story, which is told mainly in the third person, recounts several stages of Stephen's youth. The beginning of the book is written in almost childlike prose as it depicts Stephen's experiences as a schoolchild at a Catholic boarding school. I was able to relate to Joyce's depiction of a very precocious yet sensitive young boy, full of childlike curiosity and terrified of the harsh discipline meted out by the priests. The latter part of this chapter also contains an interesting discussion between Stephen's father and his colleagues about Parnell and Irish politics. Not being an expert on Irish history, I couldn't follow this debate as intelligently as many readers will be able to, yet through it Joyce depicted the sharp political cleavages dividing Ireland at the time.

    The next two chapters follow Stephen at a Catholic high school. He has become increasingly alienated from society and emotionally withdrawn. He also begins visiting prostitutes, which leaves him feeling disgusted with his sinful nature. Perhaps the most amazing part of the book is in chapter three, which details Stephen's religious conversion and subsequent renunciation of his faith. This chapter contains a sermon on the torments of hell which terrorizes Stephen and leads to his initial spiritual immersion. This sermon carries on for about 15 pages and is given in the most lurid, evocative prose that one can imagine. The sermon is explicitly designed to terrorize young minds and lead them to renounce their sinful ways. It really resonated with me, as I myself grew up in a conservative church where I was reminded every Sunday of the unimaginable horrors that awaited me if I did not turn my back on the sinful world. While Stephen, shaken with guilt and terror after this sermon, initially tries to immerse himself in the rites of the church, he continues to be assailed by doubts and skepticism, which ultimately lead him to renounce his faith. Joyce vividly describes the joy and freedom that Stephen feels upon freeing himself from the reins of religious doctrine and proclaiming his independence from all such confining systems of thought.

    The last part of the book shows Stephen as a university student. There were parts of this chapter that were hard for me to relate to. First, there is about a ten page section in which Stephen elaborates to a friend his theory of aesthetics. Art scholars and philosophers might find this fascinating, but it was somewhat hard for me to follow. There is also a very peripheral romantic interest that is never fully fleshed out. Joyce's ultimate aim here, though, was to depict Stephen as a highly independent young man. Stephen refuses to lend his support to the various faddish social and political movements of the day, whether it be Marxism or Irish nationalism. In the end, Stephen makes the decision to leave Ireland, finding that his artistic aspirations will never be fulfilled if he stays.

    Overall, this book clearly deserves its reputation as one of the best works of literature in the English language. Although several aspects of the story are hard to relate to for those who are either not Irish or experts on Irish history, there are also a number of universal themes that resonate more widely. First, this story can be read as a sort of free-thinker's manifesto. While it is admittedly hard at times to fully relate to Stephen (he is depicted as elitist and anti-social), many will be able to relate to his feelings of alienation and his independence of thought. Finally, one cannot properly review this work without noting Joyce's prose. Joyce reminds me of Nabokov in the sense that, although he is often longwinded, one can forgive him his longwindedness because it is simply a pleasure to read his beautiful prose. This is one of those books that contains passages that I will go back and read over and over again....more info