Stephen Dedalus Character Analysis

Stephen Dedalus Character Analysis

  • May 11, 2022
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Stephen Dedalus is the main character of interest besides themes of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, analysis of which reveals that the writer shows his long journey from childhood to young age as an artist. He is version of James Joyce at the age of 22. Stephen is the name of the first who was martyred first in christianity belief martyr whereas Daedalus is a mythological figure, who creates wing to escape from prison of King Minos. James Joyce choses this name very carefully to promote a message.

Stephen develops himself with the passage of time; somewhere he recognises his status in the society whereas other times he thinks that he should not be part of the people who are around him. At the end of the novel, he leaves his family and decides to live alone in order to create himself the best artist. James Joyce focuses most on this character not only because he is the protagonist of the novel but also because he is the only one who matters the most. Needless to mention that James Joyce does not concentrate on other characters in the novel. Thus, their discussion has very less importance. 

Stephon Dedalus and Struggles of an Artist

It is the story of an artist who struggles for development. The writer shows that the remaining characters have been fully developed or there is no need to talk about their progress in this regard. So, the novel is all about the struggles of Stephen Dedalus; his attitude towards religion, his parents, his homeland and his freedom. Art is a God-gifted quality and an artist is an artist even from his childhood despite the fact that either he realises it or not. In the case of Stephen, he is interested in literature; he perceives things differently. Stephen thinks about the universe and tries to find his place in it; he is interested in language, nature and beauty too. Thus, the writer portrays Stephen Dedalus as an interesting character, who ultimately becomes an artist at the end of the novel. 

Knowledge of Different Languages

Stephen Dedalus focuses more on the words that people use around him. He wants to know more about them; sometimes he cringes due to the phrases that people use whereas other times he realises their importance in life. He is interested in the language, literature and poetry of different famous poets and discovers that words are just symbols that people use; real meanings are in the imagination.

James Joyce wants to portray that a person, who from his childhood imagines such things is surely an artist and he should identify his talent and develop it over time. Stephen Dedalus, being a major character, makes an analysis of different phrases that he listens to in the novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young man and notices that everything is in the imagination of a person and the meanings of words are also dependent on experiences of a person. 

Stephen struggles to learn new words every day even when he does not know their meanings. He makes false implications for them but at his young age, he acknowledges the real meanings of those words. In this way, the writer shows some unique attributes of an artist through the character of Stephen Dedalus concerning language in this novel.

Reality Vs. Imagination 

There is a strong comparison, rather an analysis, between the two worlds in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in the character of Stephen Dedalus. He tries to differentiate the world of dreams from the world of reality. Dreams or nightmares are also a kind of imagination. Thus, the writer focuses more on dreams. Stephen sees dreams of different kinds. Mostly, an artist imagines more than the common people. It is also the case with Stephen Dedalus. He reads the novel “The Count of Monte Cristo” and puts his feet in the shoes of the hero of the book. He imagines himself as the protagonist and repeats all the actions of a hero in his dreams but suddenly he realises the difference between him and the hero and abruptly comes out of it.

Stephen Dedalus is such a character who creates a report from an analysis of his dreams and then differentiates it from the reality in the novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Stephen Dedalus on many occasions remembers the days when he sees wet dreams. He also recalls the incident when he used to think about the baffling of a child; however, as time goes on, he changes his mind about life, people and religion. At a young age, wet dreams are no more; everything becomes clear to him with time and he comes closer to reality. His imagination also proves that he was creative even when he was a child, though he did not know about it. He realises that when he experiences everything after putting the world of imagination in juxtaposition to the world of reality. 

The character of Stephen Dedalus and Analysis of Epiphany in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

On many occasions in the novel, the readers witness the use of epiphany through Stephen Dedalus. The writer shows Stephen’s self-discovery and development as an artist. Stephen initially takes interest in religion and wants to be a priest. He thinks that it is a unique opportunity for him in life. He imagines the respect and love that he would receive after becoming a priest. Stephen also imagines the service that he may give to people through religion; however, suddenly he realises that a priest’s job is very much difficult. He may lose his freedom and liberation in case he becomes a priest; therefore, he does not opt to become a person who can give service to religion.

James Joyce wants to show the inner and outer world of an artist. Stephen Dedalus’s student realisation of something after acquiring it either by his experience or by his knowledge clears that James Joyce intentionally uses the technique of epiphany in the Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Analysis of the character of Stephen Dedalus in the Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man reveals that the writer develops the mind of an artist through epiphany.

Stephen Deadlus and the Theory of Aestheticism

In the late 19th century, aestheticism emerged as a unique literary technique. The European art movement centred on the doctrine that art exists only for the sake of its beauty. It was also publicised that the services of art should not be used in politics or other means. James Joyce also supports the theory of aestheticism and makes conclusions through analysis of this literary movement, for which he uses the character of Stephen Dedalus in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Stephen supports the idea that art stands alone and rejects Aristotle’s principles regarding the tragedy. He is of the view that pity and fear are two words that are used for terror. Thus, they arrest the mind, hence, they should not be used for the sake of art and art is for art’s sake. 

Stephen considers that art is the expression of beauty and the assertion of beauty should be the motive of an artist. In this regard, the following lines are mentionable.

The personality of the artist finally refines itself out of existence, impersonalises itself, so to speak. The artist, like the God of creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, parting his fingernails.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Thus, Stephen Dedalus presents this theory; however, it is James Joyce who creates his character to support the theory of objectivity and impersonality of art.

Stephen’s Self Discovery

Self-discovery is not a sudden process. It is like a revolution because it seems sudden but it is not; there are many years behind it. It is a slow process; however, one does not realise it. It is the case with Stephen Dedalus, every time he sees or imagines something he tries to discover his inner soul; the outer world forces him to see inside him; therefore, he does so. Stephen goes into the world of his inner consciousness at the moment of the baptism incident. He discovers himself at that time. Some critics are of the common opinion that Stephen discovers himself at the time when he goes to the beach. 

There was a time when Stephen used to look at girls and think of their physical beauty. But when he goes to the beach alone, he sees a girl wandering there; he does not bring any negative thoughts to his mind. He enjoys the company of ducks, birds and nature. Thus, the critics, who make an analysis of the character of Stephen Dedlaus believe that he discovers himself even before the beach incident. 

Analysis of James Joyce as Stephen Dedalus Character in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

The novel tells the story of an artist, whose name is Stephen Dedalus but it is also worth mentioning that Stephen Dedalus is the second name of James Joyce, though not in reality. The writer talks about Stephen but every time he mentions him, he talks about himself. The journey of an artist is the journey of James Joyce. It is believed that A Portrait of the Artist is an analysis of the autobiography of James Joyce in the guise of the character of Stephen Dedalus.

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