Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Imagination in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Imagination is the individual’s ability to create mental images through his perception of reality. It is an indispensable artistic tool that allows humans to express themselves creatively; it separates us from other living creatures. In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen Dedalus struggles through adolescent life in order to discover his true vocation. In this novel, imagination is the invisible force that compels Stephen to take initiative in life. As the story progresses, the role of imagination is evident in Stephen’s four distinct transformations. “I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race” (Joyce 275). His imagination is the implement that allows Stephen to finally create his own conscience and, via self-understanding, finally become an artist.

Stephen’s first major transformation occurs when he confronts the rector at Clongowes Wood College. Stephen thinks it unjust that Father Dolan punished him for idleness when he was actually excused from his assignments. His determination to right the injustice against himself is only possible through his imagination. After shrinking from his cause, Stephen is emboldened: “...

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