Masculinity and the male finding his place in society or the world play an important role in literature of this period. In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man we are confronted with a depiction of masculinity at its worst. Through the character of Stephen Dedalus, confused and unsure of where he fits in to his society, we are presented with an often uncomfortable journey of discovery and self realisation.
Stephen's life works through many stages. He leads an unsettled life and the novel takes us through many of the processes of his growing up. His life can be divided in to five phases: Ignorance, sin, religion, reason and renaissance. Throughout the novel Stephen constructs his life around various aspects of these phases. Once he discovers sin he embraces this with everything within himself. He is comforted by the fact that he can sin so much and remain seemingly undiscovered and unpunished by God: 'No part of body or soul had been maimed but a dark peace had been established between them.
The chaos in which his ardour extinguished itself was a cold indifferent knowledge of himself.' His hypocrisy makes him feel superior. He copes with his fear of God, retribution and life by pushing the boundaries to their limit; to see how far he can go before God pays attention to him.
One theme that is common in literature which addresses the idea of masculinity is the need that the male has to live in a very clearly defined world. The need to live in black and white. Both sin and religion give Stephen this clarity. To be able to classify himself as a sinner helps him to accept himself. Stephen is emotionally stunted; he reacts to his inability to deal with emotional situations by living...