To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life!

This quotation, which appears near the end of Chapter 4, is a part of the famous bird girl passage. In this scene, Stephen’s ability to mentally transform a girl wading in the ocean into an image of a bird leads him to an artistic epiphany. By using his imagination in this way, Stephen learns that beauty is inherent in the world around him regardless of what imperfections it may hold. Taking inspiration from all facets of life is what will ultimately enable Stephen to find a sense of purpose in creating art.

You are an artist, are you not, Mr. Dedalus? said the dean, glancing up and blinking his pale eyes. The object of the artist is the creation of the beautiful. What the beautiful is is another question.

In Chapter 5, Stephen comes across the dean of studies as he attempts to light a fire, an act which the priest describes as a “useful art.” Stephen’s reply that he would be unable to start a fire elicits this question from the priest about how one defines beauty. He suggests that determining what is beautiful is the responsibility of the artist and, by posing the question, challenges Stephen to consider the different kinds of beauty that can exist.

The artist, like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent pairing his fingernails.

This quotation, which appears in Chapter 5, is part of Stephen’s attempt to explain his abstract aesthetic philosophy to his friend, Lynch. At this point in the novel, Stephen’s artistic sensibilities reach their height, and this awakening allows him to feel the power inherent in his role as an artist. The idea that the artist is merely a vehicle for the creative act rather than the subject of the work itself alludes to the modernist interest in impersonality. This perspective gives an otherworldly quality to the artist, suggesting that what they create has the power to exist independently of them.