James Joyce wrote Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, first published in 1916. It is a semi-autobiographical novel written in Joyce’s characteristic free indirect speech style. It traces the intellectual the intellectual and religio-philiosophical awakenings of young Stephen Dedalus as he begins to question and rebel against the Catholic and Irish Conventions with which he has been raised. Eventually, the novel concludes with Stephen leaving to pursue his ambitions as an artist abroad.
Stephen Dedalus begins his journey as a young boy growing up in Ireland at the end of the nineteenth century. He is heavily influenced by his Catholic faith and Irish nationality, receiving a strict religious education. Stephen grows and excels as a writer and an actor. But upon losing his virginity, he becomes devoutly committed to the Catholic Church due to an overwhelming sense of guilt from giving into his sexual urges. His devotion grows so noticeably strong, that the director of his school asks him to consider the priesthood. Stephen suddenly finds himself torn between the life of a priest, which requires piety, abstinence, and self-denial, or the life of an artist.
This conflict comes to a head when one day, while walking on the beach, Stephen encounters a young girl wading in the tide. Astounded by her beauty, he is overwhelmed with feelings of desire and guilt; beauty and shame. In a sudden moment of epiphany, Stephen realizes that the love and desire of beauty should not be a source of shame. From that moment on, he resolves to live his life to the fullest vowing never to be constrained by the boundaries of family, nation, or religion. Stephen moves to University to develop his writing skills further before eventually leaving Ireland to escape the constraints of present society. Like Daedalus, he hopes to build himself wings on which he can fly above all obstacles and achieve a life as an artist.
I first read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man while attending Jesuit High School in Tampa, Florida. Much like Stephen, I grew up receiving a Catholic education, even earning my Juris Doctor from a Catholic Law School, St. Thomas University. The novel had a profound effect on me growing up as I also struggled with the decision to live life as an artist. This conflicted with my inherent desire to use my education to lead a life dedicated to helping others. I was accepted to New York University, where I intended to study literature and creative writing in order to follow the life as an artist. Ultimately, I chose to follow my heart, which led me towards a life of service and not artistry. I attended the University of Miami where I knew I would use my education to earn a degree and start a career where I would one day help others and make a positive impact on the world.
It was not until I discovered the Law that I found solace in my decision to choose a life of self-sacrifice over that of an artist because it was not until I became a lawyer that I had my own epiphany: the practice of law is an art dedicated to helping others. It is no strange coincidence that I have entitled this story “Portrait of the Lawyer as a Young Man.”
“The object of the artist is the creation of the beautiful. What the beautiful is is another question.”
-James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
In today’s society, lawyers are rarely viewed as artists or saviors. As a young lawyer, I intend to challenge that very convention. As an associate with Aronfeld Trial Lawyers, it is my hope and my dream to not only be a savior, but also an artist. In my heart of hearts, I believe the practice of law is a noble profession, a profession dedicated to improving the lives of others, and to making the world a better place. It is also my belief that the practice of law is an art. As an artist, lawyers are empowered with the ability to ensure the law creates something beautiful. What that beautiful is is another question; a question I will seek to answer every day from the moment I wake until the moment my eyes shut.