A Portrait of the Artist as a Yong Man Report (Assessment)

December 3, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Feb 5th, 2019


“A Portrait of the Artist as a Yong Man” by James Joyce has several important themes that relate to a person’s individuality, its natural development and conscious evolution of the personality and understanding.

One of the motifs is the defiance of religion and the moral understanding of the world. Stephen does understand that he is not only breaking religious codes, but also does damage to his morality. Every time he engages in the services of prostitutes, he chooses to forget about religion.

This is a deeper theme where a person holds back on their morals, only to redeem themselves later. In time, he understands that he must live a life by ethical and moral criteria, embracing all that has been given to people. This clearly illustrates the two extremes of his personality. One is completely disobedient to any social regulations while the other is pure, and wants to lead a life free of sin (Joyce, 2011).

Another motif pertains to Stephen wanting to become an artist and choosing isolation as one of the necessary steps towards his goal. From one perspective, he leaves everything behind to pursue own dreams, and thinks it will make him a better artist.

From another, he understands that his community and family have made him who he is, and they will always be a part of his inner world and understanding. He is shown to be appreciative of the knowledge he has received, thus he plans to give back to the community in a form of his art (Wollaeger, 2003).

A rather crucial motif is the development of the individuality and understanding of the surrounding world. At the beginning, Stephen is described as a child who is not fully aware of the world. The words and phrases that are used qualify as simplistic and naive. It is as if he is a distant observer of the surrounding world, and does not really participate in its seriousness.

Later, when he become a teenager, his thoughts are more defined and understanding. But still, he is very much devoted to the church, letting the rules of society and religion to define his comprehension of life. In the end, he becomes a fully reasonable person. He attends the university, and is shown to have reached great potential in his logical thinking, as well as emotional understanding of own character and people (Attridge, 1990).

Music and singing are another major motif of the novel. It is made to represent the way people escape the harsh reality of the world, and better their mood. Stephen appreciates music and singing because it is a part of the language that might seem the same but is quite different.

It touches his inner parts of the soul, and sets the course for a life filled with kindness and emotion. Even when he hears a woman singing, he feels at peace, and sets his goals on becoming an artist. It is made clear how the power of a song and music can help anyone to set their mind on personal dreams and try everything to achieve them. The same can be said about the prayers and religious singing. Stephen feels the power of a song when he visits the church, and the phrases become embedded in his mind for the rest of his life (Bloom, 2009).

The novel touches upon several important divisions of a person’s life. All are key in the development of a healthy personality, especially an artist. It is made obvious that everyone is an artist at heart; it just takes time to discover which particular one.


Attridge, D. (1990). The Cambridge Companion to James Joyce. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Bloom, H. (2009). James Joyce. New York, NY: Infobase Publishing.

Joyce, J. (2011). A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man. London, UK: Interactive Media.

Wollaeger, M. (2003). James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: A Casebook. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

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