Analysis of James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

This is the title that Joyce gave to his first published novel, derived, as noted below, from the shorter version given to an earlier prose piece. Joyce composed A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man over the course of seven years, and, although it represented a significant advancement from earlier work, it undeniably grew out of a long-standing plan for a Kunstlerroman (novel about the development of an artist) whose early manifestation appears in the surviving fragments of the novel Stephen Hero, which was abandoned within a year or so after Joyce had left Dublin in favor of work on Dubliners.

In its final version A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man stands in very distant relation to Stephen Hero, the work from which it was derived, but its link to this ur-work remains a useful measure of its achievement. The episodic format and concern with the consciousness of its protagonist in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man announce a modernist disposition absent from the surviving fragments of Stephen Hero even as they express the concern, apparent in Joyce’s earliest writing, for the difficulty in defining an artistic identity in an unremittingly parochial world. The narrative’s supple oscillation between detached objectivity and an empathetic awareness of Stephen’s most intimate thoughts, desires, and apprehensions shows a discursive sophistication not present in its predecessor while at the same time they mark the maturing artistic vision of an author now firmly in control of descriptive patterns only partially comprehended before.

When it began to appear in serial form in 1914, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man seemed to display far greater affinity, both formally and thematically, with Dubliners than with Stephen Hero. Nonetheless, the fundamental thematic features that shaped the narrative trajectory of the earlier prose work retain pride of place in its successor. Like Stephen Hero, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man chronicles the life of an emerging artist, Stephen Dedalus (essentially the same character who appeared in the earlier work, with a slight modification in the spelling of his surname). The discourse follows the gradual maturation of Stephen from his infancy, through his primary, secondary, and university education, to the eve of his departure from Ireland. It displays a similar fascination with the most mundane elements in Stephen’s life, and it asserts the same presumption of distinction in his nature.

Unlike Stephen Hero, however, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man avoids the imaginative constraints and mechanical accounts that can grow out of naturalism by not attempting a detailed sequential account of Stephen’s life. Instead, it introduces epiphanic moments to give the narrative a unique discursive rhythm, breaking up the action into discrete episodes and drawing readers into the action to resolve the apparent disunities of the fragmented accounts. As a result, the narrative feels free to move abruptly from chapter to chapter and even from scene to scene, while trusting to the reader the obligation to make the connections among them.

Of course, that is not to say that anarchy reigns. The overall narrative is united thematically, and the story that is driving events traces with increasing insistence Stephen’s growing alienation from the inflexible social, cultural, and creative environments in Ireland that threaten first to circumscribe and then to stifle the imagination of the young artist.

The narrative features withdrawal but not defeat—ultimately privileging an interpretive strategy that parallels the techniques of “silence, exile, and cunning” that in the final chapter Stephen announces as his weapons of self-defense. In a carefully choreographed sequence of events, culminating in the final chapter, the narrative records Stephen’s progressive disillusionment with the central institutions defining the nature of Irish- Catholic society: the family, the church, and the nationalist movement. The striking feature of this movement lies in the way that its restrained development mimics the gradual enlightenment that comes out of most human experience. Thus, through a skillfully orchestrated sequence of events stretched over the five chapters of the novel, Stephen successively comes to a greater and greater sense of each institution as an oppressive and inhibitive force, antipathetic to all that he has come to value in his life. As a result, he turns with increasing determination from society and toward art.

As noted already, critics have come to see A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as a paradigmatic modernist novel, a work of fiction that cleanly breaks from earlier artistic conventions and that establishes a commitment to an aesthetic vision as a moral value, but the very label runs the risk of limiting one’s sense of Joyce’s achievement. Rather than see the work as a benchmark in literary history, it is far more useful to consider the source of its continuing impact on contemporary readers. Given the episodic structure of the discourse, this approach is best accomplished through a chapter-by-chapter survey. However, a slight detour is first necessary.

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Epigraph

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man stands as Joyce’s only published work preceded by an epigraph: Et ignotas animum dimittit in artes. The passage comes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and it can be translated as “he turned his mind to unknown arts.” It records the response of Daedalus, the fabulous artificer, when told by King Minos of Crete that he and his son would not be allowed to leave the island. Daedalus in turn produced the wax wings that allowed him and Icarus to soar away but that also led to his son’s death when the young man flew too close to the sun and the wax melted. This epigraph traces wonderfully the narrative movement of each chapter, which ends on a high note only to be brought low by the depressing image or scene that introduces the next chapter. Even more to the point for readers, the epigraph stands as an open invitation to interpretive freedom. The vague pronoun of the phrase (it becomes masculine only because of Ovid’s context) and the image of imaginative exploration invite all readers, men and women, to open their minds to new ways of seeing.

The epigraph also serves as a good reminder of the provisionality of the novel’s title. This is “a” portrait, with the indefinite article providing a sense of the openness and subjectivity of the narrative. Further, a portrait by its very nature reflects as much of the perceiver as it does of the subject. Thus, even before one begins to read, Joyce has offered ample warning that those who approach the text seeking definitive meaning or a prescriptive reading will only succeed in creating a great deal of frustration for themselves.

Chapter 1

Chapter 1 immediately enforces the need for the interpretive flexibility suggested by the title and epigraph. It announces its groundbreaking intentions by opening the novel with an arresting departure from conventional narrative forms: an abrupt introduction into the experiences of the work’s central character that demands immediate and sustained reader involvement. The fractured recapitulation of the fairy tale that Stephen’s father, Simon Dedalus, tells to his young son, nicknamed Baby Tuckoo—“Once upon a time and a very good time it was . . .”—challenges traditional interpretive methods and announces a new role for the reader. From these first few lines, the source of the speaker and function of the narrative come into question. This is not to say that the narrative is flawed but rather that it is intentionally incomplete or ambiguous. Joyce self-consciously sustains a range of interpretive options within his discourse by allowing the reader to resolve or complete such moments in the narrative. The reader quickly sees that, from early on, much of the meaning of the novel will derive directly from his or her own interpretive choices, without the usual authorial guidance. Further, these decisions have a provisionality that allows readers to reconfigure the meaning of the novel every time they encounter it.

Immediately following this opening, readers encounter the disturbing and disorienting images of fear and punishment. As young Stephen cowers under a table, he learns that the consequences of disobedience have mythic authority: “Eagles will come and pluck out his eyes.” At the same time, as the phrase “Pull out his eyes Apologize” is repeated in a singsong fashion, the reader must decide if this represents the voice of authority hammering home the lesson or the consciousness of an already rebellious Stephen throwing back the threat in a mocking tone.

Already, two key features of the narrative have become evident to readers. The voice that recounts the experiences of Stephen Dedalus, while not exactly Stephen’s consciousness, has at all times a keen sense of Stephen’s feelings. Further, that voice articulates its views in a vocabulary roughly equivalent to what one would expect from Stephen at whatever age he is when the discourse recounts specific experiences or attitudes. This gives readers a powerful sense of the maturation process even as it conveys a feeling of intimate knowledge of the developing attitudes of the central character.

Finally, these first two pages of the novel provide a brief introduction of the central themes that A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man will take up— the roles of family, Catholicism, and nationalism in the formation of identity. None are developed in any detail, but that too suits the structure that Joyce has chosen. Just as the very young Stephen will only be aware of these institutions in very general and unformed fashion, readers glimpse their significance in his consciousness without a specific idea of their effect.

Next, the narrative goes on to describe life at Stephen’s first school, Clongowes Wood  College, the prestigious institution that marks the beginning of Stephen’s association with the Jesuits. In the process, the discourse begins to outline for the reader the particular character traits that will set Stephen apart from others, and the challenges that he will face in his efforts to sustain the uniqueness of his nature in a society that emphasizes conformity.

Stephen feels the predictable homesickness and disorientation of a very young boy sent away from home. He finds himself frustrated by being the butt of jokes—when Wells asks him if he kisses his mother, Stephen is chagrined to learn that there is no answer that will not produce ridicule. At the same time he comes to take pride in his budding intellectual abilities and in his growing sense of how he is expected to behave. (When he becomes ill after Wells shoulders him into the muddy water of the square ditch, he keeps the schoolboy code of silence.) While a hasty reading might suggest that Stephen is simply an outsider shunned by his classmates, a more careful assessment shows a young boy carefully making his way in a complex world. He gains a measure of respect from his fellows even as he also shows his callowness.

The chapter ends with two well-known episodes that underscore the complexity of Stephen’s world. In the first, readers see the fragility of the structures that seemingly support and nourish the young boy. In the second, we get a good sense of the resilience of Stephen in the face of injustice.

The Christmas dinner scene begins with deceptive good cheer. In an upbeat tone it announces a pleasant rite of passage, Stephen’s first opportunity to eat a holiday meal with the adults rather than with the other young children. However, the cheerfulness that initially characterizes the narrative quickly dissipates with the outbreak of a bitter argument over Charles Stewart Panell between Stephen’s father and Mr. Casey, supporters of Parnell, and Dante Riordan, an ardent nationalist who nonetheless follows the dictates of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in condemning Parnell as an adulterer. The quarrel captures stark divisions among political, social, and spiritual goals without offering a clear sense of right and wrong in the dispute. The argument ends with a paradoxical inversion of stereotypical roles—the men are in tears and Dante boisterously exits the room shouting her defiance—and it leaves Stephen wondering which if any of the Irish institutions invoked by both sides during the bitter confrontation—family, church, and nationalist movement—can be trusted.

The chapter concludes with a description of maltreatment and melioration that inverts the pattern of the Christmas dinner scene. Back at Clongowes Wood, some time after the Christmas recess, an aura of confusion and resentment permeates the world of the boys at school. Some older students have done something so serious that the Jesuit teachers have responded with a series of repressive punishments applied to everyone. In a wonderfully developed interchange in which the boys try to puzzle out the cause of the turmoil, Joyce captures both the naïveté and the bravado of the group. One of the students, Athy, claims to know the cause of the turmoil, and sententiously announces that the older boys were “smugging.” Though no one knows the meaning of the word, including the reader, all the others nod as if the situation was now crystal clear. (The word in fact is a neologism that Joyce employs to make his point. It allows one to imagine whatever one wishes rather than contend with a narrative that strictly details the offense. Once again, this underscores Joyce’s intention to give the reader an integral role in completing the meaning of the text.)

The incident, whatever it may be, has also shaken the Jesuits at Clongowes Wood, and their reaction is to redouble discipline at the school. As a result of overzealous efforts to make an example of any and all offenders, Stephen, who cannot participate in lessons because his glasses have been broken, finds himself unfairly pandied by Father Dolan, the prefect of studies. (Pandying consisted of a series of sharp blows administered on the hands with a leather strap.) Stephen and his classmates feel the injustice of Father Dolan’s act, and his schoolfellows press Stephen to seek redress. When he goes to the rector, the Rev. John Conmee, SJ, to complain of this treatment, Stephen receives assurances that it will not recur. Conmee’s solicitous treatment of Stephen stands as an important, if underrated, element of the narrative. Joyce does not seek to evoke a Dickensian world that sets oppositions in stark contrast. Stephen’s break from social institutions comes gradually because, despite their flaws, the narrative records ample instances of their meliorating behavior. Thus, the chapter ends with Stephen feeling a genuine sense of triumph, for events have reaffirmed, for Stephen at least, the predictable order that social institutions can be said to bring to our lives, Of course, for readers, with the advantage of detachment and hindsight, the resemblance between order and authoritarianism stands out all too clearly and presages conflicts to follow. Nonetheless, the narrative’s unwillingness here to oversimplify the complexity of human interaction signals its sophisticated sense of the development of Stephen’s identity.

Chapter 2

Chapter 2, like all subsequent chapters, opens with a marked shift in narrative tone from euphoria to depression. The first image one encounters reasserts one of the narrative’s favorite forms, inversion. Uncle Charles, the elderly relative who had been unable to intervene in chapter 1 to prevent the harsh conflict at the Christmas dinner, is now banished by Stephen’s father to a building behind the main house to smoke. Although in itself, the act seems trivial, it introduces themes of isolation and humiliation that will soon characterize the fortunes of the Dedalus family.

Throughout the summer in the south Dublin suburb of Blackrock, where the family has moved, Stephen gradually becomes aware of the changes in the world around him. The narrative establishes a seemingly innocent routine in Stephen’s life, even as it introduces disconcerting images such as that of Mickey Flynn, the track coach in appalling physical condition. Stephen comes to realize that unspecified obstacles will prevent him from returning to Clongowes Wood in the fall, and even more serious problems quickly become evident. Seeking less expensive housing, the Dedalus family soon moves again into Dublin proper, and the discourse begins to make direct reference to Simon Dedalus’s growing financial concerns that will accelerate over the remainder of the novel. In the midst of this unsettled time, Father Conmee, the former rector at Clongowes Wood College, who had come to Stephen’s aid at the end of chapter 1, again steps in to provide assistance. This time he does so by securing for Stephen (and probably Stephen’s brother Maurice) a scholarship to the prestigious Jesuit school, Belvedere college, in Dublin. (Father Conmee’s kindness is recounted secondhand by Simon Dedalus, who ran into Conmee on the street and who evidently persuaded the priest to intervene for Stephen. During this encounter, Conmee has also given Simon an account of Stephen’s visit after the pandying episode. As Simon retells the anecdote, Conmee comes across as less sympathetic and more amused than Stephen or perhaps the reader had realized. The priest’s recollection, as it is recounted by Simon to Stephen and the rest of the Dedalus family, has a dual function. It reminds readers of the highly subjective point of view that the narrative presents as it reflects Stephen’s views of the world, and it draws us once again into an active engagement with the text, leaving it to us to decide how, if at all, this very different impression of events affects Stephen’s sense of the occasion.)

In the episodic fashion that characterizes the narrative, the discourse abruptly shifts its attention to Stephen’s renewed academic career. At Belvedere, Stephen has quickly established his intellectual prowess and become one of the more notable students. In contrast to his rather diffident role at Clongowes Wood, at Belvedere Stephen has assumed the position of class leader, although he still maintains a measure of aloofness. This transition, however, has not gone completely smoothly, and the middle portion of the chapter chronicles a series of events that highlight Stephen’s intellectual and social rivalry with his classmate Vincent Heron.

As a striking contrast to Stephen’s success at Belvedere, the narrative also recounts the continuing financial deterioration of the Dedalus family. A trip that Stephen takes to Cork with his father to sell off the last of the Dedalus family property there to pay Simon’s accumulated debts highlights the consequences of Mr. Dedalus’s profligacy. At the same time, it shows, through his father’s drunken competitiveness with his son, a growing distance between Stephen and his family. At the same time, the narrative introduces ironic parallels between the father’s and the son’s handling of money. In the penultimate section of chapter 2, the discourse offers an extended account of Stephen’s spendthrift ways as he squanders the prize money of 33 pounds.

The closing episode unfolds with startling abruptness an account of a strangely passive Stephen apparently experiencing sexual initiation with a Dublin prostitute. (The narrative does not make clear whether Stephen had previously been to a prostitute, but his intense excitement and palpable nervousness make it seem unlikely.) As the final paragraph makes clear, it is the prostitute who initiates all of the action, while Stephen, with an artistlike detachment, both experiences and records the scene.

Chapter 3

By the beginning of chapter 3 Stephen’s initial sensual euphoria has now become a near mechanical process of satiation. His imagination now takes as much pleasure contemplating the possibility of stew for dinner as recalling the gratification offered by the prostitutes he has known. In this chapter the narrative focuses almost exclusively on giving an account of a religious retreat that the boys at Belvedere have to make, and it specifically foregrounds the sermons preached by the retreat master, Father Arnall.

Although the retreat receives a rather melodramatic representation, heightened by the selective attentiveness of Stephen’s overactive imagination, the liturgy itself was a long-established practice and, as Joyce would have known, one held in particular esteem by the Jesuits. (The Society of Jesus was the first religious order that made the retreat obligatory for its members.) The format of the retreat described in chapter 3 follows the standard approach prescribed at that time by the church. It has the retreat master leading the boys toward personal assessments through a series of meditations on death, the Last Judgment, Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven.

The narrative plays a selective and possibly misleading role in its account of the retreat in which Stephen participates. It reports verbatim portions of the sermons, and then counterpoints the priest’s words with Stephen’s reactions to them. To anyone unfamiliar with the practice, it might seem that these passages cover the entire retreat. To the contrary, what we see in the text is a reflection of the factors that most hold Stephen’s attention: pride and guilt. As a result, emphasis falls on representations of guilt and punishment.

Despite the actual breadth of the retreat format, in passage after passage, Stephen dwells exclusively upon the consequences of his mortal sins with something akin to morbid pleasure, and this state of mind brings him to a form of repentance, based almost exclusively on a mixture of conceit over the presumed magnitude of his sins and fear of retribution as a consequence, that highlights the conclusion of the chapter.

The primary motivation for Stephen’s repentance offers important insights into his nature. Though remorse plays at the margins of Stephen’s feelings and a fear of punishment has a significance in Stephen’s decision to repent, pride stands as the dominant impulse in the chapter. Pride initially leads Stephen to feel that his sins are too grave for forgiveness. As the retreat sermons unfold, his pride makes him feel as if every word were directed at him. His pride causes him to dream of a personal vision of hell, like the great saints mentioned by Father Arnall. And pride leads him to imagine reconciliation not through his own approach to the Eucharist but rather with the Body of Christ coming to him: “The ciborium had come to him.”

Chapter 4

At the same time, despite these reservations about the nature of his reconciliation with the church, Stephen’s gesture of repentance seems sincere. Indeed, this marks a time of genuine happiness for Stephen. However, predictably, the initial gratification derived from the renewed practice of his faith has become a habitual adherence to a mechanistic routine by the time chapter 4 begins. The episode opens with a detailed account of the near-masochistic regime of spiritual exercises and acts of selfdenial that Stephen has formulated for himself in an effort to atone for his sins. Nonetheless, despite the fervor characterizing Stephen’s commitment to piety, this scheme rapidly degenerates into a series of perfunctory, emotionless practices emphasizing the mortifications of the flesh rather than the spiritual enlightenment that is the real goal of these acts.

In a scene that raises a number of problematic issues relating to belief and service, the narrative focuses attention on the impact of religion on the life of a prospective artist. As one would expect in the tight-knit atmosphere of the school, Stephen’s piety has come to the attention of the director of studies at Belvedere. He meets with Stephen and asks the young man to consider the possibility of a vocation to the priesthood, specifically as a member of the Society of Jesus. As in the retreat sermons, much of what the director says, particularly about the sacramental powers that priests enjoy, appeals to Stephen’s pride. Likewise, one does well to remember that the narrative emphasizes Stephen’s perspective, so hasty judgments about the manipulative quality of the suggestion oversimplify the dynamics of the exchange. Indeed, at one point, the director very bluntly urges careful consideration, for an ill-conceived decision to become a priest would be disastrous. In any case, the director’s suggestion precipitates a crisis of conscience in Stephen. He conducts a rigorous, probing consideration of the values that actually inform his natureand weighs them against the demands that such a full commitment to the church would place upon him. Ultimately, the confining life and rigorous discipline of the priesthood runs contrary to his perceived need for experiences to feed his creative impulses. This brings him to a decision to break with the church (a course of action made explicit in the next chapter) and choose art over religion as his life’s vocation.

The chapter ends with a passage that has come to be seen as a crucial moment in Stephen’s artistic development: the embodiment of the creative possibilities offered by his choice through the vision of a young girl wading in the waters of Dublin Bay. As Stephen walks along Dollymount Strand he sees a young woman, whom critics have come to label the Birdgirl, standing knee deep in the water. The beauty of this image has an aesthetic rather than an erotic impact on him that ultimately confirms for him the absolute correctness of his choice. It marks an epiphany in which Stephen realizes how much he wishes for the power to evoke through his writing the same sense of pleasure he feels as he contemplates the girl’s beauty.

Chapter 5

As with the other moments of exhilaration that have ended previous chapters, this exuberance disappears with the opening of chapter 5. The scene in a tenement shows the tawdry, even desperate, daily life of the Dedalus family as they struggle to sustain themselves through increasing economic hardship. With harsh criticism of Stephen from Simon Dedalus opening the chapter and his mother’s plea for him to return to the church near its end, Stephen’s growing alienation from his family brackets a series of episodes marking his break with Ireland and his full commitment to art.

Clashes with authority have marked every stage of Stephen’s development. Here the narrative methodically traces Stephen’s final rejection of the institutions that have endeavored to set his moral direction—Irish nationalism, the Catholic Church, and the family. In this fashion it lays out his reasons for breaking with each, and then leaves it to the reader to decide how close Stephen has come to achieving his goal of being an artist.

The first formative force the narrative addresses is patriotism. To his friend Davin (the only character in the novel to call Stephen familiarly by a diminutive of his first name—Stevie), Stephen explains that he cannot give himself over to the Irish nationalist movement. In Stephen’s opinion the history of hypocrisy and betrayal that surrounds Irish patriotic endeavors precludes any rational human being from giving his loyalty to this cause.

Before going on to address Stephen’s break with other Irish institutions, the narrative offers a sketch of the values governing the alternative approach to life that the young man has embraced. To Vincent Lynch, a fellow student at University College, Dublin, Stephen outlines the tenets of the aesthetic theory that have come to replace Catholic dogma as the moral center of his universe. This is a section full of the self-importance and sententiousness that can at times dominate Stephen’s nature. Wisely, the narrative punctuates Stephen’s pedantic and humorless disquisition with Lynch’s interjection of his sardonic views and his complaints of the hangover that plagues him. Although the sinuousness of the aesthetic theory itself challenges readers, it raises a larger interpretive issue, namely, to what degree one should apply the values expressed by Stephen to the novel in which they appear. Joyce wisely does not force the issue, but no complete interpretation of the book can ignore the need to come to some resolution of this question.

After the dry examination of artistic values, the narrative returns to the core issues of social environment. Talking to another friend and confidant, Cranly, also a classmate at University College, Dublin, Stephen touches on his religious alienation when he explains his break with his mother over his unwillingness to profess publicly his Catholic faith by making his Easter duty. While Lynch, suffering from the effects of a heavy night of drink, was a distracted and often disinterested listener, Cranly provides a very different response. Although he evinces no greater loyalty to Irish institutions than does Stephen, Cranly does maintain a cynical pragmatism that challenges Stephen’s idealistic approach. For Cranly, appearances mean little, and so apparent acquiescence to the authority of the family, church, and state will have little effect uponhim. He offers Stephen the alternative of accommodation, and the logic behind his reasoning shows how tempting his suggestions must have been. In the end, however, Stephen rejects Cranly’s approach, and in doing so he forecloses the possibility of continuing to live in Ireland.

Near the end of the chapter, the narrative makes a final, radical shift in form, and introduces direct evidence of Stephen’s artistic maturation. In a series of diary entries, readers see Stephen’s summation of his views on Ireland and art, and they can judge from this written evidence how close Stephen has come to attaining his ambition. As Stephen completes his account of his emancipation from Irish cultural institutions, he utters a paradoxical declaration that neatly sums up his imaginative condition. On the point of leaving the claustrophobic atmosphere of Ireland to go to Paris, he nonetheless affirms his inextricable connection to his cultural, spiritual, and imaginative heritage, declaring: “I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race” (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man 252–253). Stephen will not come to a full sense of this dependence upon Ireland as an inspiration for his art until the pages of Ulysses, but this statement clearly announces the direction in which his development is headed.

Although readers in Joyce’s time may not have realized it, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man has established itself as the foremost example of English modernism in the canon. As one expects from a modernist work, it offers a thorough critique of the key social institutions that seek to shape the life of its central character—in Stephen’s case the family, the church, and the state (in the form of Irish nationalism). With deft attention to detail, the narrative traces, in the five chapters of the novel, the gradual lessening of influence exerted by each institution. It avoids the melodramatic sunderings chronicled by some of the lesser modernists like D. H. Lawrence, and instead presents an account of Stephen’s cumulative sense of the inadequacy of the institutions in the world around him. As an alternative to the absence of valid guidance and support from these entities, the narrative shows the growing confidence of the artist’s ego as the valid benchmark for guiding behavior. Also in the modernist tradition, the narrative develops in an episodic, open-ended form that actively draws readers into the completion of its meaning.

CHARACTERS

Arnall, Father

He is a Jesuit priest who first appears in chapter 1 of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. As Stephen Dedalus’s Latin teacher at Clongowes Wood College, he exempts Stephen from his studies after Stephen breaks his eyeglasses. However, when the prefect of studies, Father Dolan, enters Father Arnall’s classroom and unjustly accuses the boy of being an “idle little loafer” (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man 50), Father Arnall does not defend Stephen when he is pandied. Later, in chapter 3 of the novel, Father Arnall reappears to give the sermons during the retreat conducted when Stephen is at Belvedere College. The fierce tone that Father Arnall adopts during the retreat is strikingly different from his classroom demeanor at Clongowes, but in fact the outline of the sermons comes from a very detailed program that all retreat masters of Joyce’s day would have followed.

Brigid

In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Brigid is a servant in the Dedalus household. Although she does not appear in the novel, while lying sick in the infirmary at Clongowes Wood College the young Stephen Dedalus recalls the words of a song about death and burial that Brigid had taught him (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man 24).

Butt, D., SJ

In Stephen Hero Father Butt is identified as the dean of students at University College, Dublin, where he also teaches English. He probably reappears lighting the fire in the Physicans Theatre episode of chapter 5 of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, although in that novel the dean of students is not identified by name. Most likely, Joyce modeled his depiction of Father Butt on his recollections of the Rev. Joseph Darlington, SJ, who was the dean of studies and a professor of English at University College, Dublin when Joyce attended (1898–1902).

Casey, John

He appears in the pivotal Christmas dinner scene in chapter 1. There, he and Simon Dedalus argue with Mrs. Riordan (Dante) over the proper role of the Catholic Church in Irish politics, and, in particular, he condemns the church’s repudiation of Charles Stewart Parnell. The Fenian John KELLY, a friend of John Stanislaus Joyce, James’s father, served as the model for John Casey.

Charles, Uncle

He is Stephen Dedalus’s elderly, maternal granduncle. Uncle Charles is present at the Christmas dinner when John Casey, Mr. Dedalus, and Dante Riordan argue over Charles Stewart Parnell. Chapter 2 opens with a request by Stephen’s father that Uncle Charles smoke his “black twist” tobacco in the outhouse, a shed behind the main building, to which the old man good-naturedly agrees. Later the narrative describes Stephen spending much of his time in Blackrock during the early part of the summer with Uncle Charles. Joyce based Uncle Charles on William O’Connell, a prosperous businessman in Cork who was a maternal uncle of Joyce’s father.

Clery, Emma

She is a young woman, specifically identified by name in Stephen Hero, who is the object of Stephen Daedalus’s romantic fantasies there. In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, she may be the E—— C—— with whom the young Stephen Dedalus rides home on a tram after a children’s party at Harold’s Cross, and whom he is tempted to kiss. She seems to appear throughout the novel both as Stephen’s idealized vision of Irish womanhood and as a representation of the Irish society’s stereotypical attitudes of and toward women against which Stephen rebels. In chapter 3, during the retreat, Stephen imagines that Emma is with him in an encounter with the Blessed Virgin (P 116). Near the end of the novel (P 252) Stephen describes his awkward meeting with an unnamed young woman in Grafton Street who seems very like Emma, sympathetic to Stephen’s problems yet a bit afraid of his unconventional attitudes. In Monasterboice, a play by Padraic Colum about Joyce’s quest for artistic identity, Colum uses the name Emma for the girl who accompanies Joyce to the monastery at Monasterboice, and Colum attributes to her qualities similar to those that so attracted Stephen Dedalus to Emma in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Conmee, Rev. John, SJ (1847–1910)

He was an actual Jesuit priest and the rector at Clongowes Wood College from 1885 to 1891. In 1893, Father Conmee arranged for both Joyce and his brother Stanislaus to attend Belvedere College on scholarships. According to Herbert Gorman, Joyce received comfort from Father Conmee and described him to Gorman as “a very decent sort of chap.” Conmee was appointed prefect of studies at Belvedere College (1891–92), prefect of studies at University College, Dublin (1893–95), superior of St. Francis Xavier’s Church (1897–1905), provincial (1905–09), and rector of Milltown Park (1909–10).

Fictional versions of Conmee appear in both A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses. In the first chapter of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen Dedalus appeals to Father Conmee after being unjustly accused of idleness and pandied by Father Dolan. In the second chapter, Simon Dedalus relates having met Father Conmee, and announces that the priest has promised to intervene to obtain a scholarship for Stephen (and possibly his brother Maurice) to attend Belvedere College.

Cranly

He appears in both Stephen Hero and in chapter 5 of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Cranly is a close friend of Stephen’s, and a classmate at University College, Dublin. Cranly provides pragmatic advice on how to get along in theclaustrophobic world of Dublin. During an extended walk around the city they discuss religious belief and family relations. Cranly is modeled on Joyce’s mild-mannered friend and confidant, John Francis Byrne.

Davin

He is a character who appears in chapter 5 of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Davin is one of Stephen Dedalus’s classmates at University College, Dublin. He is a nationalist who comes from rural Ireland, a devout Catholic, and a sexually chaste young man. In this respect, Davin stands as Stephen’s polar opposite. The contrast allows Davin to serve as a foil for Stephen’s attitudes, giving the reader a clear sense of the changes that have occurred in Stephen as he matures physically, emotionally, and psychologically over the course of the novel and as his literary aspirations develop. At the same time, despite their very different backgrounds and views, Davin enjoys a particularly close friendship with Dedalus, and he is the only person outside the family in the book to address Stephen by his first name. (In fact he uses the diminutive, Stevie, that no one else does.) The character of Davin is modeled on Joyce’s friend and university classmate George Clancy, who is also the model for the character of Madden who appears in Stephen Hero.

Dedalus, Katey

She is one of Stephen Dedalus’s younger sisters, appearing in both A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and in a more extended role in Ulysses. In chapter 5 of A Portrait, Mrs. Dedalus asks Katey to prepare the place for Stephen to wash, and she in turn asks her sister Boody.

Dedalus, Simon

He appears in both A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses. Simon Dedalus is the improvident and alcoholic father of Stephen Dedalus and the head of the Dedalus household. Like his precursor (Mr. Simon Daedalus in Stephen Hero), Joyce modeled Mr. Dedalus’s character on that of his own father, John Stanislaus Joyce.

The consequences of Mr. Dedalus’s financial and social ruin significantly shape much of the material and emotional circumstances informing the life of Stephen Dedalus in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses. In spite of Mr. Dedalus’s failures, his intolerant temperament, his resentments, and his strong political and religious opinions, he is nonetheless presented as a witty raconteur and amiable socializer. His ability to tell a good story and sing a good song in pleasing tenor voice makes him a pleasant companion at least for those not dependent upon him for financial support. Throughout Stephen has ambivalent feelings for his father, and readers repeatedly see the danger for Stephen of becoming a Dublin character like Simon Dedalus.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man begins with direct references to Mr. Dedalus’s storytelling and singing, talents that make a lasting impression on the young Stephen and readers as well. As the novel develops and his financial circumstances worsen, he recedes into the background, relinquishing his role as head of the family and becoming merely a disruptive influence in the lives of his wife and children. In the final chapter, when asked about his father by Cranly, Stephen sardonically sums up the life of Simon Dedalus with a dismissive series of labels: “A medical student, an oarsman, a tenor, an amateur actor, a shouting politician, a small landlord, a small investor, a drinker, a good fellow, a storyteller, somebody’s secretary, something in a distillery, a taxgatherer, a bankrupt and at present a praiser of his own past” (P 241).

Dedalus, Stephen

He is the central character of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and a major character in Ulysses. Both his surname and given names have symbolic significance. Stephen was the name of the first Christian martyr, stoned to death for his religious convictions (see Acts 7:55–60). Dedalus (or Daedalus as the name appears in Stephen Hero) was the mythical “fabulous artificer” who made feathered wings of wax with which he and his son Icarus escaped imprisonment on the island of Crete. (Icarus, however, flew too close tothe sun; the wax melted, and he plunged into the Ionian Sea and drowned.) Like the first Christian martyr with whom he shares a given name, Stephen, in advancing a new cause, breaks from tradition and faces persecution by his peers. Like Dedalus, he must use artifice and cunning to escape his own imprisonment—by the institutions of the family, the church and Irish nationalism. Stephen writes in his diary: “Old father, old artificer, stand me now and ever in good stead” (P 252–253).

Although he does not narrate the novel, his point of view shapes the perspective of the work. As the central consciousness of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen’s actions and attitudes set the pace and frame the development of the discourse. The book traces Stephen’s intellectual, artistic, and moral development from his earliest recollections as “Baby Tuckoo” through the various stages of his education at Clongowes Wood College, Belvedere College, and University College, Dublin, to his decision to leave Ireland for the Continent. The novel also follows the decline of the Dedalus family from upper-middleclass respectability to abject poverty, noting the progressive alienation of Stephen from his family as an almost inevitable consequence.

These deteriorating economic conditions develop rapidly in the second chapter, punctuated by the family’s move into Dublin and Simon Dedalus’s disastrous trip to Cork, accompanied by Stephen, to sell off the last of the family property. Given these events, it is no surprise that Stephen’s distancing from his family occurs in a direct and linear fashion. However, his relations with the church are characterized by a much greater degree of uncertainty and vacillation. After a period of unrestrained sexual indulgence while at Belvedere, Stephen returns to the church, terrified by the images conjured up during the sermons at the retreat recounted in chapter 3. As a consequence, Stephen embarks upon a rigorous penitential regimen. However, he finds that the prescribed spiritual exercises do not give him the satisfaction for which he had hoped. By the end of chapter 4, with his erotically charged aesthetic vision of the young woman wading, the Birdgirl on Dollymount Strand, Stephen has given himself completely over to art.

In the final chapter, a number of Stephen’s college classmates attempt in different ways to integrate him into the routine of Dublin life and thus bring him under the sway of dominant Irish social, cultural, religious, and political institutions. Davin seeks to enlist him in the nationalist cause. Vincent Lynch proposes small-scale debauchery as a means of sustaining himself in the suffocating atmosphere of Dublin middle-class life. Cranly, with perhaps the most seductive temptation, suggests that Stephen adopt the hypocrisy of superficial accommodation as a way of liberating himself from the censure of his fellow citizens. Stephen rejects all of these alternatives and remains devoted to his artistic vocation.

As the novel closes, he is about to leave Dublin to live in Paris, to attempt “to fly by those nets” of nationality, language, and religion and, as he writes in his diary, “to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race” (P 203, 252–253). The Daedalus motif of the cunning artificer is alluded to here and culminates in these last lines of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Dolan, Father

He is the unsympathetic prefect of studies at Clongowes Wood College who appears in chapter 1. His role as prefect of studies makes him an assistant to the rector and puts him in charge of the academic program. In Joyce’s novel, Father Dolan seems to be acting as a dean of discipline as well. He appears near the end of chapter 1 where he accuses Stephen Dedalus of having broken his eyeglasses on purpose to avoid studying. As a punishment for this supposed transgression, Father Dolan pandies Stephen. (That is, he hits the young man’s hands with a leather-covered pandybat.) Joyce modeled this character on Father James Daly, who served as prefect of studies when Joyce was attending Clongowes Wood and who reportedly punished Joyce in this way.

Doyle, Reverend Charles, SJ

He appears in chapter 2, identified as one of the Jesuit teachers at Belvedere College, though Stephen Dedalus does not study under him. The fictional Father Doyle is modeled on an actual faculty member of the same name. In 1921, Joyce wrote to Father Doyle enquiring about Belvedere House, the name by which the school had been called before it became Belvedere College.

E—— C——

These are presumably the initials of Emma Clery, the subject of a youthful poem written by Stephen and the girl with whom he seems to be enamored for most of the novel. In Stephen Hero, the narrative refers to her by her full name and not just by her initials. Flynn, Mike He is Stephen Dedalus’s running coach, appearing very briefly at the beginning of chapter 2. Flynn is identified as an old friend of Stephen’s father and is called the trainer of some of the most successful runners in modern times. Flynn was the proponent of a particularly rigid running style that Stephen had to follow: “his head high lifted, his knees well lifted and his hands held straight down by his sides” (P 61).

Ghezzi, Rev. Charles, SJ

He is a Jesuit priest and the professor of Italian at University College, Dublin, under whom Joyce studied the works of Dante Alighieri, Gabriele D’Annunzio, and other Italian writers. Joyce would also often discuss with Father Ghezzi philosophical issues pertaining to Giordano Bruno and the aesthetics of St. Thomas Aquinas. Ghezzi served as a model for Father Artifoni, Stephen Daedalus’s Italian instructor in Stephen Hero. In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, however, Joyce used Father Ghezzi’s actual name for the character. In chapter 5 in the diary entry of March 24, Stephen Dedalus refers to his instructor as “little roundhead rogue’s eye Ghezzi” (P 249).

Henry, Rev. William, SJ

He was the actual rector of Belvedere College during Joyce’s time there. He also instructed Joyce in Latin. Additionally, according to Joyce’s biographer Peter Costello, Father Henry also directed the Sodality of Our Lady, to which James Joyce was admitted on December 7, 1895, and of which he was elected prefect, or head, on September 25, 1896. Throughout A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Henry is never referred to by name but always by the title “the rector” or “the director.” In chapter 3, he speaks to Stephen Dedalus’s class about their forthcoming retreat, and in chapter 4, after a prolonged discussion he invites Stephen to consider a priestly vocation. This is a key scene, for Jesuits are prohibited from actively recruiting someone to join the order, and critics have debated whether Father Henry oversteps his authority in what he says to Stephen. (Father Henry also served as the model for Father Butler in the Dubliners story “An Encounter.”)

Heron, Vincent

He appears in chapter 2 in the contradictory roles of Stephen Dedalus’s aggressive rival and putative school friend at Belvedere College. In its description of him, the narrative puns upon Heron’s name by describing his “mobile face, beaked like a bird’s” (P 76), employing the avian imagery prevalent throughout the novel. This particular group of metaphors often indicates a threatening presence, as in the opening scene in which Stephen is menaced by the image of an eagle pulling out his eyes (P 8).

In keeping with this pattern Heron, too, takes the role of a threatening figure in Stephen’s life. Heron embodies the narrow-minded, entrenched attitudes of the middle-class lifestyle that increasingly presents itself in opposition to Stephen’s gestures of independence. During their first encounter, Heron demonstrates this antipathy for any sort of autonomous thinking. He clumsily tries to force Stephen to admit that the poet Byron was heretical and immoral by instigating an attack by two other classmates on Stephen (P 81f). Later, as the reader observes near the end of chapter 2, Heron will become more polished in his efforts to force Stephen into conformity, just as Stephen will become more adept at using his wit to sidestep such attempts.

Lynch, Vincent

He is a character who appears as a student at University College, Dublin, in both Stephen Hero and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and later as a medical student in Ulysses. In Stephen Hero, Lynch serves as a sounding board for Stephen Daedalus, facilitating the exposition of his views on women and the Catholic Church. In chapter 5 of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, he listens to Stephen’s disquisition on aesthetics, and his acerbic comments, growing out of his hungover condition, punctuate Stephen’s disquisition and prevent it from becoming pedantic. Joyce’s Dublin friend Vincent Cosgrave was the model for Lynch.

MacCann

He is a character, identified only by his surname, who appears in chapter 5. The narrative depicts MacCann as the most vocal political activist at University College, Dublin. MacCann champions the cause of pacifism, and bristles at Stephen Dedalus’s refusal to sign a document that he is circulating praising the efforts of Czar Nicholas to promote universal peace. Joyce modeled MacCann on Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, a friend and University College classmate. McGlade He is a character who appears only briefly in chapter 1. The narrative identifies McGlade as one of the prefects at Clongowes Wood College. From the conversation between Stephen Dedalus and the other boys, it appears that he is associated at least marginally with the boys who are involved in the notorious smuggling  incident.

Moonan, Simon

He is a character who appears in the first chapter, identified by the narrative as one of the older boys at Clongowes Wood College and a favorite of “the fellows of the football fifteen.” An aura of homoeroticism surrounds Moonan, although nothing more specific than innuendo appears in the story. Because Moonan is one of the boys implicated in the smugging incident, he faces a flogging as punishment. He may also be the Moonan who is referred to in chapter 5 as a fairly dull student who has nonetheless passed his exams at University College, Dublin.

Moran, Father

This is the name of a priest who appears in both Stephen Hero and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. In both novels his expression of nationalist sentiments and his friendship with Emma Clery arouse equal measures of disdain and jealousy in Stephen Dedalus.

Riordan, Mrs.

She is one of the characters who appears in chapter 1, where she is called “Dante.” (A corruption of “auntie,” the name “Dante” is a term of familiarity and affection.) Though not an actual blood relation, Mrs. Riordan is a widow who has lived for a time in the Dedalus household, apparently as a governess. Despite the benevolence implied by her name, for the young Stephen Dedalus she stands as a harsh authority figure. At one point in the opening pages of the novel, the narrative goes so far as to make her menacing. When Stephen’s mother asks him to apologize for some unspecified misbehavior, Dante threateningly adds: “O, if not, the eagles will come and pull out his eyes” (P 8). Her attitude epitomizes the narrowminded religious and political views Stephen will later in life reject.

Mrs. Riordan also plays a key role in the Christmas dinner scene. There she is portrayed as headstrong and intolerant, with inflexible religious and political views that make her unsympathetic to the recently disgraced Irish political leader Charles Stewart Parnell. After a violent dinner-table argument with Simon Dedalus and John Casey over the Irish rejection of Parnell after his adulterous affair with Kitty O’Shea became a matter of public knowledge, Mrs. Riordan stalks out of the room and disappears from the narrative. Mrs. Riordan’s character is based upon that of Mrs. “Dante” Hearn Conway, a woman originally from Cork who came into the Joyce household in 1887 as a governess. Like her fictional counterpart, Mrs. Conway had a bitter fight (with John JOYCE and his Fenian friend John Kelly) over the character of Parnell during the Joyce family Christmas dinner in 1891. She seems to have left the Joyces shortly thereafter.

Tate, Mr.

He is a character who appears in chapter 2 in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as the English master at Belvedere College, and inStephen Hero where he is identified, in passing, as Stephen Daedalus’s English professor at University College, Dublin. In chapter 2 of A Portrait, Mr. Tate good-naturedly calls attention to a putative line of heresy in one of Stephen’s class essays, thereby unwittingly precipitating Stephen’s confrontation after school with his rival Vincent Heron and two other bullies. The character of Mr. Tate is based upon one of Joyce’s English teachers at Belvedere, Mr. George Dempsey, who taught at the college from 1884 to 1923.

Vance, Eileen

She is a character who appears in the first two chapters of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. She lives in Bray and is the neighbor and childhood friend of Stephen Dedalus. Stephen’s attraction to Eileen is tempered by Dante Riordan’s admonition not to play with her because the Vances are Protestant. Joyce based this character on his recollections of a childhood playmate of the same name.

Wells, Charles

He is a minor character who appears both in Stephen Hero and in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. When Stephen first meets him in chapter 1 of A Portrait, Wells is a bully at Clongowes Wood College. Wells embarrasses Stephen by asking the boy if he kisses his mother good night and then ridiculing the answer. The narrative also implies that Wells is responsible for the illness that sends Stephen to the infirmary because Wells was the one who had pushed Stephen into the square ditch (the cesspool behind the dormitory) and implores the young boy not to reveal that fact.

Analysis of James Joyce’s Dubliners

Bibliography
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Source: Fargnoli, A. Nicholas. James Joyce. Carroll & Graf, 2003

 



Categories: Experimental Novels, Irish Literature, Literary Criticism, Literary Theory, Literature, Modernism, Novel Analysis

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