Summary of the Novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man covers the childhood and adolescence of Stephen Dedalus. We see him, over the course of the novel, grow from a little boy to a young man of eighteen who has decided to leave his country for Europe, in order to be an artist.
At the start of the novel, Stephen is a young boy, probably about five-years-old. He is one of the younger students at Clongowes Wood College for boys (a Jesuit elementary school, not a “college” in the American sense). He had been pushed into an outhouse drainage ditch by a student named Wells a few days earlier, and he wakes up ill. While in the infirmary, Stephen dreams of going home for the Christmas holidays. We then see the Dedalus family at Christmas dinner, and a heated argument erupts between Stephen’s father and Dante, Stephen’s governess, about Parnell and the Catholic church. Back at school, Stephen has broken his glasses and has been excused from classwork by his teacher, Father Arnall. The prefect of studies, Father Dolan, comes into class to discipline the students, and singles out Stephen as a “lazy idle little loafer.” Stephen is pandied (his knuckles beaten with a bat) in front of the class, and feels the injustice of his punishment deeply. The other students urge him to speak to the rector of the college. He gets up the courage to do so, and the rector promises to speak to Father Dolan. Stephen is cheered by the other students.
In the second chapter, Stephen is a few years older. He is no longer at Clongowes but at Belvedere College. He has started to become interested in literature, and tends to romanticize his life based on what he reads. He tries to write a poem to the girl he loves, but cannot. He is in a play at Belvedere, and outside of the theater he sees two other students, Heron and Wallis, who tease him about the play, and jokingly make him recite the Confiteor. Stephen, while doing so, remembers a recent incident when his English teacher suspected him of heresy. Stephen takes a trip to Cork with his father, and his father shows him the town where he was born and raised, and the school he attended when he was Stephen’s age. Back in Dublin, Stephen wins a sum of money for an essay competition, and, for a brief time, treats himself and his family to a “season of pleasure.” When the money runs out, we can see him wandering the red light districts of Dublin, fantasizing about the prostitutes. As the chapter ends, Stephen has his first experience with a prostitute.
In Chapter Three, it is apparent that Stephen has made a habit of soliciting prostitutes. He goes through the motions in school and at church, and is not bothered by the duplicity of his life. He goes on a religious retreat with his class, and the priest’s sermon about sin and damnation affects Stephen deeply. He repents, goes to confession at the chapel across town, and takes communion.
Stephen has now dedicated his life to God. He prays constantly, and goes about mortifying his senses. He has completely renounced his sinful relations with the prostitutes, and the director at Belvedere speaks to him about becoming a priest. The idea first seems to appeal to Stephen, but he ultimately decides that he could not become a priest.
His father is making plans for Stephen, now 16, to enter the university. Walking along the seashore one afternoon, thinking about poetry, Stephen sees a young woman bathing. They stare at each other, but do not speak. Stephen takes this as a spiritual sign, and he excitedly decides to dedicate his life to art.
In the final chapter, Stephen is at the university. He is lazy about his classes but vehement about his developing theory of aesthetics. He refuses to sign a political petition, trying to set himself apart from the concerns of his country’s politics or religion. Talking to his close friend, Cranly, Stephen announces that he has decided to leave Ireland for Europe to pursue his artistic vocation. The novel closes with a few pages out of Stephen’s diary, as he makes plans to leave for the continent.
Estimated Reading Time
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is broken up into five chapters—the first four are about equal in length; the fifth is about twice as long as the others. Each chapter should take about an hour to read, though the language and unconventional narration style may take some getting used to. Spending two separate hour-long sittings on the fifth chapter, a student should be able to read the novel in six one-hour sittings.
The Life and Work of James Joyce
James Joyce was born in Dublin, Ireland, on February 2, 1882. He was the oldest of ten children, and was born into a comfortable and, by some standards, wealthy home. However, while Joyce was growing up, his family’s economic situation became progressively worse.
He was able to attend Clongowes Wood College, an exclusive Jesuit boarding school, from age six to nine, but was forced to leave in 1891 when his father, John Stanislaus Joyce, lost his position as collector of rates in Dublin and could no longer afford to send James to school. After a brief stint at the Christian Brothers’ School, James was allowed to attend the Jesuit Belvedere College, thanks to a special arrangement by a former rector at Clongowes, Father John Conmee. Father Conmee had become prefect of studies at Belvedere and, remembering James’ ability as a student, arranged for him and his brothers to attend Belvedere without fees.
Joyce was a distinguished student at Belvedere, winning several exhibitions (cash prizes for scholarship in national competitions), and being elected, two years in a row, to the office of prefect of the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the highest honor at Belvedere. He became interested in poetry, drama, philosophy and languages, and upon graduation in 1898, entered University College, Dublin at age 16.
Joyce gained a reputation as a radical thinker by reading a paper entitled “Drama and Life” before the Literary and Historical Society. He published an essay in the Fortnightly Review entitled “Ibsen’s New Drama,” defending the controversial playwright. In these and other essays and reviews he wrote during this period, Joyce defended a realistic representation of life on stage, as opposed to what he took to be a sentimental and moralistic nationalism. The trouble he faced getting permission from the president of the university to read “Drama and Life” was the first of many struggles with censorship in Joyce’s career. He graduated in 1902, with a degree in modern languages, having studied Italian, French, German, and literary Norwegian as well as Latin.
The Joyce family during this time had been getting both larger and poorer—they had to move around frequently, setting up temporary residences, and were forced to sell many of their possessions to keep creditors at bay. Anxious to escape what he saw as a confining and restrictive environment in Dublin, Joyce left in 1902 to live in self-imposed “exile” in Paris. He had to return, however, in April 1903, as his mother was dying. Mary Jane Joyce died in August of that year, and James Joyce remained in Dublin for over a year, during which time he wrote and published poetry, worked on short stories (some of which were eventually published in the Dubliners collection), and began the initial draft of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, then entitled Stephen Hero.
He left Dublin again in October 1904, with Nora Barnacle. Joyce never returned to Dublin, except for a few brief visits (the last of which was in 1912), though his home city and country continued to dominate his imagination. He lived and taught in Trieste and Rome until World War I, then moved with Nora, their son Giorgio and daughter Lucia to neutral Zurich, where they stayed until 1920. The Joyces then moved to Paris, where they lived until 1940. James and Nora then returned to Zurich, where James Joyce died on January 13, 1941.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was published in 1916, but the story of its composition covers a ten-year span in Joyce’s life. At the end of the novel, we see the words “Dublin 1904—Trieste 1914.” This does not mean, as we might expect, that Joyce spent these ten years working on the text as we have it. In 1904, he wrote a combination short story and autobiographical essay entitled “A Portrait of the Artist.” When he could not get it published, he began to rewrite it as a novel with the working title Stephen Hero. Joyce worked on Stephen Hero intermittently for four years, but became ultimately dissatisfied with his lengthy and cumbersome method. He decided to rewrite the unfinished Stephen Hero in five long chapters, selecting and condensing only the most significant episodes in Stephen Dedalus’ development. This novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, was finished in 1914, published serially in The Egoist during 1914 and 1915, and finally published by B. W. Huebsch in New York in 1916. As with his other work, Joyce had considerable trouble getting Portrait published, both because of the obscenity laws and because of his unconventional literary form.
James Joyce’s literary reputation is remarkable when we consider his relatively scant output. Aside from his play, Exiles, and a few books of poetry, which have not earned much attention, Joyce’s canon consists of a collection of stories, Dubliners (1914), and three novels—besides Portrait, the mammoth Ulysses (1922) and the even more mammoth Finnegans Wake (1939). Each of these represents a cornerstone of modernist fiction, and in each work Joyce extends his innovative and experimental style to further limits, leaving a permanent mark on the development of twentieth- century literature. His reputation and influence are as strong today as ever—from high school classrooms to graduate seminars and international professional conferences, Joyce’s work continues to generate a staggering degree of critical interest. As Richard Ellmann wrote, “We are still learning to be James Joyce’s contemporaries.”
Perhaps the first thing that will strike a first-time reader of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is the initial strangeness of the language. Joyce’s technique is to have the language of the narration try to mirror the linguistic and intellectual development of Stephen Dedalus—therefore, in the first chapter, the vocabulary and sentence structure are more simplistic, limited, and childlike. The narrative is closely aligned with Stephen’s consciousness and perspective—therefore, the narrative style could be said to mature along with young Stephen. As the novel progresses, and Stephen becomes better acclimatized to his world, the language expands and develops accordingly.
Whereas in the Stephen Hero stage of the novel’s composition Joyce was trying to cram every detail about Stephen’s life into the narrative, in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man he exercises much more selectivity. The novel presents only the most important events in Stephen’s life, without as much attention to chronological and temporal sequence as we would find in a traditional novel. The subject of the novel is Stephen’s internal intellectual and artistic development, so the conflicts and climaxes which would motivate a traditionally plotted novel are in this case a matter of internal relations. A conflict is important because it is so for Stephen; a climax is such because of its importance in Stephen’s ultimate spiritual development Each scene or episode in the novel, then, will be loaded with significance on a number of levels.
Fundamental to the technique and structure of this novel is Joyce’s conception of epiphany. An epiphany, as Joyce conceives it, is a moment of intense perception, or a feeling of total understanding; one’s life is punctuated by such moments. In Stephen Hero, Joyce defines his (and Stephen’s) conception of epiphany thus:
By an epiphany he meant a sudden spiritual manifestation, whether in the vulgarity of speech or of gesture or in a memorable phase of the mind itself. He believed that it was for the man of letters to record these epiphanies with extreme care, seeing that they themselves are the most delicate and evanescent of moments.
The epiphany is a moment of extreme significance for the subject, or the beholder, and for the object which he or she observes—the epiphany reveals something essential about the person or thing that is observed. Stephen and Joyce understand that the purpose of the artist is to record and present these moments of privileged spiritual insight. The religious source of Joyce’s conception (the feast day celebrating the revelation of the infant Christ to the Magi) indicates that this is a spiritual, non-rational conception of knowledge.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man represents the growth and development of Stephen’s soul, and the novel is structured around the epiphanies Stephen experiences while growing up. Thus, the narrator is less concerned with dates, ages, time, and a clear chronological sequence. Joyce’s conception of epiphany allows us to view time in the novel as a coalescence of past, present, and future. This means, then, for our reading and interpretation of the novel, that each scene will be dense with significance, shedding light on past events in the narrative as well as looking forward to future developments. Joyce is extremely selective—there are many gaps in the story of Stephen’s life we must fill in while reading. But this means that we must pay extra attention to the episodes we are given, and the language in which they are told.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is an autobiographical novel—Stephen Dedalus is Joyce’s fictional figure for himself in the early years of his life, and the events in the novel closely parallel those of Joyce’s own life. We should be careful not to push this identification of Stephen with young Joyce too far, for the author of a novel is certainly free to take creative liberties that the author of a strict biography would not take. The novel should and does stand as an autonomous artifact in its own right. It is clear, however, that the historical and cultural context of Dublin in the 1890s is as crucial toward our understanding of Stephen Dedalus and his world as it is toward our understanding of Joyce and his world.
Though the novel is ambiguous when it comes to precise dates, the events in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man cover the period from roughly 1890 through the end of the century. Ireland was then, as it indeed is now, a country torn apart by politics and religion. The Republic of Ireland had not yet won its independence from the British crown, though the liberation movement was fervent. Battle lines were drawn between Protestants and Catholics. Institutionalized religious discrimination had long been used by the Protestant British government as a means of division and control of the Irish-Catholic population, and this naturally trickled down into day-to-day hostility and resentment between Protestant and Catholic people in Ireland. The lines were not always quite this clear, however; there were many among the liberationists who criticized the Catholic church for hindering the anti-British cause.
This anti-Catholic sentiment—which we hear voiced in the novel by Stephen’s father and Mr. Casey at Christmas dinner in Chapter 1—is due in large degree to the downfall of Charles Stewart Parnell. Parnell was a liberation leader who was extremely popular, powerful and influential; he was seen by many as the savior of Ireland. However, a scandal erupted in 1889 and 1890, when Captain William Henry O’Shea filed for divorce from his wife, Kitty, on grounds of her adultery with Parnell. The controversy surrounding this affair led directly to the dissolution of Parnell’s party, and he died within a year. Parnell’s devotees then saw him as a kind of tragic hero, and criticized the Catholic church for their role in condemning the Irish Nationalist leader. They would argue that Parnell’s “sin” was a personal matter that should not have jeopardized what they saw as their greatest hope for independence. Joyce, in particular, saw Parnell’s case as an apt illustration of what was wrong with Ireland: he was persecuted and discredited, on moralistic grounds, by the same people he had spent his life trying to liberate.
As the largest and most cosmopolitan city in Ireland, Dublin was a hotbed of political and religious conflict in the 1890s. In the arts, too, there was fierce debate as to what direction Ireland should take. The poet and playwright William Butler Yeats was instrumental in working toward an Irish literature, in English, that could become a recognized and appreciated part of European culture. At the same time, however, a more conservative nationalist element called for, along with a renewed interest in Irish folklore and a Gaelic language, positive or “pure” representations of Irish culture in the arts. Therefore, much of the groundbreaking dramatic work of Yeats and J. M. Synge was condemned loudly by many critics, reviewers, and audiences. Joyce associated this kind of attitude with a puritanical orthodoxy which he dislikes intensely. His personal literary development tended to move apart from the Irish literary revival.
It stands to reason, then, that Joyce would feel a need to “escape” from Ireland. He was more interested in studying Italian or German than Gaelic, and was more interested in reading European literature than Irish folktales. However, it is equally clear that the end of the nineteenth century in Dublin, and the political and cultural conflicts which dominated the world into which Joyce grew, continued to have a profound grip on his imagination. Dublin is the setting for all of his literary work, even though he was living in Europe while most of it was written. These formative years, which are detailed in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, are the only time Joyce really lived in Ireland. His self-imposed “exile,” however, should not be seen as a total rejection of Ireland. He retained a profoundly ambivalent attitude toward his home city for the rest of his life; he despised aspects of it, but remained fascinated by it.
The publication of Joyce’s work caused something of a scandal in Dublin. His portrayal of the city is not always flattering, and he frequently incorporates real people from the city into his work. It is obvious why a nationalistic reader, who thinks that Irish literature should be primarily concerned with representing Ireland in a positive light, would think Joyce something of a national embarrassment. Initial reviews a A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, both in Ireland and abroad, often alternated between recognition and praise of the artistic skill of the novel, while balking at some of the offensive and crude realism in the novel.
For a first novel, Joyce’s Portrait got a substantial critical response, gaining the attention of contemporary literary figures such as Ezra Pound, W. B. Yeats, H. G. Wells, and Wyndham Lewis. He did not gain his full reputation as an avant-garde innovator in the art of prose, however, until the publication of Ulysses, which is more radical in its formal departures from literary conventions.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man will obviously have a strong appeal to young adults with a Catholic upbringing or an artistic disposition. Such students will surely identify specifically with much of Stephen’s experience. However, the more general theme of a young person coming of age, and the complex interplay of rebellion and conformity which this involves—growing away from the world of parents and the church as well as growing within it—has had and will continue to have a more universal appeal to younger readers from various backgrounds.
Master List of Characters
Simon Dedalus—Stephen’s father, originally from the city of Cork, a friendly and humorous man, a strong and vocal supporter of Parnell; his wealth declines throughout the novel.
Mary Dedalus—Stephen’s mother, a quiet, religious woman, who wants Stephen to observe his Easter duties at the end of the novel.
Stephen Dedalus—The protagonist and focal character of the narrative; it is essentially “his” story we are reading, following him from about age six until age eighteen, as he grows through and past the Catholic church, deciding finally to leave Dublin for Europe to become an artist.
Uncle Charles—Simon’s uncle, Stephen’s granduncle, who lives with the Dedalus family in the early stage of the novel; trying to preserve calm with Mrs. Dedalus, he remains noncommittal through the Christmas dinner argument.
Dante—Stephen’s governess, a nickname for “aunt.” A well-read and intelligent woman who teaches Stephen geography. She is vehement in her devotion to the Catholic church, and joins it in condemning Parnell despite her desire for liberation.
Brigid—The Dedalus’ maid; she only appears in the first chapter, and stands as an indication of their relative wealth as the novel begins.
Mr. Casey—A close friend of the Dedalus family, who attends Christmas dinner, and is instrumental in provoking the argument with Dante. Mr. Casey, like Mr. Dedalus, is a devout supporter of Parnell.
Rody Kickham—A student at Clongowes, a good football player and, according to young Stephen,
a “descent fellow.”
Nasty Roche—A student at Clongowes, whose father is a magistrate. He questions Stephen about his own father, and teases him about his unusual name. Stephen considers him a “stink.”
Wells—The student at Clongowes who pushes Stephen into the square ditch (the drainage for the outhouse). He teases and intimidates Stephen, but when it is clear that he has made Stephen ill by pushing him into the ditch, Wells begs him not to tell the rector.
Jack Lawton—Classmate of Stephen’s at Clongowes; he is Stephen’s “rival” in academic classroom competitions.
Simon Moonan and Tusker Boyle—Students at Clongowes, in Stephen’s class, who were allegedly caught “smugging” (a mild form of homosexual petting) with three older students. Stephen and the others discuss how Moonan and Boyle will be flogged.
Father Arnall—Stephen’s math and Latin teacher at Clongowes; he excuses Stephen from his lesson since he broke his glasses. He reappears in Chapter Three, and leads the retreat of St. Francis Xavier.
Fleming—A student at Clongowes, who is friendly and sympathetic to Stephen. He asks if Stephen is okay when he wakes up ill, then urges him to stay in bed.
Father Dolan—The prefect of studies and disciplinarian at Clongowes, who comes in and interrupts Latin class.
Brother Michael—The medical attendant at the infirmary when Stephen is ill.
Athy—The older student (in the third of grammar) who Stephen meets in the infirmary. He is friendly and tells Stephen riddles.
Eileen—A friend of Stephen’s at home. She is a Protestant, and Stephen associates her white hands with the tower of Ivory.
Cecil Thunder—A classmate of Stephen’s at Clongowes.
Corrigan—One of the older students involved in the smugging incident with Moonan and Boyle; given the choice between expulsion and flogging, Athy claims that Corrigan opted for flogging by Mr. Gleeson.
Mr. Harford—Stephen’s writing teacher at Clongowes.
Father Conmee—The rector at Clongowes; Stephen goes to speak to him about Father Dolan; Father Conmee is sympathetic and promises to speak to the prefect.
Mike Flynn—An old friend of Simon Dedalus, who is Stephen’s running trainer.
Aubrey Mills—Stephen’s childhood friend at home after Stephen leaves Clongowes; the two boys play adventure games together.
Maurice—Stephen’s younger brother, who is sent with Stephen to Belvedere College.
Vincent Heron—Stephen’s friend, antagonist, and “rival” at Belvedere; he delights in Stephen’s acts of “heresy,” yet condemns Byron, Stephen’s favorite poet, as a heretic.
Wallis—Heron’s sidekick; Stephen sees them together smoking outside of the play, and they, jokingly, make him recite the Confiteor.
Mr. Tate—Stephen’s English teacher at Belvedere, who accuses Stephen of heresy in an essay.
Boland and Nash—Heron’s two friends; the “dunce” and “idler” of the class, respectively. They try to argue with Stephen about poetry, mostly aping Heron’s opinion that Tennyson is the “best poet.” They condemn Stephen’s favorite, Byron, as a heretic.
Doyle—The director of the play Stephen is in at Belvedere.
Johnny Cashman—An old man to whom Stephen and his father speak while visiting Cork; Johnny claims to know many of Stephen’s ancestors.
E--- C--- / Emma—The girl to whom Stephen addresses his poems; she doesn’t actually appear in the novel, except through Stephen’s memories (the “her” throughout Chapter 5).
Ennis—A classmate of Stephen’s at Belvedere.
Old Woman—Stephen meets her in the street. She directs him to the Church Street chapel.
Priest—The priest at the Church Street chapel to whom Stephen confesses, rather than the priest at the retreat.
The Director—At Belvedere College, he asks Stephen if he has considered joining the priesthood.
Dan Crosby—A tutor; goes with Simon Dedalus to find out about the university for Stephen.
Dwyer, Towser, Shuley, Ennis, Connolly—Acquaintances of Stephen; he sees them swimming as he walks along the strand. They seem to him grotesque and immature.
Katey, Boody, Maggie—Stephen’s younger sisters.
Cranly—Stephen’s friend and confidant at the university; Stephen speaks to him about his plans to leave Ireland, and Cranly urges Stephen to appease him mother and observe his Easter duties.
Davin—A friend of Stephen’s at the university; he is from a rural area of Ireland, a “peasant student,” the other students tend to romanticize his accent and his “simple” ways.
Dean of Studies—An Englishman who talks with Stephen about his developing theory of aesthetics.
Moynihan—A fellow university student who tells ribald jokes during lecture.
Professor of Physics—Stephen attends his lecture, but is not engaged.
MacAlister—A fellow student from the north of Ireland whom Stephen dislikes intensely.
MacCann—A student at the university, a socialist and political activist who engages Stephen in a brief
public debate outside of the physics lecture.
Temple—A student at the university, a gypsy and a socialist, he admires Stephen immensely, much to the chagrin of Cranly, who finds Temple repulsive.
Lynch—A student at the university, to whom Stephen talks about his theory of aesthetics and morality.
Donovan—A student who Stephen and Lynch encounter during their walk; Stephen dislikes him.
Father Moran—A priest with whom Stephen thinks Emma has been flirting.
Dixon—The medical student at the library with Cranly.
The Captain—A dwarfish old man who Stephen, Dixon, and Cranly see at the library.
O’Keefe—A student who riles Temple outside the library.
Goggins—A stout student, part of the crowd outside the library.
Glynn—A young man at the library.
Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a bildungsroman, a novel of education; in this case, it is the growth of the artist from his earliest childhood to his declaration of his proper role as an artist, a “priest of the eternal imagination.” The novel begins with the earliest experience of the protagonist, Stephen Dedalus. His world is a world of sensations, especially of touch and smell. Later those sensations will be connected to words, and by the end of the book he recognizes that words have an independent existence. He also recognizes the demands that he submit, to “apologize,” as his father and Aunt Dante demand. Throughout the novel, Stephen is continually evading most of the demands that are placed on him. An artist must be free.
The next section takes place at a Jesuit boarding school, Clongowes; the concluding incident in the chapter also takes place there. Stephen had lost his glasses and was, therefore, unable to do his lesson. Father Dolan, however, refuses to accept his explanation. Stephen goes to the rector, Father Conmee, to seek redress. Conmee at first suggests that Father Dolan did not know of the lost glasses, but Stephen insists that he did know. Finally, Conmee reluctantly agrees to order Dolan not to punish Stephen the next day. The chapter ends with Stephen declared a hero by his classmates; he now feels “happy and free.” Each chapter of the book ends in some kind of triumph for Stephen. The beginning of...
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
When Stephen Dedalus goes to school for the first time, his last name soon gets him into trouble. It sounds too Latin, and the boys tease him about it. The other boys see that he is sensitive and shy, and they begin to bully him. School is filled with unfortunate incidents for Stephen. He is happy when he gets sick and is put in the infirmary away from the other boys. Just before the Christmas holidays, and again in the infirmary, he worries about dying and death. As he lay on the bed thinking, he hears the news of Charles Stewart Parnell’s death. The death of the great Irish leader is the first date he remembers—October 6, 1891.
At home during vacation time, he learns more of Parnell. Stephen’s father, Simon Dedalus, worships the dead man’s memory and defends him on every count. Stephen’s aunt, Dante Riordan, despised Parnell as a heretic and a rabble-rouser. The fierce arguments that they get into every day burn themselves into Stephen’s memory. He worships his father, and his father says that Parnell had tried to free Ireland, to rid it of the priests who were ruining the country. Dante insists that the opposite is true. A violent defender of the priests, she levels every kind of abuse against Simon and his ideas. The disagreement between them becomes a problem that, in due time, Stephen will have to solve for himself.
Returning to school after the holidays, Stephen gets in trouble with Father Dolan, one of the administrators of...
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Chapter Summary and Analysis
Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis
Mr. Dedalus: Stephen’s father
Mrs. Dedalus: Stephen’s mother
Stephen Dedalus: the protagonist and focal character of the narrative
Uncle Charles: Stephen’s granduncle
Dante: Stephen’s governess
Brigid: the Dedalus’ maid
Rody Kickham: student at Clongowes
Nasty Roche: student at Clongowes
Wells: student at Clongowes who pushed Stephen into the ditch
Simon Moonan: student at Clongowes, caught “smugging”
Tusker Boyle: student at Clongowes, caught “smugging” with Simon
Jack Lawton: Stephen’s competitor in class
Father Arnall: Stephen’s math and Latin teacher
Fleming: student at Clongowes; Stephen’s friend
Father Dolan: prefect of studies at Clongowes
Brother Michael: medical attendant in the infirmary
Athy: student at Clongowes
Mr. Casey: friend of the Dedalus family
Eileen: Stephen’s friend, a Protestant
Cecil Thunder: student at Clongowes
Corrigan: older student at Clongowes
Mr. Gleeson: teacher at Clongowes, will flog Corrigan
Mr. Harford: Stephen’s writing teacher at Clongowes
Father Conmee: the rector at Clongowes
In the first brief section of the chapter, Stephen is very young. He remembers a story his...
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Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis
Mike Flynn: Stephen’s running coach
Aubrey Mills: Stephen’s friend in Blackrock
Maurice: Stephen’s younger brother
Vincent Heron: Stephen’s friend and “rival” at Belvedere
Wallis: Heron’s friend
Mr. Tate: Stephen’s English teacher at Belvedere
Boland and Nash: Heron’s two friends
Doyle: the director of the play Stephen is in at Belvedere
Johnny Cashman: an old friend of Simon Dedalus in Cork
E--- C--- / Emma: the girl Stephen secretly admires
In the first section, the narrator says that Uncle Charles smokes his morning pipe in the outhouse, because Stephen’s father finds the tobacco smell unbearable. The Dedalus family has now moved to Blackrock, a suburb of Dublin, and it is summer. Stephen is spending a lot of time with Uncle Charles, going around town doing errands, and practicing track running in the park with Mike Flynn, a friend of Stephen’s father. After practice, they often go to chapel, where Charles prays piously, while Stephen sits respectfully. He would go on long walks every Sunday with his father and Uncle Charles, during which he would listen to them talk about politics and family history. At night, he would read a translation of The Count of Monte Cristo. The hero of this book, Edmond Dantes, appeals to Stephen, and he imagines his own life to be heroic...
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Chapter 3 Summary and Analysis
Ennis: a classmate of Stephen’s at Belvedere
Old Woman: in the street, who directs Stephen to the chapel
Priest: at the Church Street chapel where Stephen confesses
Stephen has now made a habit of visiting brothels. In school, he is bored and uninspired, and the narrative details the wanderings of his mind while he sits in class. He is not plagued by guilt for his sins, but rather feels a “cold lucid indifference.” He feels that he is beyond salvation, and can do nothing to control his lust. He has begun to despise his fellow students, in part because of what he sees as an empty and hypocritical piety on their part. He serves as prefecture of the sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary—a highly esteemed religious organization at Belvedere—but feels no guilt at the “falsehood of his position.” He sometimes considers confessing to the members of the sodality, but feels such contempt for them that he does not.
After the math class is over, the other students urge Stephen to try and stall the teacher of the next class by asking difficult questions about the catechism. Before the religion class, Stephen enjoys contemplating the theological dilemmas. When the rector comes in, he announces that a religious retreat in honor of St. Francis Xavier will begin on Wednesday afternoon. He tells the class about Francis Xavier’s life—he was one of the first followers of...
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Chapter 4 Summary and Analysis
The Director: at Belvedere College, asks Stephen to consider joining the priesthood
Dan Crosby: a tutor, who goes with Stephen’s father to find out about the university for Stephen
Dwyer, Towser, Shuley, Ennis, Connolly: acquaintances of Stephen’s; he sees them swimming near the strand
Stephen has now dedicated his life to the service of God—each day is structured around prayer, ritual, and religious devotions. He attends mass each morning, and offers ejaculations and prayers each day for the souls in purgatory. He sees his daily life now in terms of eternity, and senses an immediate connection between his acts on earth and their repercussions in heaven. Each of his three daily chaplets is dedicated to one of the “three theological virtues,” Father, Son and Holy Ghost; each day of the week is devoted toward gaining one of the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, and toward driving out each of the seven deadly sins.
Stephen views every aspect of his life as a gift from God; the world now exists for him “as a theorem of divine power and love and universality.” He tries to mortify and discipline each of his senses. He keeps his eyes to the ground, doesn’t try to avoid loud or unpleasant noises, intentionally subjects himself to unpleasant smells, and is strict about his diet, making sure he does not enjoy his food. He goes to great efforts to remain physically...
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Chapter 5 Summary and Analysis
Temple: a gypsy socialist student, he is the instigator of the debate
Lynch: student at the university, to whom Stephen sounds off about his theory of aesthetics
Donovan: student whom Stephen dislikes; Stephen and Lynch see him on their walk
Father Moran: priest with whom Stephen thinks Emma flirts
Dixon: medical student at the library with Cranly
The Captain: a dwarfish old man, whom Stephen sees at the library
O’Keefe: student who riles Temple outside the library
Goggins: stout student outside the library
Glynn: young man at the library
At the start of the final chapter, Stephen is sitting at breakfast in his parents’ house. Pawn tickets for clothing are on the table next to him, indicating that the family had to sell more possessions. He asks his mother how fast the clock is, and she tells him he had better hurry. His sisters are asked to clear a spot for Stephen to wash at the sink, and his mother scrubs his neck and ears for him, remarking how dirty he is. His father shouts down to ask if Stephen has left yet, and his sister answers “yes.” Stephen makes a sarcastic remark and leaves out the back.
As he is walking, he hears a mad nun yelling in the madhouse, “Jesus! O Jesus! Jesus!,” which disturbs and angers Stephen. He is trying to forget about the “voices” of his parents, and...
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