Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Boy Takes Flight

A caterpillar must crawl, inch by inch, across the earth before it can mature, grow wings, and soar beautifully above the land in which it was born. So too, in James Joyce's A Portrait Of The Artist as a Young Man, must the central character, Stephen Dedalus, live a terrestrial life as that young man before he can take the skyward route of the artist. As the novel is in most respects autobiographical, the story recounts the rising (and successive falling, rising, falling) of James Joyce as a boy growing up in Ireland. Of significant interest, though, are the parallels that exist between the Greek myth of Daedalus (from which Stephen gets his surname), Stephen's own tale, and the political and social states of Ireland. All three face a conflict where being land-locked prevents them from their goal of freedom, and must make a change, or metamorphosis, in order to achieve that goal.

In Ovid's Metamorphoses, a man named Daedalus, an exile from Athens and a masterful craftsman, is imprisoned in the Labyrinth, a giant maze that he himself designed for Minos, the King of Crete. The Minotaur--a monster with half the body of a man, and half the body of a bull--ruled over this Labyrinth at one time. Understanding how wandering...

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