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Like much of James Joyce's work, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a fictional re-creation of the Irish writer's own life and early environment. The experiences of the novel's young hero, Stephen Dedalus, unfold in astonishingly vivid scenes that seem freshly recalled from life and provide a powerful portrait of the coming of age of a young man of unusual intelligence, sensitivity, and character.
The interest of the novel is deepened by Joyce's telling portrayals of an Irish upbringing and schooling, the Catholic Church and its priesthood, Parnell and Irish politics, encounters with the conflicting roles of art and morality (problems that would follow Joyce throughout his life), sexual experimentation and its aftermath, and the decision to leave Ireland.
Rich in details that offer vital insights into Joyce's art, this masterpiece of semiautobiographical fiction remains essential reading in any program of study in modern literature.