A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young
Man by James Joyce- Chapter 5
Chase Hansen, Ken Downs, Brenton
Bender, Quinn Riccitelli, Harrison Roth,
Jackson Cowart
Stephen is now going to a University in Ireland where he has made a handful of good friends. His
peers test him and attempt to unravel the new sense of complete independence that Stephen has
created for himself after realizing earlier in the story that he should not be afraid to make mistakes
in life. Stephen does not submit to anyone else’s control. He only ponders silently to himself about
the dynamics of aesthetics, literature, and the definition of art.
He has several encounters with other people in the chapter, each measuring his moral or spiritual
fortitude in some way. His parents feel that his time at the University is weakening his spiritual
devotion and his friends argue that he should show more political interest. Stephen also has
several small encounters with the girl he likes, Emma, and then a final confrontation at the end of
the chapter during which he comes to recognize Emma as an equal rather than a beautiful exotic
creature he should try to dominate and own as he did with the prostitutes in his past.
Stephen realizes that his true calling is to be an artist, whether other people like it or not. It is his
passion in life. His devotion to the study of prose and poetry has been constant in his life since he
was a child. In the end, he decides to leave Ireland and pursue a life as an artist.
Stephen’s peers descriptions of him
Stephen’s peers seem to notice that he is drifting into isolation as a result of
his newfound sense of freedom. His friends from the University urge him to
show some kind of interest in politics like they do, but are met only by
further disinterest from Stephen. His friend MacCann pushes the subject of
Stephen refusing to sign a petition for “universal peace” which causes a
dispute between them. MacCann believes that Stephen holds himself in
such high regard as a poet and artist that he is above supporting any
political movement. This would make Stephen into some kind of aloof
intellectual, which is how MacCann attacks Stephen, jabbing that “Minor
poets, I suppose, are above such trivial questions as the question of
universal peace” (Joyce 143). By calling Stephen a minor poet, his friend
calls into question everything that Stephen has learned to believe in as an
Stephen’s peers descriptions of him
Outside of the University, it is evident in the story that Stephen’s parents have
grown weary of his attitude and ambitions (or seemingly a lack thereof). His
mother is worried that his time at the University has changed him in a
negative way, and expresses understandable disappointment while she
scrubs her University aged son in the bath tub. In reaction to Stephen’s laid
back attitude she says, “you'll live to rue the day you set your foot in that
place. I know how it has changed you.” (Joyce 126). Mrs. Dedalus also feels
that her son is reading too many books and straying from his faith. His
father seems to be equally as concerned but perhaps less gentle. At one
point he yells down the stairs asking Stephen’s sister, “Is your lazy bitch of a
brother gone out yet?” (Joyce 126). Stephen’s parents are both under stress
as their financial woes have compounded, but their lack of content with the
state of their son’s life shows that they do still care about him and they
Symbolic characteristics of Stephen’s peers as
elements of Irish society
Davin: The Passionate Patriot
Stephen’s University friend Davin, nicknamed “The peasant student” (130) by
his friends, believes in Irish nationalism. This reflects his background, being
from a small town he grew up hearing the rhetoric of Irish Nationals. Davin’s
friend’s think of him as a “Young fenian” (130) which is someone who was a
member of the Fenian Brotherhood, an organization dedicated to the
establishment of an independent Ireland. Davin also expresses the militant
attitude of the World War One era by showing interest in joining the French
Foreign Legion, a legendary French military unit comprised of entirely of
fighters from foreign nations.
Symbolic characteristics of Stephen’s peers as
elements of Irish society (cont.)
MacCann: The Pacifist
Perhaps in response to the bloodshed of the first World War, MacCann is
adamantly in favor of world peace. Unlike Davin, he believes that peace is
more important than any violent act against authority. He attempts to
convince Stephen to sign the petition for “Universal Peace” (143), targeting
Stephen because he does not make an effort to voice any political opinion.
In his effort to define Stephen, MacCann labels him as an “idealist” (142)
and then a “reactionary” (143). Neither title is accurate.
Symbolic characteristics of Stephen’s peers as
elements of Irish society (cont.)
The Dean: Out of touch Englishman
The Dean of students at Stephen’s University reflects the conflict between
English and Irish people. The Dean, an Englishman, sits down and has a
conversation with Stephen in which Stephen uses an Irish word for a funnel,
“tundish” (136), that the Dean has never heard before. His reaction to this
curious new Irish word shows that while England was in a position of power
over Ireland during that time period, they may not have been the most
knowledgeable rulers. Stephen, being a speaker of Irish and English, shows
a greater sense of cultural awareness than the monolingual Dean.
Stephen’s Rejection of
In the chapter, Stephen rejects many of the ideals that had been instilled in
him from an early age. He skips classes, and eventually leaves the
university. He wants to skip his Easter duty since he no longer has religious
faith. He also argues with his classmates about the ideas of politics.
Stephen does not, like most of his classmates, identify himself as an Irish
nationalist. And finally Stephen seeks complete solitude to become a artist.
Stephen pushes against all of the authority in his life.
Stephen’s Increasing Freedom and
Consciousness of Language
Stephen begins to expand his thought. Stephen converses with his friends, generally
providing the bulk of the content. Stephen shows a higher level of thinking than his
peers, and he uses very complex language to express complex ideas.
“Cranly’s speech, unlike that of Davin, had neither rare phrases of Elizabethan English
nor quaintly turned versions of Irish idioms. Its drawl was an echo of the quays of
Dublin given back to a bleak decaying seaport, its energy an echo of the sacred
eloquence of Dublin back flatly by a Wicklow pulpit.” (198-199).
Stephen begins to appreciate the effect of language on the meaning of what is
being said. His ideas become more complex and intelligent, and he can adequately
convey them.
“His own consciousness of language was ebbing from his brain and trickling into the
very words themselves which set to band and disband themselves in wayward
Stephen’s Theory of
Beauty and Aesthetics
During the chapter, Stephen explains his theory of aesthetics and beauty to a
fellow classmate, Lynch. Stephen begins by talking about the differences between
pity and terror. Pity is the emotion that results from an outside perspective on
someone else's misfortune, while terror is the emotion that results from the suffering
of the sufferers. Stephen goes on to explain to Lynch kinetic and static art. Kinetic art
causes an emotional response in an onlooker while the static art is created for the
sole purpose of appreciating beauty. Stephen continues by explaining the three
essential things needed for beauty. Integras, which is wholeness, consonantia, which
is harmony, and claritas, which is radiance. Stephen then tells Lynch that
appreciating these three essentials will allow one to feel “the enchantment of the
heart.” Stephen feels Lynch is confused by what he has said so far so Stephen goes
on to explain the differences between inferior and superior art. Inferior art only relates
to the experiences of the artist which is an artistic form known as lyrical form, while
superior art is able to relate to both the artist and others, a form known as epical
form. Stephen finishes explaining his theory to Lynch by stating that an artist needs to
step away from his work and let it speak for itself.
Chapter 5 Symbols and Motifs
Rain: Rain symbolizes new beginnings and the washing away of the past. The hard and faster
the rain falls, the more free Stephen is from the burdens of his family, of Ireland, and of
Art: Art represents the passion and ambition Stephen has to break away from the conformity of
his peers and all of Ireland.
Voices: Voices symbolize the everlasting preaching of the “blind” followers. Whether it be
Stephen’s father who constantly is nagging Stephen about family, or Stephen’s peers at the
University who blindly obey their zealous leaders.
Poetry: Poetry symbolizes the freedom Stephen has to embrace his artistic soul. Without poetry,
Stephen would be lost without an escape from Catholicism’s grasp around all aspects of his life.
Birds and Flight: Birds and Flight represent Stephen’s need for escape from his family, from
Ireland, and from Catholicism. Flight also represents the freedom of choice, a liberty Stephen
doesn’t have without his artistic soul.
Religion: In chapter 5, Stephen leaves the Catholic religion behind him as to take off the
shackles which have limited Stephen’s artistic soul thus far. Religion inhibits all other aspects of
Stephen’s life and symbolizes the overall control of choice. By breaking away from Catholicism,
Stephen is free to have his own ideas and beliefs.
Symbols and Motifs (cont.)
Greek Mythology: The greek mythology of Icarus and Daedalus represents Stephen’s current
mental stability and freedom. He escaped the “labyrinth” of Catholicism and conformity
(Daedalus) with the help of his newfound artistic soul, but he needs to continue gaining
knowledge so that he doesn’t end up crashing back down into “blind” conformity (Icarus).
Colors: The colors represent the status of characters’ mental awareness. Lighter colors
represent enlightenment while cloudy and grey colors represent a character’s confusion and
submissive tendencies.
The Soul: The soul represents Stephens true ambition to become an artist. Throughout the
chapter, Stephen is continually lectured by his peers about Ireland and the Catholic religion,
acting to limit Stephen’s true passion.
Pride: Stephen’s pride symbolizes the knowledge Stephen holds over his peers. The knowledge
of the many philosophers Stephen follows give him strength to stand by his non conformity
attitude toward his peers and his family.
Sins: Sin in chapter 5 is symbolic of religion keeping its many believers in check. Religion uses
sinning to instill fear into those who would otherwise not follow the church’s teachings and
Mirror Images between Chapter
One and Five
Both Chapter One and Five end with a male
Both chapters show Stephens relationship with his family and schoolmates
In chapter one, Stephen is isolated by his classmates but not by choice. In chapter 5, Stephen is
isolated from his peers because he chooses that lifestyle. Both chapters develop Stephen’s
feelings of loneliness and separation from society
In the beginning of Chapter one, Stephen is separated from a female childhood friend. In chapter
five, Stephen reunites with Emma, a girl he used to have a relationship with
In chapter one, Stephen’s family argues about Irish independence and Stephen stays out of it,
because he is too young. In Chapter 5, Stephen refuses to support or oppose Irish nationalism
because he does not want to restrict his freedom as an artist
In chapter one, Stephen feels ignorant because he just started school and so knows barely
anything. In chapter five, Stephen feels foolish because he uses the word “tundish” the Irish
name for a “funnel.”
Stephen’s Epiphany
Stephen’s epiphany in this chapter occurs just after he writes his poem to Emma. He stares up at the
birds in the sky, and compares them to himself. Stephen is at that moment torn between his desire to
be a free artist and his loyalty and wish to conform with Ireland and his family. His mother had been
urging Stephen to go to mass, in order to obey a faith that Stephen did not believe in. So the birds, to
Stephen, represent the joy of freedom and “soothed his ears in which his mother’s sobs and
reproaches murmured insistently” (199). Stephen is still hesitant, as he wonders whether the birds are
an omen of “departure or loneliness?” However, then Stephen remembers a play he attended that had
been ridiculed by the audience because they thought it was anti-Irish. This strengthens Stephens
resolve to leave the society that mocks art, something that he finds repellent. The joyful freedom of the
birds help Stephen to make his choice to continue to pursue freedom to express himself, and to leave
Ireland, no matter what.
Moment of Stasis
The moment of stasis in this chapter occurs just after the end of the conversation
between Stephen and Cranly. Stephen had come to the realization that he was
not a true man of faith and that he would not live the life of his colleagues,
acknowledging that he “tried to love God” and admitting that it “seems now I
failed” (242). After they converse for a while on Stephen’s rejection of religion in
his life, Stephen finally is able to come to terms with his life as it should be, ruled
by him and not by outside forces. He declares that he does “not fear to be alone
or to be spurned for another” and that he is “not afraid to make a mistake, even
a great mistake” (248). After discussing this, there is a long resolving moment of
silence in which Cranly tries to gather his own thoughts. Upon being asked to
clarify his prior statement, Cranly does not answer, leaving one final sustaining
silence between them, one in which Stephen is able to be content and live freely
in his newly adopted mindset.
Change in narrative style and point of
At the very end of the novel, Joyce changes the entire narrative style and point of
view by transitioning to written entries of Stephen’s, where he expresses his
ideas in the first-person. This shift is crucial to the overall transformation of
Stephen in the story, and it symbolizes his freedom and ability to think freely.
Throughout the novel, though the reader was able to have an insight into
Stephen’s mind through a limited third-person narration, Stephen never directly
had a voice. Even in the last chapter when discussing the ideas of beauty and
art, Stephen synthesized the ideas of great philosophers and literary figures, as
opposed to providing his own. However, in the end, Stephen has finally been
presented with a voice of his own, one where he has control of his thoughts and
emotions, and every idea presented is his own. Even the subject matter
discussed, his dreams and interactions and conversations, no longer stem from
the works of others but solely from Stephen’s mind and soul.
Research and Links to the
Gerhart Hauptmann: He was a German novelist and playwright who received the nobel prize in
1912. Joyce Idolized Hauptmann and thought of himself as the third in an illustrious line from
Ibsen to Hauptmann to Joyce. Joyce translated two of Hauptmann’s plays to English and in A
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Stephen mentions that he had “memories of the girls and
women in the plays of Gerhart Hauptmann” (153).
Guido Cavalcanti: Cavalcanti was an Italian poet in the 13th century. He was known as the
second best poet of his time next to Dante. Cavalcanti was also friends with Dante who is very
influential on A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Stephen also says “he would recall the
dark humour of Guido Cavalcanti”(155), showing his fondness for the poet.
Henrik Ibsen: A very influential 19th century, playwright, director, and poet who is often referred
to as “The Father of Realism. Joyce idolized Ibsen just like Hauptmann, believing he was to be
the next author in the illustrious line of Ibsen and Hauptmann. Joyce’s first ever publication was
a review of Ibsen’s When We Dead Awaken. In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Stephen
also shows the same fondness for Ibsen that Joyce showed in real life.
Research and Links to the Text
Ben Jonson: A 17th century Jacobean playwright who had a lasting impact on English poetry
and stage comedy. Jonson is considered the second most important English playwright after
William Shakespeare. In chapter five of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Stephen begins
to sing a song by Ben Jonson.
W.B. Yeats: As 20th century Irish poet Yeats was very influential to Joyce. Yeats also served
two terms as a senator and was the first Irishman to receive the Nobel Prize. In A Portrait of the
Artist as a Young Man the diary entry for 16, April is an extended metaphor to Yeats’ poem “The
Hosting of Sidhe”.
Aristotle’s Poetics and his theories on art and other theorists: In Poetics Aristotle analyzes the
things that make poetry, poetry. His core focus was on the aspect of tragedy in poetry. In A
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Stephen often muses about Aristotle’s and other theorists
such as Goethe, Lessing, and Aquinas opinions on the arts as a way to try and judge art for
himself, and to find beauty in their words.
Research and Links to the Text
The Elizabethans, The Renaissance, and French Romanticism: These were three eras in
human history during which a lot of artistic development occurred. Stephen oftens thinks of
artistic things from this era when he is trying to find beauty in works of literature and art. Sir
Thomas Moore was an English Lawyer, philosopher, author, statesman, and humanist. He was
against the Protestant reformation and burned many books relating to it.
The Villanelle: The “Villanelle” is a type of poem that is highly structured and 19 lines. The
poem that Stephen writes in Chapter five about his temptress is a villanelle poem.
Question 1
Why do you think Emma ignored Stephen when she was exiting the library?
Answer 1
Answer varies
Possible answers could be…
Stephen has isolated himself to the point where she didn’t think he would care
if she said hello
She is playing “hard to get” and secretly likes Stephen
Question 2
According to Stephen, what is the difference between inferior and superior
Answer 2
Superior art relates to the artist and its viewer, and superior art is deeper and
more difficult to comprehend.
Inferior art only relates to the artist, very simple and easy to understand.
Question 3
Name a symbol or motif, and explain how it evolves through the book.
Answer 3
Answers may vary.
Question 4
Would you consider Stephen to be more like Daedalus or Icarus? Why?
Answer 4
Answers may vary.
Question 5
What does the changing of the narrative style signify for Stephen?
Answer 5
It signifies that he finally has his own voice and can freely express his ideas.
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