Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Politics in Joyce's "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" College

“A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” is a “Kunstlerroman”, and the story of a young artistic aspirant in a particular social setting. That is why the political background of the novel is so important, for it provides the environment for the artist to grow up in. This political and social background therefore remains as an ever-present force in the narrative, introduced in great detail in the first chapter, and providing one of the most potent reasons for Stephen Dedalus’s voluntary exile in the fifth.

The background of the novel is the anti-colonial movement against the British in nineteenth century Ireland, which had begun with the Act of Union in 1800, making Ireland a part of the United Kingdom, and abolishing a separate Irish Parliament in Dublin. All through the century various political and social movements arose in Ireland, giving expression to the demands of the Irish for greater control of their own affairs. The Home Rule movement, headed by Charles Stewart Parnell (probably the greatest individual force at that time), is especially relevant to this novel; the Land Reform movement headed by Michael Davitt also comes into play.

The first line of the novel catapults the reader into the heated political arena of this...

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