The main character of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Growing up, Stephen goes through long phases of hedonism and deep religiosity. He eventually adopts a philosophy of aestheticism, greatly valuing beauty and art. Stephen is essentially Joyce's alter ego, and many of the events of Stephen's life mirror events from Joyce's own youth.
Stephen's father, an impoverished former medical student with a strong sense of Irish patriotism. Sentimental about his past, Simon Dedalus frequently reminisces about his youth.
Stephen's mother and Simon Dedalus's wife. Mary is very religious, and argues with her son about attending religious services.
Though his siblings do not play a major role in the novel, Stephen has several brothers and sisters, including Maurice, Katey, Maggie, and Boody.
Stephen's beloved, the young girl to whom he is fiercely attracted over the course of many years. Stephen constructs Emma as an ideal of femininity, even though he does not know her well.
Simon Dedalus's friend, who attends the Christmas dinner at which young Stephen is allowed to sit with the adults for the first time. Like Simon, Mr. Casey is a staunch believer in Irish nationalism, and at the dinner he argues with Dante over the fate of Parnell.
An Irish political leader who is not an actual character in the novel, but whose death influences many of its characters. Parnell had powerfully led the Irish National Party until he was condemned for having an affair with a married woman.
The extremely fervent and piously Catholic governess of the Dedalus children. Dante, whose real name is Mrs. Riordan, becomes involved in a long and unpleasant argument with Mr. Casey over the fate of Parnell during Christmas dinner.
Stephen's lively great uncle. Charles lives with Stephen's family. During the summer, the young Stephen enjoys taking long walks with his uncle and listening to Charles and Simon discuss the history of both Ireland and the Dedalus family.
A young girl who lives near Stephen when he is a young boy. When Stephen tells Dante that he wants to marry Eileen, Dante is enraged because Eileen is a Protestant.
The rector at Clongowes Wood College, where Stephen attends school as a young boy.
The cruel prefect of studies at Clongowes Wood College.
The bully at Clongowes. Wells taunts Stephen for kissing his mother before he goes to bed, and one day he pushes Stephen into a filthy cesspool, causing Stephen to catch a bad fever.
A friendly boy whom Stephen meets in the infirmary at Clongowes. Athy likes Stephen Dedalus because they both have unusual names.
The kindly brother who tends to Stephen and Athy in the Clongowes infirmary after Wells pushes Stephen into the cesspool.
One of Stephen's friends at Clongowes.
Stephen's stern Latin teacher at Clongowes. Later, when Stephen is at Belvedere College, Father Arnall delivers a series of lectures on death and hell that have a profound influence on Stephen.
A friend of Simon Dedalus's who tries, with little success, to train Stephen to be a runner during their summer at Blackrock.
A young boy with whom Stephen plays imaginary adventure games at Blackrock.
A rival of Stephen's at Belvedere.
Two schoolmates of Stephen's at Belvedere, who taunt and bully him.
Stephen's best friend at the university, in whom he confides his thoughts and feelings. In this sense, Cranly represents a secular confessor for Stephen. Eventually, Cranly begins to encourage Stephen to conform to the wishes of his family and to try harder to fit in with his peers—advice that Stephen fiercely resents.
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Another of Stephen's friends at the university. Davin comes from the Irish provinces and has a simple, solid nature. Stephen admires his talent for athletics, but disagrees with his unquestioning Irish patriotism, which Davin encourages Stephen to adopt.
Another of Stephen's friends at the university, a coarse and often unpleasantly dry young man. Lynch is poorer than Stephen. Stephen explains his theory of aesthetics to Lynch in Chapter 5.
A fiercely political student at the university who tries to convince Stephen to be more concerned with politics.
A young man at the university who openly admires Stephen's keen independence and tries to copy his ideas and sentiments.
A Jesuit priest at University College.
A friend of Simon Dedalus.