Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Symbolism in "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" College

The stream-of-consciousness novel is a twentieth-century innovation, which aims to depict the totality of experience through the human consciousness. This necessarily means a retreat from the direct portrayal of social interactions, and a reduction of the outside world to a mere object of the subjective awareness of the hero. Unlike the narration of objective circumstances, this individual awareness is shapeless and un-dramatic, and is unable to contribute its own form and order to the novel. This form and order must necessarily be imposed by the novelist, because the impression of an unconnected stream of thoughts which this kind of novel aims to produce must have an artistic unity, which is an indispensable necessity in any artistic creation. The most important device used by the stream-of-conscious novelist for attaining such unity is the employment of a system of symbols, which connects the diverse threads into an integrated whole, and imposes a thematic unity to the unconnected strands of thought.

James Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” is not the classic stream-of-consciousness novel, as is his “Ulysses” or “Finnegan’s Wake”, but the system of symbols on which it is developed is as important as in the other...

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