Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis. The times change, and we change in them. In Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen Dedalus certainly transforms over time. At the core of this modernist novel lie issues of religion, art, aesthetic, and conversion. James Joyce brilliantly constructs this Bildungsroman using a narrator who speaks as though Stephen might, and develops alongside him giving insight into his ideological journey. This voyage carts our protagonist from a life of sin, to one of religious devotion, and ultimately to a life of art. This quasi-autobiographical religious conversion proves definitive and inevitable as Stephen becomes isolated from Catholicism and must decide where his future is taking him.
[...] His conscious leads him to a confessional in which he repents of his sins and declares, past was past.” (158) At this point in the novel several things occur. First, Stephen takes the same passion that he had invested into prostitutes and converts it into a type of spiritual drive that leads him to reject all worldly pleasures, including mortifying his sense of smell, and avoiding eye contact with women. Although this attempt to become self-depriving is remarkable, Joyce underscores it severely with a dramatic change in the prose style. [...]
[...] Despite his greatest efforts to cast off his culture, he will forever be a product of his past. Though, even with these ties Stephen describes his ideal self as necessarily isolated, so that even the greatest of these influences has little effect on him at all. The last section of the novel converts to a journal form in which Stephen records various thoughts in first person. This change in narrative perspective to that of Stephen's own voice serves many purposes. [...]
[...] Father Arnell calls for a retreat to honor a saint and begins a lengthy sermon on the topic of the four last things: death, judgment, hell and heaven. This sermon draws Stephens bewildered mind in quickly and absolutely. Immediately, the guilt and fear of punishment grabs hold of him violently, and the vivid sensory descriptions of hell seize his artistic imagination. Stephen no longer hears the Father speak; rather he truly experiences the cruel flames and endless darkness of hell itself. [...]
[...] The tools that the priest used to capture his mind's eye now transform him into a priest of art. Stephen enrolls in a college and begins developing his aesthetic theory. Stephen believes that genuinely inspiring art must exist beyond the ordinary tussle of mankind. Unlike religion, art is abstract, abundant, and adaptable. Stephen muses over ideal pity and terror, rhythm and beauty, and kinetic and static emotions. As Stephen discusses his esthetics with Lynch, Joyce frequently interrupts his homily with sounds and distractions from the real word, reminding the reader that although Stephen can articulate what true beauty is; he has not yet applied it entirely. [...]
[...] Canker is a disease of plants, Cancer one of animals It would be nice to lie on the hearthrug before the fire, leaning his head upon his hands, and think on those sentences. He shivered as if he had cold slimy water next his skin.” The narrator also often describes objects as Stephen sees them, always noticing similar textures and color schemes. Although Stephen exhibits this insightful ability, he lacks, at this point in his journey, a true appreciation for it. [...]
using our reader.