The hour when he too would take part in the life of that world seemed drawing near and in secret he began to make ready for the great part of which he felt awaited him, the nature of which he only dimly apprehended.

The beginning of Chapter 2 depicts the Dedalus’s first summer in Blackrock, and Stephen spends much of his time accompanying his father and Uncle Charles on various errands. As he does so, he listens to the stories they tell about their family heritage and Irish politics. Stephen does not fully grasp the significance of these topics but senses that, one day, they will be important to him as he begins his own life. This acknowledgement highlights the awakening of his consciousness to the structuring principles of the world around him, although he is not yet aware of what they mean.

And it was in the din of all these hollowsounding voices that made him halt irresolutely in the pursuit of phantoms. He gave them ear only for a time but he was happy only when he was far from them, beyond their call, alone or in the company of phantasmal comrades.

This quotation, which comes from Chapter 2, highlights the myriad of external forces that attempt to shape Stephen’s character as he grows up. From the guidance of his father to the pressure of his peers at school, Stephen becomes frustrated with the constant flow of “hollowsounding voices” that characterizes his youth. The opinions of others prevent Stephen from pursuing his own interests and asking his own questions about the world, both of which are necessary components of personal development. He would rather be haunted by the quandaries of his own mind than the advice of those around him.

When the soul of a man is born in this country there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets.

When his friend Davin asks him to join the Irish Nationalist movement in Chapter 5, Stephen refuses and explains that getting involved in politics will stunt his personal and artistic growth. He views the world’s structuring principles, such as family, religion, and politics, as insufferably confining, and, as a result, vows to reject them regardless of the cost. This perspective is what ultimately enables Stephen to achieve true spiritual freedom and represents a key breakthrough in his personal development.