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A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man Religion

1037 words - 4 pages

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: Religion as Repression Like his protagonist, James Joyce was an Irish Catholic. He was also sent to Clongowes Wood College to board and study as a young boy. In effect the story is in part an autobiography of Joyce's own life up to the age of twenty or so (Kershner 6). In his essay A Portrait as Rebellion Norman Holland states: Because of Portrait's peculiar combination of novel and autobiography, I feel called upon to see Joyce's schoolfellows in two ways at once. They are characters in a novel, bigger than life, and they are real people like me and my school and college pals. (280) The Catholic religion is a significant and recurring theme in James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Though brought up in the church, several major events lead Stephen to defy the lessons of his Catholic school education and choose a life of his own, the life of an artist. Through his experiences with religion, Stephen Dedalus both matures and gradually discovers an identity of his own.As a young boy, religion is crucial to Stephen's life. Stephen was reared in a strict Catholic family. The demand for compliance placed on Stephen shapes his life early at Clongowes, a preparatory school run by the Jesuit order. Even as he is adhering to the principles of his Catholic school upbringing, he becomes increasingly disillusioned. Even though Joyce spoke warmly of his own experiences at Clongowes he portrays a different, almost opposite experience for Stephen (Kershner 4). Formerly above reproach or distrust, the priests become symbols of narrow-mindedness and repression in Stephen's mind. Father Dolan, in particular, whose abusive and humiliating statements along with the frequent floggings, personifies the sort of demeanor Stephen begins to associate with his Catholic teachers. Joyce himself admits that he was punished at Clongowes, however, for indiscretions that justly deserved punishment. Stephen, though, is often portrayed as being punished unjustly (Kershner 4). Stephen's self discovery highlights complaints to the rector about the actions of Father Dolan. As Stephen matures, he becomes ever more rebellious and disillusioned with religion. He begins to feel lost and forlorn. His main concern now becomes one of pleasing his friends and family. This feeling of loss and loneliness along with his hunger to be loved is what inevitably leads to Stephen's tryst with a prostitute. These sinful encounters eventually cause Stephen to feel extreme guilt and a more profound sense of loneliness.The state of affairs surrounding Stephen's life cause him to re-examine his existence. His lost faith is abruptly restored after his confession at Church Street Chapel, and he begins to lead a life nearly as pious as that of his Jesuit teachers. As his life grows towards a more devout ideal it occurs to him that he can never be perfect nor live the sinless life of the Jesuit. When he is offered a position as a priest the memories of...

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