Choose a novel or play that depicts a conflict between a parent (or a parental figure) and a son or daughter. Write an essay in which you analyze the sources of the conflict and explain how the conflict contributes to the meaning of the work. Avoid plot summary.
In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce follows the mental and physical maturation of Stephen Dedalus. The dawn of Stephen's psychological and intellectual enlightenment is seen especially in the resolution of conflicts revolving around the cultural and societal values by which the novel's authority figures judge the protagonist. Stephen's introspective and psychoanalytical approach toward his patriarchal roots in religion, patriotism, and familial relations progressively guides him toward the novel's conclusion, which signifies an illumination of Stephen's mind and Joyce's own attempts at introspection through his art.
Throughout Portrait, Joyce develops a myriad of patriarchal roles and authority figures which play major roles in the protagonist's development. As a result, Stephen is often conflicted when it comes to his loyalty and adherence to certain doctrine. One such patriarchal figure is God. Growing up in a devout Catholic family, Stephen is instilled with a sense of right and wrong by Dante and his mother which adheres strongly to religious dogma; as Dante ironically puts it: "A priest would not be a priest if he did not tell his flock what is right and what is wrong." (42) This blind adherence to religious ideals often baffles Stephen, such as when he is puzzled by his family's disquietude at his childish suggestion to marry his Protestant neighbor, Emma. Resultantly, as Stephen begins to forge his own path toward what he believes is righteousness, he also begins to question the very values on which he has based his life. This gradually developed form of divergent thinking is most obviously demonstrated by Stephen's behavior while attending church with his uncle.