The History Boys
Growing Up in 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man' and 'The History Boys'
Joyce’s and Bennett’s writing have become synonymous with the arduous process of becoming an adult, and, despite the large gulf in time between their works’ publication, use some similar techniques to describe the process. However, Bennett’s ‘The History Boys’ focuses primarily on educational and partially sexual development of students, while ‘Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’ concerns the spiritual and moral growth of one protagonist, Stephen Dedalus. The differences between these works emerge especially in concepts of ‘baptisms of fire’ and ‘rites of passage’, both of which prove integral to the development of the authors’ themes. Both of these terms have seemingly ambiguous connotations and are often subject to misinterpretation, particularly in the case of the latter. They have nonetheless been granted simple definitions: for the former, “a painful new undertaking or experience” and for the latter, “a ritual or event marking a stage of a person’s advance through life.” These definitions, despite their euphemistic aura, are undoubtedly applicable to the two pieces and are typical of the bildungsroman genre, to which the two pieces, arguably, belong; but are dealt with in different ways by the two authors.
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