A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

James Joyce
Summary

Chapter 5, Sections 3–4

Summary Chapter 5, Sections 3–4

Joyce's transition to journal entries at the end of the novel is a formal change that highlights Stephen's continuing search for his own voice. The journal entry form explores the problem of representing a person through words. Stephen is no longer being talked about by an external narrator, but is now speaking in his own voice. This form also frames the final section of the novel with the first, which opens with a different external voice—Mr. Dedalus telling his son a story. Throughout the novel, Stephen has continued his search for a voice, first drawing on others' voices—citing Aquinas and Aristotle as authorities and quoting Elizabethan poems—and later realizing that he must devise a language of his own because he cannot be happy speaking the language of others. This last section of the novel finally offers a glimpse of Stephen succeeding in doing precisely that. We finally see him imitating no one and quoting no one, offering his own perceptions, dreams, insights, and reflections through his words alone. Stylistically, this section is not as polished and structured as the earlier portions of the novel, but this lack of polish indicates its immediacy and sincerity in Stephen's mind.

Stephen's ideas of femininity become more complex in the final sections of Chapter 5, when he finally confronts Emma and talks to her on Grafton Street. Stephen's relation to females throughout the novel has been largely conflicted and abstract to this point. This meeting with Emma, however, is concrete, placing Stephen himself in control. The conversation with Emma emphasizes the fact that women are no longer guiding Stephen: his mother no longer pushes him, the Virgin Mary no longer shows him the way, and prostitutes no longer seduce him. Women are no longer in a superior or transcendent position in his life. Finally, in actually speaking with Emma face-to-face, Stephen shows that he has begun to conceive of women as fellow human beings rather than idealized creatures. He no longer needs to be mothered and guided, as his emotional, spiritual, and artistic development has given him the vision and confidence to show himself the way.