Throughout the story A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce we see Stephen's struggle with Catholicism, sin and his destiny. In Stephen's life, which almost mirrors Joyce's, Catholicism is a big part but it fades and in it's place comes art. The title alone tells us that he is an artist not that he is Catholic. It is Joyce's priority to tell us about himself as an artist and how he became to be one, by rejecting Catholicism.
Just like most Irish folk, Stephen Dedalus is a devout Catholic. Catholicism dominates Stephen's life and completely controls his emotions, thoughts and actions. From an early age Stephen was in the grasp of Catholicism. While attending Clongowes Wood College Stephen prays before he goes to bed “so that he might not go to hell when he [dies].”(15) Even after the praying, just to go to sleep he would have to console himself saying “he would not go to hell when he died; and the shaking would stop.”(15) To be this fearful as a child because of religion would be a substantial reason to move away from it. Stephen was probably eight years old at this time and for a child, this level of fear is unreasonable and possibly hurtful to his mental health.
Again in Clongowes Wood College Stephen is abused by one of the Fathers. Father Dolan comes into class one day and hits Fleming, one of Stephen's classmates, with the pandybat six times on each hand. After berating and beating Fleming, Father Dolan notices Stephen is not doing his work. Father Arnall who is teaching the class tells Father Dolan that he is excused because his glasses broke. Father Dolan doesn't believe this and scolds Stephen saying “Lazy little schemer. I see schemer in your face....Lazy idle little loafer.”(44) He then hits Stephen with the pandybat and Stephen feels “a hot burning stinging tingling blow like the loud crack of a broken stick [which makes] his trembling hand crumple together like a leaf in the fire.”(44) This is obviously not an enjoyable experience for Stephen as not only does he experience immense physical pain but emotional pain as well. We hear Stephen's suffering as he describes this moment in great detail. According to him and his friends it was completely uncalled for as he was excused by Father Arnall and did not have to do the classwork but he still received unjust punishment. Both of these two experiences at a young age at Clongowes Wood College give Stephen a sour taste at an early age, planting the seed in him to ultimately rejects Catholicism and accept art instead.
When Stephen reaches the age of 16 he has his first taste of sin. Stephen is in “Nighttown”(88) and engages in sexual activity with a...