Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is an autobiographical novel of James Joyce. The novel Stephen Hero was originally written as Joyce's autobiography, which was reworked from the autobiographical piece entitled "Portrait of the Artist." This piece was written for a journal, but was rejected due to sexual content. In each of these works it was Joyce's main goal to create a story, in which the protagonist was a Catholic hero as well as a martyr, according to Richard Ellman, Joyce's biographer.
Stephen Dedalus is the main character of the novel, as well as the protagonist. The work starts out when Stephen is about three years of age, and Joyce does an excellent job of describing the experience of growing up to the reader by taking us into the mind of Stephen Dedalus through a literary technique called "stream of consciousness." Stephen constantly detaches himself from others throughout his childhood. Sexual urges are a large problem for Stephen because he assumes he is the only boy feeling them. This only causes him to feel more distanced and outcast. Because Stephen is so shy and isolated, people believe that he is egotistical and arrogant, a mistake made all too frequently in our society. This makes it even harder for Stephen to fit in and get along with others. .
Stephen has persistent feelings for a girl named Eileen, but the idea of them being together is frowned upon by his family, which upsets Stephen. This obstacle is similar to a situation in another work, Dante's Inferno, by Dante Alighieri. In Dante's real life, his love is also out of reach. He is in love with a girl named Beatrice but cannot realize this love due to his betrothal to another woman. Beatrice dies prematurely at the young age of twenty-five, and this inspires Alighieri to write Inferno. Inferno is a story about Dante's a brief period in his life when he lost sight of his moral principles, and turns to his faith in order to get him back on the correct path.