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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

by James Joyce

Review of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

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         First off: I should say that this book is not those for the reader who lacks patience or seeking a griping plot. This does not have it. It's a slim volume, but it took a good few weeks to drag through it.

The writing style takes a while to get used to, if you have not read Joyce before. No speech marks, and just dashes at the beginning of dialogues, but you can quickly adapt to that. What is really confusing, however, is the way that you sometimes lose track of where in Stephen Dedalus's life you are in. Sometimes you might think he is older, but then it turns out he actually 16 (like at the time when he is at the brothel). You can also move from location to location to suddenly as well, like near the beginning when it is quite disconcerting to move from Stephen's home, and then to his school, then the next thing you know: he is ill. Also (I suspect this is due to Stephen being a litereture-version of James Joyce himself), you will end up seeing into Stephen's mind so many times, that you are not sure if the book if first-person, or third. You sometimes think you're in first-person, until you read, '...said Stephen'

However, once you have got used to Joyce (and I do recommend trying A Portrait before Ulysses) you will find what preaches to be quite rewarding. Escpecially when Stephen's father talks about the religious disruptions in Ireland, and when Stephen - near the end of the book - goes into a discussion about art and beauty (note: to understand what he is going on about, you might want to do a bit of background reading on Aristotle and Aquinas, as Stephen refers to those two a lot).

This book, in a nutshell, is a lessor version (and warmup version) of Ulysses. You need background knowledge to know what is going on, the style is somewhat confusing, there is hardly any plot, but when you are done, you feel so rewarded.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce was reviewed by Hades

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         Second book that I have tackled as part of my 30 before 30 list, and I have to say that I really struggled with this.  It took me a long time to read it and I was very glad to reach the end of the book.  Not looking forward to having to attempt Ulysses later on in the list!  I found that the story was very much lacking and what little story there was, was actually rather dull.  As such I will award the book a 2.5 out of 10 and a disappointed face :o/.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce was reviewed by 30before30

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         This book was truly a masterpiece in writing in my opinion. It's centred around the life of the main character Stephen Dedalus. It begins with him as a child in school and ends with him as a 20 year old just finished college. Throughout the book we see Stephen trying to escape the constraints of society and assert a sense of individuality in himself. Many obstacles stand in his way such as religion, family, friends, politics and love, and as he progresses we find him temporarily escape one problem only for him to confront another. Joyces style of writing is genius. These obstacles and progressions occur in order to symbolise Stephen's inability to find solace and escape in the world and in his mind. But Joyce goes further and at various points inserts symbols and hints connecting the failures with achivements at varying points in the book just to remind us there's always light at the end of the tunnel. There are many more fantastic techniques at work in this book and these combined with Joyces highlighting of societal issues at the time makes for intriguing reading; all the while your kept wondering will Stephen finally escape the labyrinth that is Dublin to find his desired place and exist in a world that has left him paralysed.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce was reviewed by Derek Monaghan


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