Just a girl obsessed with books and movies sharing her thoughts.

The Portrait of The Artist as A Young Man by James Joyce

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This is my second novel by James Joyce and definitely a better read than The Dubliners (sorry y’all). The novel caught my attention in two ways: first, the title which is strangely similar to the Picture of Dorian Gray (in French the translation is The Portrait of Dorian Gray) and second, because the size of the book is not as intimidating as Ulysses. And so, I thought to myself, this would be a good introductory novel to James Joyce. And thank god, it was!

“Her lips touched his brain as they touched his lips, as though they were a vehicle of some vague speech and between them he felt an unknown and timid pleasure, darker than the swoon of sin, softer than sound or odor.”

James Joyce

Now, you will find this review heavily interpreted in a post-modern way and that is because of (or thanks to) my fiancé. The word postmodern has been in his mind for a long time and therefore everytime we stumbled upon a novel or a movie, we always try to guess if it’s considered postmodern and this book is definitely fitting.

The book follows the journey of Stephen as he’s trying to deal with his artistic self, finding a place to fit in a society where art is not always praised nor appreciated. Throughout the book, the reader witnesses a shatter of self through destruction, debauchery and sex. As much as I enjoy reading this book as a work of fiction, I can’t help but shake the feeling of the autobiography. As if in the title itselft, James Joyce is hinting us that it’ll be about himself, the artist.

But my favourite thing is that James Joyce wrote this book in a manner to express his love for words. That’s how I interpret it anyways. The discussions and parodies of debates between the different aesthetics, the real deep meaning of philosophy all of those in vain, or only a mere excuse to use beautiful words, to give a sense to them. And that is something I understand, but that is something I seek in literary works. I seek beautiful words, how they enticed with each other.

(c) Trang Photography

James Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” and Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, they are two classics of English literature that explore the themes of identity, morality, and art. While they were written in different times and have different styles, they share some striking similarities in their themes that make for an interesting comparison.

I can’t help commenting on these because I loved the Picture of Dorian Gray. Indeed, both novels deal with the idea of self-expression and the consequences that come with it. In “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” Stephen Dedalus struggles to reconcile his artistic ambitions with the expectations of his family, religion, and society. He faces intense scrutiny and criticism for his work, and his quest for self-expression is fraught with tension and conflict.

In “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” Dorian expresses himself in a more narcissistic way. He becomes obsessed with his own beauty and seeks to express it in every way possible, including through his portrait. But as he indulges his desires and becomes more and more selfish, the portrait begins to reflect the true ugliness of his soul.

But the biggest difference is their prose: Joyce’s prose is dense and complex, full of shifting perspectives, stream-of-consciousness narrative, and unconventional syntax. Wilde’s language, on the other hand, is more polished and witty, with a keen eye for satire and social commentary.

(c) Trang Photography


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