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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

James Joyce

Chapter 5, Sections 1–2

Chapter 4, Sections 2–3

Chapter 5, Sections 1–2, page 2

page 1 of 2

—The language in which we are speaking is his before it is mine. How different are the words home,Christ,ale,master, on his lips and on mine!


Chapter 5, Section 1

Stephen eats a poor meal and examines the pawnshop tickets upon which his increasingly impoverished family survives. Mrs. Dedalus expresses her worry that Stephen's character has been changed by university life. From upstairs, Mr. Dedalus snaps that his son is a "lazy bitch." Annoyed and frustrated, Stephen leaves the house and wanders through the rainy Dublin landscape, quoting poems to himself and musing on the aesthetic theories of Aristotle and Aquinas. A nearby clock tolls eleven, reminding him of his friend MacCann. Stephen reflects on MacCann's accusation that Stephen is too socially disengaged. Stephen realizes that he is missing his English lecture, but is not overly concerned; he imagines the students meekly taking notes. On the whole, he is disappointed by university education.

As he walks to the campus, Stephen recollects a visit to his friend Davin, a handsome and athletic boy devoted to the Irish cause. Davin had told Stephen a story about being invited to spend the night with a housewife he does not know. Stephen notes that it is now too late to go to his French class and decides to head for the physics lecture hall, where he runs into the dean of studies. The dean is trying to start a fire, and the two discuss the art of igniting flames. Stephen and the dean speak about aesthetics, but Stephen is disappointed by the older man's spotty knowledge, and the conversation is awkward. When Stephen uses the word "tundish," referring to a funnel for adding oil to a lamp, the dean does not know the word, which Stephen concludes must be Irish. Stephen reflects that English will always be a borrowed language for him, "acquired speech."

Stephen then attends a physics class that is comic and ineffectual. Afterward, Stephen chats with Cranly, MacCann, and other classmates, joking with them in Latin. MacCann urges Stephen to sign a petition for universal peace. When Stephen seems reluctant, MacCann accuses him of being an antisocial minor poet. Temple, a classmate who idolizes Stephen for his independent spirit, defends Stephen. Another student, Lynch, greets them. Davin proudly asserts his own Irish nationalist fervor, and asks Stephen why he has dropped out of Irish language class. Davin says that Stephen is a true Irishman in his heart, but too proud.

Stephen explains that the soul takes time to be born, longer than the body. Stephen explains his aesthetic theory of the ideal stasis or immobility evoked by a work of art, a theory he derives from Aristotle and Aquinas. He also explains the ideals—integrity, consonance, and radiance—that he believes every artistic object must achieve. Stephen's concept of divinity lies in the aesthetic—his God has withdrawn from the world of men, "paring his fingernails" in solitude. Stephen's point is that truly transcendent art must be above the common fray of mankind. Lynch whispers to Stephen that Stephen's beloved, an unnamed girl, is present. Stephen wonders whether he has judged this girl too harshly, and muses upon her.

Chapter 5, Section 2

Stephen awakens in the morning in a mood of contentment and enchantment, having dreamed of erotic union with his beloved. Savoring the feeling, he undertakes to write down a romantic poem he has composed. He recollects being together with the girl in a room with a piano, singing and dancing, and remembers her telling him that she feels he is not a monk, but a heretic.

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Joyce and O'Casey

by Upperchurch, October 18, 2014

Joyce and O'Casey were contemporaries. Was Mr. Casey, Irish Nationalist, in "Portrait" a nod to O'Casey?