Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Stephen Dedalus, a young man who is, like his creator, sensitive, proud, and highly intelligent, but often confused in his attempts to understand the Irish national temperament. He is bewildered and buffeted about in a world of political unrest, theological discord, and economic decline. In this environment, he attempts to resolve for himself the problems of faith, morality, and art. At the end, feeling himself cut off from nation, religion, and family, he decides to leave Ireland in order to seek his own fulfillment as an artist, the artificer that his name suggests.
Simon Dedalus, an easygoing, talkative, patriotic Irishman who reveres the memory of nationalist leader Charles Stewart Parnell. During his lifetime he has engaged in many activities, as a medical student, an actor, an investor, and a tax-gatherer, among others; but he has failed in everything he has tried. Stephen Dedalus’ realization that his father is self-deluded and shiftless contributes greatly to the boy’s growing disillusionment and unrest. Simon is almost the stereotyped, eloquent Irishman who drinks much more than is good for him.
Mrs. Dedalus, a worn, quiet woman who remains a shadowy background figure in the novel. She is a woman of deep faith; her son’s repudiation of religious belief becomes a source of anxiety and grief adding to her other cares.
(The entire section is 652 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Characters. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Of all the characters in the novel, Stephen Dedalus is the only one whose portrait is fully realized. His most intimate thoughts, memories and sensations are revealed to us throughout; all the other characters exist for the reader only insofar as they matter to Stephen. Joyce's self-portrait is a complex one, inviting us to sympathize with Stephen while also causing us to regard him more critically, and even laugh at him. The little boy wrongly punished by Father Dolan for failing to copy out his Latin themes or falling ill after being shouldered into the ditch by Wells is likely to have our sympathy. Less sympathetic is the saintly youth whose absurd devotions betray a high degree of egotism and whose abstract meditations on the nature of love have no positive bearing whatsoever on his relationships with others; or the pretentious university student propounding his aesthetic theories at great length to poor Lynch, an unwilling and barely interested auditor, who makes jokes throughout, which the pedantic and humorless Stephen ignores.
Stephen tends to view his life in terms of a heroic struggle to free himself from the various confinements he feels his native city imposes upon him—the "nets" of politics, religion and family. Throughout, though, Stephen's inflated sense of himself is subtly undercut by Joyce, who provides many reminders of the flaws and inadequacies in Stephen's character that the young man himself fails to perceive.
(The entire section is 1078 words.)
Father Arnall is a Jesuit priest who teaches at Clongowes Wood College, the first school that Stephen Dedalus attends.
Mr. John Casey
Mr. Casey is a friend of Stephen Dedalus’s father, Simon Dedalus, in Chapter One. When Mr. Casey visits, young Stephen likes to sit near him and look at “his dark fierce face.” Stephen notices that “his dark eyes were never fierce and his slow voice was good to listen to.” He gets into the argument with Dante on Christmas, asserting that the Church should stay out of politics and leave Charles Stuart Parnell alone.
Charles is Stephen Dedalus’s great-uncle. He is present at the family’s Christmas dinner in Chapter One but does not take part in the argument. Indeed, he seems somewhat bewildered and only mutters a few vague comments to try to calm things down. Uncle Charles is kindly but slightly eccentric and ineffectual. Later in the chapter readers learn that he has died.
A Jesuit priest who is the rector (principal) of Clongowes Wood College, the first school that Stephen Dedalus attends. In Chapter One, after Father Dolan pandies Stephen (punishes him by hitting his hands with a stick known as a pandybat), Stephen’s friends urge him to go to Father Conmee and report Father Dolan. Although he is afraid to do so, Stephen works up the necessary courage and goes to Father Conmee’s room. Although Stephen (and the...
(The entire section is 2075 words.)