A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Chapter 5 Summary and Analysis
by James Joyce

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Chapter 5 Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
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 religion. Walking alone, he thinks of plays and poems, and the aesthetic theories of Aristotle and Aquinas. He passes a clock that tells him it is eleven o’clock. He tries to remember the day of the week, thinks of the lectures he is scheduled to attend, and realizes that he is late for English. He thinks of that class, and begins to think about his close friend, Cranly. He composes nonsense verse idly in his head, and thinks of the etymology of the word “ivory.” He thinks of his Latin studies and Roman history. He sees Trinity, which depresses him, and he looks at the statue of Thomas Moore, the national poet of Ireland. He thinks with affection of his friend Davin, the peasant student, and of Davin’s nationalistic sympathies for Ireland. Stephen remembers a story Davin told him once, about encountering a woman alone at night while he was walking on the road, and being invited to her house to spend the night.

His reverie is interrupted by a flower seller, whom Stephen tells he has no money. He walks on and, when he arrives, he realizes it is too late for his French class, too. He goes in early to physics, instead. The physics hall is empty, except for the Dean of Studies, who is lighting a fire. The dean tells Stephen to pay attention, and learn the art of firestarting, one of the “useful arts.” Stephen watches silently. They begin comparing different conceptions of art and beauty. Stephen quotes Aquinas, and defines beauty as “that which, when seen, pleases us.” The priest asks Stephen when he plans to write his aesthetic theory, and Stephen humbly says he hopes to work up some ideas from Aristotle and Aquinas. Stephen begins to feel uncomfortable around the dean, and perceives the dean’s partial attention to what he is saying. They begin to casually debate the usage of the world “funnel,” which Stephen does not recognize because in Ireland it is called a “tundish.” The priest is English, and Stephen thinks his interest in the new word is feigned. Stephen tries to return to his original subject, and thinks with some distress that the language they are speaking is the dean’s national language, not his. Stephen becomes disheartened with their conversation, and the class begins to fill with students. The priest gives Stephen some conventional advice, and hurries away. Stephen stands at a distance and watches him greet the students.

When the professor comes in, the students respond with “Kentish fire”—a stomping of the feet which could represent either applause or impatience. The professor calls roll, and Stephen’s friend Cranly is not in class. A student named Moynihan sarcastically...

(The entire section is 9,388 words.)