A major example of the Künstlerroman in English literature, a heavily autobiographical coming-of-age novel depicting the childhood and adolescence of protagonist Stephen Dedalus and his gradual growth into artistic self-consciousness. Some hints of the techniques Joyce frequently employed in later works, such as stream of consciousness, interior monologue, and references to a character's psychic reality rather than to his external surroundings, are evident throughout this novel. It is a nearly complete rewrite of the abandoned novel Stephen Hero. The manuscript was rescued by Joyce's sister when he attempted to burn the original in a fit of rage during an argument with his wife.
What was it like to be an isolated Irish boy during the closing years of the nineteenth century? What was it like to kiss back then? What did that mean, to kiss? You put your face up like that to say good night and then his mother put her face down. That was to kiss. His mother put her lips on his cheek; her lips were soft and they wetted his cheek; and they made a tiny little noise: kiss. Why did people do that with their two faces?