A POTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN AN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL NOVEL
SUBJECT: MODERN FICTIONASSIGNMENT: A POTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS AYOUNG MAN AN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL NOVELDATE: 30 OCT, 2012Auto biographical novel is a significant genre of literature. It is a kind of novelin which the author or narrator records or narrates his own experiences of lifeby adding fictional elements. In this novel character, themes and incidents aretaking from author’s real life; but they are presented in exaggerated manner.Thus presentation of real life experiences in a modified or exaggerated form iscalled an auto biographical novel.A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a semi-autobiographical novel aboutthe education of a young Irishman, Stephen Dedalus, whose background hasmuch in common with Joyce’s. As far as its autobiographical elements areconcerned it can be seen as a ‘Bildungsroman’ which describes the youthfuldevelopment of the central character and as ‘aesthetic autobiography’ or‘kunstlerroman’(German, meaning a novel about an artist) .Joyce and Stephen almost merge but quite often a distance is kept though it isnever too great. This kind of management of distance allows Joyce to bringirony also in play at places but even that is never allowed to become too hard-hitting. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man continues to be regarded as acentral text of early twentieth century modernism.A Portrait of The Artist As a Young Man is based on a literal transcript of thefirst twenty years of Joyce’s life. If anything, it is more candid than otherautobiographies. It is distinguished from them by its emphasis on theemotional and intellectual adventures of its protagonist. Joyce’s own life had adirect bearing on A Portrait. Literally A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mancovers the childhood and adolescence of Stephen Dedalus.We may deal with the title of this novel. As the phrase ‘Portrait of the Artist’hints at the self-portraiture of Joyce, the other phrase ‘as a young man’ hintsat it universal aspects or generalization. Stephen is young Joyce, “purified inand projected from the human imagination’ of the developed artist who must,
in the words of Stephen, “try slowly and humbly and constantly to express, topress out again, from the gross earth or what it brings forth, from sound andshape and colour which are the prison gates of our soul, an image of thebeauty we have come to understand”. Thus Joyce uses his personal life as aframework for his novel but is free to revise his biography for artistic purposesor remodeled it, which can assert the growth of ‘artist’.Novel has some clear and obvious autobiographical elements. James Joyce(1882-1941), like the novels central figure Stephen Dedalus, was born in aDublin-based Irish Catholic family which in his early years was well off. LikeStephen in the novel, Joyce attended the elite Jesuit Clongowes Woodschool, and later Belvedere, and like Stephen he studied Arts subjects atUniversity College Dublin.At the center of the story is Stephen’s rejection of his Roman Catholicupbringing and his growing confidence as a writer. Joyce’s upbringing andeducation had much in common with that of the fictional Stephen Dedalus in APortrait of the Artist as a Young Man.The religious training he received in the Jesuit schools also shaped Joyce,giving him first a faith to believe in and then a weight to rebel against. LikeStephen, he was for a time devoutly religious- then found that other attractionsprevailed.The conflict between politics and religion very much influenced Joyce. On oneside, there was Dante with her strong faith in the Catholic Church. On theother side was his fathers staunch nationalism. Fictional character Stephenalso experiences the same situation. The conflict between religion and politicsin Joyces house appears at the Christmas dinner where Mr. Casey retortsDante by asking, in reference to Parnell, "Are we not to follow the man thatwas born to lead us? _ a traitor to his country! replied Dante. A traitor, anadulterer! The priests were right to abandon him.” Since Joyces father used towork for Parnell, Joyce was constantly exposed to his name, just as Stephenkeeps hearing about Parnell in section one. Joyce was extremely receptive tothe image of Parnell.In a novel, we are essentially given a window into Stephen’s consciousness,
and the whole world is unveiled to us through that single aperture. Thenarrative prose follows and reflects the stages of Stephen’s intellectualdevelopment, whether imitating the childlike simplicity of his earliest memoriesor the thrilling awareness of his artistic awakening. It swoops when Stephen ishigh; it crashes when he is brought low. It congeals in the murky muddle of aJesuit lecture, and it skips and stutters and swirls when chasing the thoughtsof an awakening poet. Like Stephen, it can be beautiful and bombastic, wittyand self-pitying.James Joyce, like Stephen, considered and rejected a career as a Jesuitpriest. But Stephen Dedalus is an artistic creation, and it would be naive tobelieve that everything he thinks, feels, and does reflects similar elements inJoyces own life.Further there are other aspects of Joyce’s life that find more or less a directecho in the novel. Alike Joyce Stephen too shares a large family. The family’spoverty and its frequent changes of house both happen in Joyce and Stephen.Like Stephen, Joyce had early experiences with prostitutes during his teenageyears and struggled with questions of faith. Like Stephen, Joyce was the sonof a religious mother and a financially inept father. Like Stephen, Joyce wasthe eldest of ten children and received his education at Jesuit schools. LikeStephen, Joyce left Ireland to pursue the life of a poet and writer. Joyce beganworking on the stories that formed the foundation of the novel as early as1903, after the death of his mother. Previous to the publication of Portrait,Joyce had published several stories under the pseudonym "StephenDedalus."Stephens thoughts, associations, feelings, and language (both cerebral andverbal) serve as the primary vehicles by which the reader shares with Stephenthe pain and pleasures of adolescence, as well as the exhilaratingexperiences of intellectual, sexual, and spiritual discoveries which portraysJames feelings at his times.All the features of Modernism influenced James greatly. Living in a society ofsuch problems and issues; his novel also throws light on these circumstancesand all these play a significant part in making this novel autobiographical.Joyces novel reflects the various literary influences to which he was exposed,
while forming a fictionalized autobiography of the author. When consideringJoyces life in connection to Portrait, the parallels between Stephen and Joycebecome transparent. This connection allows a closer observation of the novelto discover the factors that influenced the writer.In conclusion, Stephen is a fictional representation of Joyces art. Stephenexists, as does the novel, as an example of the authors "handiwork," behindwhich Joyce is "invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent . . ." and,probably if he had his way in the matter, is still standing concealedsomewhere, "paring his nails."