Illustration of a man resembling James Joyce wearing a hat and glasses

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

by James Joyce

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Chapter 4 Questions and Answers

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Study Questions
1. Describe Stephen’s daily life at the start of Chapter Four.

2. Why does Stephen have trouble mortifying his sense of smell?

3. What is Stephen’s opinion of the Jesuits now?

4. How does Stephen reply when the director of Belvedere asks him if he feels he may have a vocation for the priesthood?

5. What appeals to Stephen about the priesthood?

6. What repels Stephen about the priesthood?

7. Why aren’t Stephen’s parents at home when he gets in?

8. What phrase comes to Stephen’s mind as he crosses the bridge to the Bull?

9. What symbolic import does Stephen recognize in his name?

10. How does Stephen interpret his encounter with the bathing girl along the strand?

1. Stephen’s day is structured around religious devotions—he attends morning Mass each day, carries his rosary in his pocket, and prays systematically throughout the day. He says three chaplets a day for the three theological virtues, while dedicating each day toward gaining one of the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, and toward driving out each of the seven deadly sins.

2. Stephen has trouble mortifying his sense of smell because he finds that he has little natural repugnance to odor, and it is difficult for him to find a smell unpleasant enough to disturb him. He ultimately finds that the smell of “longstanding urine” does the trick.

3. Stephen still respects the Jesuits, and is grateful for all they have done for him, but he admits that their judgments and opinions now seem “a little childish” to him. It is clear that Stephen feels that he is outgrowing a phase of his life that the Jesuits represent.

4. Stephen replies that he has “sometimes thought of it,” but he remains noncommittal.

5. Stephen is attracted to the power, privilege, and secret knowledge that the priesthood would offer. He is eager to learn the theological secrets, and to hear people’s secret confessions.

6. Stephen realizes that to become a priest would be to sacrifice an important degree of his individuality. The idea of being an anonymous member of a community of priests ultimately causes Stephen to reject the director’s offer.

7. His younger sister tells him that they have gone to look at another house. Apparently, the family will have to move again, under pressure from the landlord.

8. Stephen thinks of the phrase “A day of dappled seaborne clouds,” and is fascinated by the way it seems to capture the moment perfectly. Stephen is fascinated by the sound and rhythm of the words as much as their sense.

9. Stephen reads his name, Dedalus, as a “prophecy.” Daedalus was the mythical artificer who escaped from Crete with his son Icarus, using wings built from wax and feathers. Stephen sees Daedalus as a symbol of both art and flight.

10. Stephen interprets her as a symbol, an affirmative sign of his new understanding of his destiny as an artist. She seems to him like a seabird, who represents art, sexuality, femininity, and Ireland.

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