James Joyce reflective on religion

Essay by annieUniversity, Master'sA+, October 1996

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Religion is an important and recurring theme in James Joyce's A

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Through his experiences with

religion, Stephen Dedalus both matures and progressively becomes more

individualistic as he grows. Though reared in a Catholic school, several

key events lead Stephen to throw off the yoke of conformity and choose

his own life, the life of an artist.

Religion is central to the life of Stephen Dedalus the child. He was

reared in a strict, if not harmonious, Catholic family. The severity of

his parents, trying to raise him to be a good Catholic man, is evidenced

by statements such as, 'Pull out his eyes/ Apologise/ Apologise/ Pull

out his eyes.' This strict conformity shapes Stephen's life early in

boarding school. Even as he is following the precepts of his Catholic

school, however, a disillusionment becomes evident in his thoughts. The

priests, originally above criticism or doubt in Stephen's mind, become

symbols of intolerance.

Chief to these thoughts is Father Dolan, whose

statements such as, 'Lazy little schemer. I see schemer in your face,'

exemplify the type of attitude Stephen begins to associate with his

Catholic teachers. By the end of Chapter One, Stephen's individualism

and lack of tolerance for disrespect become evident when he complains to

the rector about the actions of Father Dolan. His confused attitude is

clearly displayed by the end of the chapter when he says, 'He was happy

and free: but he would not be anyway proud with Father Dolan. He would

be very kind and obedient: and he wished that he could do something kind

for him to show him that he was not proud.' Stephen still has respect

for his priests, but he has lost his blind sense of acceptance.

As Stephen grows, he slowly but inexorably...