A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis
by James Joyce

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Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
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 and romantic. He has become friends with a boy named Aubrey Mills. They have formed a gang, and play adventure games together, in which Stephen, rather than dressing in a costume, makes a point of imitating Napoleon’s plain style of dress.

In September, Stephen does not go back to Clongowes because his father cannot afford to send him. Mike Flynn is in the hospital, and Aubrey is at school, so Stephen starts driving around with the milkman on his route. His family’s wealth is declining, and Stephen begins to imagine a female figure, such as Mercedes in The Count of Monte Cristo, who will transfigure and save him from the plainness of his life.

In the next section, the family has moved from Blackrock back to the city, and most of their furniture has just been reposessed by Mr. Dedalus’ creditors. Stephen understands that his father is in trouble, but does not know the details. Uncle Charles has gotten too old to go outside, so Stephen explores Dublin on his own. He visits relatives with his mother, but continues to feel bitter and aloof. After a children’s party, he takes the last tram home with the girl he admires. They stand near each other and, though they remain silent, Stephen feels a kind of connection with her. He thinks that she wants him to hold and kiss her, but he hesitates. The next day, he tries to write a poem to her. In the poem, he alters some of the details from the previous night—they are under trees rather than on a tram, and at the “moment of farewell,” this time, they kiss.

One night, Stephen learns that his father has arranged for him and his brother, Maurice, to attend Belvedere College, another Jesuit school. His father then recounts, at dinner, how Father Conmee told him about Stephen going to speak to him about Father Dolan. Mr. Dedalus imitates Father Conmee saying they had a “hearty laugh together over it.”

In the next section, Stephen is near the end of his second year at Belvedere. It is the night of the school play, and Stephen has the leading role in the second section, playing a comical teacher. Stephen, impatient with the first act, goes out of the chapel where the play is being staged. He encounters two of his classmates—Heron and Wallis—smoking outside. Heron urges Stephen to imitate the rector of Belvedere in the play. Heron says that he saw Stephen’s father going in, and teases him because Emma was with him. Their jesting makes Stephen angry and uncomfortable, but this mood soon passes. As they jokingly implore him to “admit” that he is “no saint,” Stephen plays along, reciting the Confiteor.

While doing so, Stephen’s mind wanders to a time, about a year back, when...

(The entire section is 4,939 words.)