The novel ‘Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man’ is James Joyce’s semi-autobiographical novel. It speaks of a young artist who develops into a bussing author, and develops his artistic skill. The author notes that the young artist is determined to forge the uncreated conscience of his race into the smithy of his soul (Joyce 276). This novel tells the story of a religio-philosophical and intellectual awakening of the protagonist, Dedulas Stephen, in the beginning of his questioning the Irish and catholic conventions to which he has been raised. His was a warranted question, because it is only through questioning of ones being and a discourse on the values that they hold dear that one can understand and value the ways of their upbringing. The novel voices the story of a young man on such determined a quest, which he leaves his native homeland and goes overseas to accomplish his vision of becoming an artist.
Probably the part in the novel that shapes the young man and gives him the strength is the allusion of the myth of Icarus and Daedalus. In ancient Greek mythology, Daedalus refers to the inventor and influential architect trapped in a labyrinth that he has constructed. Although Stephen has been raised in a family with more than one religious upbringing, he wades through it all to stand tall with a new system of religious upbringing, which he imposes upon himself in a quest to live a holy and righteous life. He acknowledges that he has sinned, and at first is extremely hard on himself, often offering himself retribution and rebuke.
On one of the nights that he has a nightmare brought about by the thoughts of his sins, he rushes to the nearest church to make a confession and make peace with God. Upon forgiveness of his sins, he decides to make peace with his religious side and gratify the deities. He takes it upon himself to pray each morning, but there is a sense of uncertainty that overwhelms him; whether his prayers are sufficient to counter the effects of his sins. He becomes overly religious and learns the aspects of the holy trinity. It is hard for him to comprehend the mystery of the trinity, but this enigma is easier to accept than God’s love for him. With time, however, Stephen takes it upon himself that the Lord loves him, and embarks on a mission to understand the world as an exploration of this new found emotion.
Being a religious person and having his religious views grounded on Stephen is at peace with his conscience and soul. It is his religious background that anchors his quest to be an artist and illuminates the path that is his life. He is devoted to his religion and credits it for survival in a world where to sin was the greatest act of rebellion against one’s religion. Stephen notes that religion taught him self-discipline, a quality that he would not have otherwise attained had he not made peace with his religious side. His changed view of the world aids in his journey as an artist and gives him the strength and courage he needs to pursue his journey. The religious intervention he has acquired recently gives his some consciousness and guidance to the things he ought to accomplish on his path to artistry. Religion, and his devotion to it, has taught Stephen the art of avoiding temptation and being grateful to all that he has and will attain. As he prepares to leave his native home and follow his artistic dream, Stephen does not let religion slip from his side; it is his for keeps and guidance.