The story Portrait of the Artist as Young Man is set in the Ireland at the beginning of the 20th century. Readers are introduced to the character of Stephen Dedalus, a young Irish boy from a Catholic family. The family is impoverished because of his father is incompetent. The family constantly moves from one place to another because of their poverty.
Mary Dedalus, Stephen’s mother is a pious Catholic. The Dedalus children were taught by Mrs. Riordan (or Dante) their governess, also a devout Catholic. Their Uncle Charles stays with them. The opening paragraphs start out with a stream of consciousness by Stephen as a young boy.
The next time Stephen appears is during his stay at a boarding school in Clangowes. He suffers from homesickness, and bullying because of his measly frame and basically just unable to fit in the society of the boarding school. He is pushed by a bully into a cesspool that caused him to be sick but does not tell his teachers about it.
During Christmas, he joins the adult table for the first time. The dinner turns ugly when a heated debate about politics among the adults started. Back at the boarding school, Stephen is hit by Father Dolan, the prefect of the boarding school. He tells this incident to Father Conmee, the rector of the boarding of the boarding school. His classmates admired this act.
His family’s continued financial woes took its toll on Stephen. He was unable to return to the boarding school in Clangowes. Stephen, along with the rest of the family moves to Blackrock. Stephen enjoyed walks with his Uncle Charles in their new place. He plays imaginary adventures with Aubrey Mills, their neighbor in Blackrock.
Yet again, just a few years after their move to Blackrock, they move again, this time to Dublin. This is where he meets Emma Clere, the girl that would greatly enthral Stephen throughout the story. Somehow his father managed to enrol Stephen into Belvedere College.
It was only in Belvedere where Stephen comes out of his shell, he became a leader and is active in theatre and literature. Stephen still feels alone even if he excels in those fields.
As an adolescent young man, he got exposed to sex and is greatly fascinated by it, until finally he loses his virginity to prostitute.
Stephen becomes addicted to sex. Although he knows that what he is doing is wrong he can’t control himself or rather he does not want to. After some time, he hears a sermon from Father Arnall, his former Latin teacher back in Clongowes. The priests talks about how terrible hell is. Stephen is horrified. He suddenly changes from a sex addict person to a religious person.