Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

"A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" -- Significance of the Title College

The title of “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” has been the subject of as much speculation as the novel itself, and like all modernist writing, this title has been able to maintain its open-ended nature. Indeed, this open-endedness has posed problems for many critics. The theme of this novel concerns the development of the artist from that point in his life when he becomes conscious of the world around him, to the time when he reaches manhood, and sets off in pursuit of the goal which he has identified for himself in the course of the book. The problem is that we are not given a portrait of AN artist, but of THE artist. The choice of the general article “a” before the word “portrait” suggests the open-ended nature of the text – that it is only one of many portraits that can be painted, and that the author is only attempting to show one side of the picture, from one point of view. The reader may interpret as he wishes. The definite article “the” before “artist”, however, cannot be understood so easily. It may refer to the autobiographical element in the novel, or it may refer to the type of the artist, the form of art which he chooses to make his own. The phrase “portrait of the artist” is traditionally used in...

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