A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Psychological Analysis

Psychological Analysis

It will be pointed out some main psychological features of this character that will further help the reader create and understand the complex teenager that is Stephen. From the very beginning, Stephen, possessing an undeniably aloof personality, himself admits that he is in some way different from others. He notes that is “hardly of the one blood” (Joyce, 2008, p.75) with his family, indicating that his life is filled with isolation, a sense of insecurity and growing independence.

At first, as suggested by Foley (2008), while indulging his family’s wishes, appeasing the religious ideals of the community and church and trying to fit in, Stephen also tries to identify himself as an individual and goes through various stages. 

“…..constant voices of his father and of his masters, urging him to be a good catholic above all things….When the gymnasium had been opened he had heard another voice urging him to be strong and manly and healthy and when the movement towards the national revival had begun to be felt in college yet another voice had bidden him to be true to his country and help to raise up her language and tradition” (Joyce, 2008, p.65).

The pressure from expectations gradually becomes a burden and his soul search finally results in art a mea of breaking the cage. To Stephen art was nevertheless a way of liberating his soul by fulfilling his hunger for meaning not with what was imposed upon him by others but by something originating from inside himself. Stephen‘s path toward becoming an artist is seen at every step while going through the novel. His first act of courage, independence and rebellion is when he protests his palm-whipping. Later on, he would also commit heresy when writing a school essay and reject priesthood. The growing gap between him and his family, especially his father is ever more obvious as time passes.

“Old father, old article, stand me now and ever in good stead.” James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artistic as a Young man” (1916)

Adolescent Psyche (Problems, Challenges and Constraints)

Stephen has experienced severe traumas in the early course of their lives. Namely repeated financial troubles which Stephen was a witness of and the deep divide over the question of religion and patriotism within his own family. It can be observed that Stephen‘s relations with his siblings are rarely mentioned and subsided, irrelevant to the overall story and formation of the artist. Stephen in times of stress and sorrow only occasionally relishes in the memories of his childhood, such as his friendship with a boy named Aubrey Mills or eating slim Jim out for his pocket cap. Stephen is experiencing religious, national and pressure from his family.

In an other opinion:

An adolescent individual will always be forced with multiple form of expectations and regardless of whether they are coming from the family, schools or society, it is the way these teenagers deal with what is expected of them with their own strength, mental potency and emotional capacity and deciding whether they are going to fulfill these expectations or not that will define them as a person later on, as opposed to the expectations themselves.

Personal and Social Manifestations

Joyce consumes alcohol; and uses foul language often, depicting some of the negative sides of adolescence and the temptations it brings along. Stephen, on the other hand, does not fall under these temptations or the pressure of conformity, but rather commits sins such as gluttony. Sex represents an important part of lives of this two teenager- Stephen Dedalus felt that “his childhood was dead or lost and with it nothing but a cold and cruel loveless lust” (Joyce, 2008, p.73)

Remained within his soul. He also believed that out of lust, all other sins originate easily. Lust and love for aesthetic beauty combined, however, lead him to numerous encounters with young prostitutes of Dublin. What can be noticed in Stephen‘s behavior is that through isolated, he is actually trying to protect himself even through he, like everyone else needs human contact and compassion. Of course, the boy had that “special someone” present in his live- Stephen  on the other hand , also idolizing the image of Emma , a girl who he has never actually met , through still considered her to be the temple of beauty and a symbol of femininity finds himself ashamed and daunted by the thoughts of his own teenage fantasies:

“If she knew to what his mind had subjected her or how brute- like lust had torn and trampled upon her innocence! Was that boyish love? Was that chivalry? Was that poetry? The sordid details of his orgies shrank under his very nostrils” (Joyce, 2008, p.79).

It must, however, be note that the contradictions of his actions and sins against his position and role in the society did not seem to bother him at times. It can be concluded that traumatic experiences, unreasonable expectations and the lack of support are just some of the burdens halting a normal development of an individual during his or her teenage years. The result of these factors can vary from some of the negative, above mentioned perpetual circle of awkwardness and discomfort.

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