There is much in way of excesses in chapter three of Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man . John Blades suggests that chapter three is a chapter of "excess." The sins that Stephen engages in are viewed in an excessive manner, coupled by the sermons that Stephen...
There is much in way of excesses in chapter three of Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. John Blades suggests that chapter three is a chapter of "excess." The sins that Stephen engages in are viewed in an excessive manner, coupled by the sermons that Stephen hears and internalizes. Stephen engages in excess sin and excessive repentance for what he has done. It is in this context in which Stephen understands the nature of his being in light of the "day of judgment:"
The preacher's knife had probed deeply into his disclosed conscience and he felt now that his soul was festering in sin. Yes, the preacher was right. God's turn had come. Like a beast in its lair his soul had lain down in its own filth but the blasts of the angel's trumpet had driven him forth from the darkness of sin into the light. The words of doom cried by the angel shattered in an instant his presumptuous peace. The wind of the last day blew through his mind, his sins, the jewel-eyed harlots of his imagination, fled before the hurricane, squeaking like mice in their terror and huddled under a mane of hair.
For Stephen, the "preacher's knife" through sermonizing had held an immediate and powerful effect upon him. Stephen began to understand his embrace of lust and carnal reality as elements that spelled the doom of his soul. The "last day" that Stephen sees as the day of judgment for he and his soul are powerful elements in his conscience. The "filth" in Stephen's "soul" are elements that fuel his envisioning of his last day. He sees his frequenting brothels and his embrace of the carnal lust within him as " jewel- eyed harlots," elements that scamper away in the midst of the "hurricane" that Stephen perceives as God's judgment. The puny nature of individuals in the face of an angry and forceful notion of God is spiritual context of the line. This is emphasized by the notion of "mice in their terror," reflecting how the construction of the divine has influenced Stephen. At the same time, the line reflects the context of excess that marks the chapter and Stephen's development through this point in the narrative.