A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man | Study Guide

James Joyce

Get the eBook on Amazon to study offline.

Buy on Amazon Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Study Guide." Course Hero. 27 Feb. 2017. Web. 3 Oct. 2022. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Portrait-of-the-Artist-as-a-Young-Man/>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2017, February 27). A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved October 3, 2022, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Portrait-of-the-Artist-as-a-Young-Man/

In text

(Course Hero, 2017)



Course Hero. "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Study Guide." February 27, 2017. Accessed October 3, 2022. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Portrait-of-the-Artist-as-a-Young-Man/.


Course Hero, "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Study Guide," February 27, 2017, accessed October 3, 2022, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Portrait-of-the-Artist-as-a-Young-Man/.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man | Quotes


Stephen knelt down quickly pressing his beaten hands to his sides. To think of them beaten and swollen with pain all in a moment made him feel so sorry for them as if they were not his own but someone else's that he felt sorry for.

Narrator, Chapter 1

Stephen's response to his suffering provides detail about his artistic sensibility. Rather than feeling his own pain as it occurs, Stephen imagines what another's suffering might be like—an early indication of his ability to distance himself for the sake of observation.


In the soft grey silence he could hear the bump of the balls: and ... the cricket bats: pick, pack, pock, puck: like drops of water in a fountain falling softly in the brimming bowl.

Narrator, Chapter 1

Two images merge here: one of sport and one of religion. Stephen's mind merges the sound of others playing football with the sound of water falling, perhaps into the baptismal bowl, as if playing sports were a similar sort of introduction into widespread faith.


The ambition which he felt astir at times in the darkness of his soul sought no outlet.

Narrator, Chapter 2

This is a description of Stephen's artistic impulses. As a younger person he experiences them as a form of longing. He does not necessarily have the discipline to channel them into work.


He wanted to meet in the real world the unsubstantial image which his soul so constantly beheld.

Narrator, Chapter 2

Stephen's imagination is strong; in his mind he has already met the object of his affections many times. His desire to meet this person in real life shows he is developing and maturing, aware that love cannot live only in the imagination.


The growth and knowledge of two years of boyhood stood between then and now, forbidding such an outlet: and all day the stream of gloomy tenderness within him had started forth and returned upon itself ... wearying him.

Narrator, Chapter 2

At this point Stephen wishes for a more mature sort of love. His prior romantic feelings have been unrequited crushes. Now any sense that he might not realize his passions makes him highly frustrated.


Pride and hope and desire like crushed herbs in his heart sent up vapors of maddening incense before the eyes of his mind. He strode down the hill amid the tumult of sudden-risen vapors of wounded pride and fallen hope and baffled desire.

Stephen Dedalus, Chapter 2

Joyce memorably captures Stephen's passion and self-absorption here. Stephen is feeling deeply wounded over his potentially spurned love. At the moment his hurt pride is all he can focus on; his senses and other instincts are completely clouded by it.


His mind seemed older than theirs: it shone coldly on their strifes and happiness and regrets like a moon upon a younger earth.

Stephen Dedalus, Chapter 2

Stephen typically feels set apart from others, either because they cast him out socially or because his thoughts are on a separate plane. In this instance Stephen feels more mature than his peers, dismissing their concerns as childish and not worthy of his attention.


A cold lucid indifference reigned in his soul.

Stephen Dedalus, Chapter 3

Stephen is beginning to detach himself from the cycle of sin, guilt, and repression that previously haunted him in his religious pursuits when the urge to sleep with prostitutes contradicted his Catholic morality. This detachment ultimately will lead to his denial of the Catholic faith and the priesthood.


He was destined to learn his own wisdom apart from others or to learn the wisdom of others himself wandering among the snares of the world.

Stephen Dedalus, Chapter 4

Stephen realizes his mind, soul, and life always will be shaped independently of others. He always will be the driving force behind his own development; thus he will always be a little different from others.


Or was it that, being as weak of sight as he was shy of mind, he drew less pleasure from the reflection of the glowing sensible world through the prism of a language ... than from the contemplation of an inner world of individual emotions mirrored perfectly in a lucid supple periodic prose?

Stephen Dedalus, Chapter 4

As Stephen thinks about creating artistic works, he finds he is less interested in making the world seem beautiful with vivid, animated language than he is in reflecting it accurately. He wants to write prose that reflects an inner structure as it reveals itself to him, delaying the full impact until the "periodic prose," or end.


Where was his boyhood now? Where was the soul that had hung back from her destiny, to brood alone upon the shame of her wounds and in her house of squalor and subterfuge to queen it in faded cerements and in wreaths that withered at the touch?

Stephen Dedalus, Chapter 4

Stephen looks back at his earlier self, at his earlier beliefs, and wonders where his religious aspirations have gone. Viewed from his new mature perspective, they seem to him utterly without vitality.


When the soul of a man is born in this country there are nets 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.

Stephen Dedalus, Chapter 5

Stephen believes Irish citizens have no freedom of any kind. Irish society, with its intertwining of church and state, seems to him designed to hold people back, and Stephen is expressing his determination to preserve his personal freedom.


The artist, like the God of creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails.

Stephen Dedalus, Chapter 5

Stephen presents his vision of an aesthetic in which the artwork results from tremendous craft but seems effortless and bears no mark of the artist's personality. This is not the same as saying the work is cold or without character; Joyce believes modernist work has to rise above confessional or merely narrative impulses.


He had told himself bitterly as he walked through the streets that she was a figure of the womanhood of her country, a bat-like soul waking to the consciousness of itself in darkness and secrecy and loneliness.

Stephen Dedalus, Chapter 5

Stephen expresses his rage over unrequited affection, but he inadvertently expresses his complex and conflicting attitude toward women as well. Stephen considers the subject of his outburst representative of female identity in Ireland.


Welcome, O life, I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.

Stephen Dedalus, Chapter 5

Stephen sets a twofold mission for himself. Not only will he immerse himself in the world around him and make its details and impressions the subject of his work, but he also will create, through the heat of his imagination, a new perspective for the Irish.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!