James Joyce’s, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, serves as a psychological look into the maturation that occurs within children as they constantly absorb different elements of life. Stephen Dedalus represents what most boy experience while growing up, and his struggles and triumphs serve as an ideal example for the bildungsroman genre. Of the numerous themes within the novel, Joyce’s inclusion of vivid imagery and sensory details provide for an enhanced reader experience. It is important to note his use of imagery to mature the character of Stephen throughout the novel, and how they influence Stephen’s behavior as he explores his sexuality, struggles with accepting religion and, and attempts to understand his calling in life beyond school.
The story relayed in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, centers on Stephen Dedalus, a young Irish schoolboy in the early 20th century. Using stream of consciousness, Joyce provides his reader with a firsthand perspective into the mind of the protagonist Stephen. From the time he is a small child up until his early 20s, Stephen goes through many personality changes that mimic what any human being goes through growing up. Joyce makes Stephen’s case different by incorporating innumerable amounts of influences in his life, including Stephen’s father, omnipresent thoughts of sex, moocows, and fiery sermons condemning sinners of their wrong doings. Eventually Stephen must make a on what it is that he desires in life other than his natural impulses and the need to appease the religious portion of his psyche.
For a large part of the novel, Stephen struggles with the impulses of sexuality, and needing to delve into his innate feelings as an adolescent. His encounter with a prostitute at the conclusion of Chapter II stands as a defining choice for Stephen’s character development through the remainder of the novel. However, this action appears to contradict Stephen’s earlier feelings during the visit to his father’s alma mater where the word “Foetus” mocked “his bodily weakness and futile enthusiasms and making him loathe himself for his own mad and filthy orgies” (Joyce 96-97). The word inscribed into a desk by his father causes Stephen to find disgust in his earlier thoughts about sex, although not having involved himself in the actual act of sex. This early instance of repulsion signifies how sensitive Stephen is toward something he later readily embraced, along with realizing that he resembles the younger version of his father being that they have the same thoughts about sex at the same stage in life.
It is somewhat puzzling for why the word Foetus is the cause for Stephen’s repulsion toward sex, partly because he was extremely self-aware of the existence of sex. Furthermore, Stephen mentions that it, “shocked him to find in the outer world a trace of what he had deemed till then a brutish and individual malady of his own mind”, signaling his realization that a majority of his thoughts exist in...