A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
New York: B. W. Huebsch, 1916.
New York: B. W. Huebsch, 1916. First edition. A Very Good copy with bright gilt on the spine. Shelfwear to extremities. Front inner hinge starting, but holding. Some offsetting to front endpaper and early ownership signature to front pastedown. Page 16 with slight skinning affecting several lines of text.
Joyce's first novel recounts the coming of age story of Stephen Dedalus, the artistic alter-ego of Joyce himself. Stephen grows up ensconced in rigid institutions: the church, school system, family, and national politics. Feeling trapped, Stephen experiences a series of awakenings as he grows older and as a result of these awakenings, Stephen rejects these traditional bulwarks of Irish culture. Instead, he develops an aestheticism that will support his artistic vision. This rejection of existing communities and institutions, alongside his embrace of a new aestheticism, alienates Stephen from what he knows. Facing this alienation, Stephen decides to leave Ireland and pursue his art abroad.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is an important contribution to literary modernism. One innovation is Joyce's use of age-appropriate syntax and vocabulary. The beginning of the novel, which starts in Stephen's infancy, is mostly monosyllabic nonsense. As Stephen grows older and grasps more about the world and his place in it, the novel's vocabulary and syntax become correspondingly complex. Of Joyce's first novel, H.G. Wells writes that "It is a mosaic of jagged fragments that does altogether render with extreme completeness the growth of a rather secretive, imaginative boy in Dublin. The technique is startling, but on the whole it succeeds." Very Good (Item #2940)