Essay on Kinship in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

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Search for Kinship in Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

At the heart of James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man lies Stephen Dedalus, a sensitive young man concerned with discovering his purpose in life. Convinced that his lack of kinship or community with others is a shortcoming that he must correct, Stephen, who is modeled after Joyce, endeavors to fully realize himself by attempting to create a forced kinship with others. He tries many methods in hopes of achieving this sense of belonging, including the visiting of prostitutes and nearly joining the clergy. However, it is not until Stephen realizes, as Joyce did, that his true calling is that of the artist that he becomes free of his unrelenting,
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He closed his eyes, surrendering himself to her, body and mind, conscious of nothing in the world but the dark pressure of her softly parting lips. They pressed upon his brain as upon his lips as though they were the vehicle of a vague speech; and between them he felt an unknown and timid pressure, darker than the swoon of sin, softer than sound or odour." (Joyce, 353) This passage chronicles Stephen’s first sexual encounter, a visit with a prostitute. The encounter comes as Stephen’s intense feelings of spiritual solitude are reaching a peak; so much so that his "blood was in revolt". (Joyce, 351) As a result of this revolt, Stephen goes in search of the immediate contact with others that he has lacked, and finds it in what he recognizes as sin. His wish to "sin with another of his kind, to force another being to sin with him and to exult with her in sin" (Joyce, 351) goes well beyond the lustful urges of young men; the true lust here is lust for companionship and an outlet to escape his torturous solitude.

From the beginning of the encounter Joyce makes it clear that while Stephen believes that he has found a remedy to his problems in sin, the truth is that this is an empty solution that will not satisfy in the end. The mood of the encounter is often discomforting rather than cleansing; in the prostitute’s room there is "a huge doll with her legs spread apart in the copious easychair beside the bed." (Joyce, 352) Stephen has difficulty going
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