A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man often portrays Stephen's future in terms of destiny. In Chapter 4 Part 2, the narrator foreshadows his future career as an artist:
[Stephen] would never swing the thurible before the tabernacle as priest. His destiny was to be elusive of social or religious orders. The wisdom of the priest’s appeal did not touch him to the quick. He was destined to learn his own wisdom apart from others or to learn the wisdom of others himself wandering among the snares of the world.
This moment anticipates Stephen's ultimate rejection of religious life. Prayer and devotion do not "touch him"—that is, they do not inspire him the way art does. The phrase "wandering among the snares of the world" also foreshadows his departure from Ireland. In order to escape the confines of his Irish-Catholic upbringing, he must leave his home country for Paris. Stephen once seemed drawn to religious life as an antidote to the sins he was tempted to commit as an adolescent, but he realizes that life comprises a balance of body and soul and that a religious commitment would stifle his artistic aspirations. Although the narrator does not explicitly mention art, phrases like "his own wisdom" and "wandering [...] the world" suggest creative exploration. Here, the narrator's language centers around Stephen's artistic destiny, which foreshadows a successful career in art.