In James Joyce's Portrait of An Artist as a Young Man, Stephen Dedalus is just that, a young, creative male living in Ireland during the twentieth century. Stephens's early philosophies are borderline hedonistic. He has a profound love for beauty, as well as pleasure. Stephen's life experiences are shaped through the people with whom he interacts. The influence of women on Stephen is important, as they affect his ideologies on religion, as well as his personal beliefs and how he approaches art. His inspirations are necessitated by awareness. In adolescence, his mother and Dante play an important role in shaping his thoughts of women. He quickly attains a romantic interest in his neighbor Eileen; although the deep underlying theme of religion pulls them apart, setting the stage for his future relationships and art. Throughout the novel Stephen must hold on to the reality of his experiences to help him build his creations. Stephen realizes that his art involves "recreating life out of life" (434). In the course of his accumulating experiences he struggles with liberating away from the institutions at the time that would avert him from embracing the realism of beauty surrounding him.
The influence of women on Stephan's experiences is shaped throughout his life. Dante Riordan is one of the first influential women on Stephen that we see in the novel. Dante is the governess to the Dedalus children. Dante's role is brief but noteworthy. She is first introduced into the dinner table conversation at the Dedalus household on Christmas. She interjects into the conversation to respond to the confutations of Mr. Dedalus and Mr. Casey about the mistreatment of the preacher's pedestal in regards to Charles Parnell, a Irish nationalist. Without speaking out of turn she is able to defend priests in that it is their obligation to educate, caution, and direct their congregation, a very predominant part of the Catholic religion. Dante's conversational style represents a literate woman with proper manners with a significant interest in religion. During this segment the reader regards the difference in social standing between opposite sexes. Women are held submissive under men and must obey their authority. The natural feminine nature must be contained and only expressed cautiously when asked. Dante's loyalty to the Catholic Church greatly affects Stephen's view of religion and politics. Dante also teaches Stephen other topics about the world. She taught him about geography on the planet and of the moon. Those teachings constructed Stephen's first concepts of his place in the world and his purpose in life. His inspirations for him to create are produced through what he sees of the outside world, much of which Dante explains. The association of inspiration is emphasized through other female characters as well as Dante.
Stephen's mother also constructs his viewpoint of women. Mrs. Dedalus is a...