A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Summary

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce, the main character, Stephen Dedalus has a life long desire to find a father figure. Not finding it within his own home he is forced to look out among the other men who play intricate roles in his life. Some of the men that Stephen looks to as father figures include; his dad, the dean of his school, the Jesuit priest of the retreat, his friend Cranly, and Daedelus of a Greek mythology. Again and again Stephen is faced with the disappointment of a potential father figure letting him down.

It is not until all others have failed him that he finds a father figure that fulfills his life. Throughout Stephen’s life he and his father grow apart. As a child Stephen adores his father. Stephen remembers the story his father use to tell him about the moocow (1). Stephen’s memory of this story shows he put complete focus into his father whenever his father was around. Stephen’s father seems gentle and benevolent when he puts the sauce on Stephen’s plate after everyone else denies the sauce (19). As Stephen gets older he loses his bond with his father.

Stephen believes his father is in a lot of trouble. Before Stephen’s family moves to Dublin he hears his father tell his uncle that he has enemies and some sort of fight is going to happen (45). This news puts a lot of pressure of Stephen and it makes Stephen pull away from his father. Stephen feels that the information that he learned makes him a part of the fight (45). Stephen’s bonds breaks even more when his father makes fun of him. Stephen’s father talked to the dean from Stephen’s school and learned that Stephen made a huge deal out of getting pandied (50).

When Stephen learns they laughed about it he become very ashamed and he starts to dislike his father (50). As Stephen matures his father means less and less to him. Stephen feels ashamed of his father’s drinking so he tries to avoid the reality of the situation (65). Stephen begins to become ashamed of all of the things his father does (67). Stephen feels his father has failed him in being a role model to him. Stephen’s dad fails Stephen in the role of a father figure. This leads Stephen to look for a father figure outside of his family.

Throughout his life Stephen looks to some of the religious leaders as father figures. Those father figures include the rector of his school and the Jesuit priest from the retreat. The rector of Stephen’s school is looked to as a father figure. Stephen believes his is of good intelligence and is not judgmental. After Stephen is pandied for no reason, Stephen looks to the Rector (36). Stephen believes he has been wronged and is very mad that Father Arnell did not stand up for him (35). Stephen shows great courage when he goes up to the rector’s room to complain about Father Dolan’s pandying.

All of his fellow classmates are cheering him on to talk to the rector (36). At the beginning of Stephen and the rector’s conversation the rector show great care for Stephen. The rector just listens to Stephen and the problem he is having (38). When the rector starts to deny Father Dolan’s mistake Stephen becomes a little frustrated (39). The rector sees this frustration and tells Stephen he will talk to Father Dolan the next day (39). Stephen’s view of the rector as a father figure starts to change after the confrontation.

The Rector really fails Stephen when Stephen learns that the Rector and Father Dolan have been talking about him, especially when he hears they laughed about him (50). Another father figure of Stephen’s fails. Even though the rector fails Stephen he provided some philosophy to Stephen’s life. The Jesuit priest from the retreat also provides a father figure to Stephen for a short period of time. The Jesuit priest puts fear into Stephen. During the three day retreat Stephen is told all of the bad things that sins do in your life (77).

The Jesuit priest makes Stephen long for direction and he hopes he can live a sinless life after the retreat (103). When Stephen tries to live a sin free life he doubts himself that he is not completely redeemed (109). Even though the Jesuit priest scares Stephen into religion he fails Stephen as a father figure. Stephen feels he cannot trust the Jesuit, so he goes to a private church to pray (104). The religious leaders fail Stephen in giving him the father figure he is searching for. Stephen also looks to Cranly, his friend, in college as a father figure.

Cranly gives Stephen advice on life and helps Stephen in choices. Cranly provides Stephen with philosophy in his attempt to be a father figure to Stephen. Stephen really likes Cranly (128). Stephen talks about remembering Cranly by his face and not what the rest of him looks like (128). Stephen looks to Cranly for help about a problem he is having. Stephen’s mom wants him to go to the Easter service, but Stephen does not feel the religious faith he once felt (167). Cranly tells Stephen he should go because a mother’s love is more important than Stephen’s religious doubts (167).

Stephen and Cranly’s acquaintance ends when Stephen says his is going to leave the country to explore his artistic ability (169). Cranly warns him this may be the wrong choice, but Stephen ignores him. Cranly fails Stephen as a father figure. Stephen does not agree with Cranly in the end and that makes Stephen’s idea of Cranly as a father figure disappears. The one person that successfully provides Stephen a father figure is Daedelus from Greek mythology. Daedelus provides Stephen with inspiration to be a better person and to express his artistic ability (124).

Even though Daedelus was not a successful father figure to his son Icarus, Stephen still feels that Daedelus is the prefect father figure. Since Daedelus is just in Stephen’s mind, Stephen is his own father. When Stephen leaves Ireland he become his own role model in that he is Daedelus in his mind and he is not leaving anything important behind (156). Stephen puts a lot of faith into Daedelus. In Stephen’s journal entry on April 27 he calls Daedelus the great creator; which also refers to Stephen being a great creator because Daedelus is in Stephen’s mind (185).

Daedelus is the only man that provides Stephen with a father figure. Daedelus is Stephen’s perfect father in his mind. Stephen’s search for a father figure is throughout A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Even though Stephen takes a long time to find his perfect father figure, he does. Stephen searched his whole life for a father figure and then he realizes he is his own father and he is the only thing he needs. The father figures are a very important idea in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

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