The next scene takes place in Clongowes Wood College, where a slightly older Stephen has recently begun his schooling. Stephen plays football (soccer) on the playground with the other boys, feeling cold, weak, and shy. The other boys seem rough and strong. One of them mocks Stephen’s name and his father’s job. The boys’ roughness makes Stephen think of his kindly mother and father. He is tired of running around in the cold, and he thinks of reading cozily in study hall.
From the very beginning of his life at school, Stephen feels isolated from other children. Their easy camaraderie makes him uncomfortable; he prefers solitary reading to group games. We also notice, here, that Stephen’s family is not upper-class, though it seems comfortable enough financially.
The cold of the day reminds Stephen that a classmate pushed him into a cold wet ditch the day before. The cold also reminds him of his mother’s warm fireplace and of Dante’s interesting stories. Now the schoolboys are called inside. One boy calls a classmate named Simon Moonan a ‘suck,’ a teacher’s pet, and the word reminds Stephen of the eerie sound of a flushing toilet. The memory of cold and hot water pipes in the bathroom makes him feel first cold and then hot, which he finds very strange.
A slightly older Stephen still follows the trail of associations wherever it takes him. As with good smells and bad smells in the first section, Stephen connects experiences that are similar and those that are opposites: cold reminds him of cold, but also of warmth. We also notice Stephen’s sensitivity to the sounds of words, not only to their meanings.
Stephen walks to his arithmetic class. The class is divided into two teams, York and Lancaster. The boys on York wear badges with white roses, and the boys in Lancaster wear badges with red roses. Students that solve problems correctly win points for their respective teams. Stephen wants to do his best for York, but his academic rival Jack Lawton solves the problem first. Suddenly, he feels disinterested in the game and thinks intently of the beautiful colors of the silk roses and the prize cards.
The math teacher tries to motivate the students by splitting them up into teams named after the Wars of the Roses, a 15th century dynastic battle between the York and Lancaster families for the British throne. Stephen is in York, the losing side, which Ireland itself joined at a late stage. But Stephen is interested in neither competition nor politics – he would rather think of the colors themselves.
After class, Stephen files with his classmates into the dining room. The food and the atmosphere are so bleak that he can’t bring himself to eat anything, though he does drink some tea. He notices dampness and colors everywhere he looks. The other boys are too different for him to understand them, and he feels homesick – a feeling he imagines as a sickness of the heart. He escapes from the unpleasant loud noise of the dining room by thinking of the pleasant sounds of a train.
Stephen has trouble eating because he is on the verge of a bad cold, but also because he is painfully sensitive to both beauty and ugliness in his surroundings. It’s almost as though he exchanges dinner for sights and sounds – exchanges sustenance of the body for sustenance of the soul, as an older, pedantic Stephen might put it.
Later, Stephen plays dominoes halfheartedly in the playroom and tries to hear the hissing of the gas pipes. In study hall, a globe that a boy named Fleming had colored green and purple reminds Stephen of Dante’s brushes. Stephen tries to study geography but becomes distracted by all the different names of the countries, and by the confusing vastness of the world. It’s odd, he thinks, that there exist many names for god but only one god. He remembers that Dante had torn the green from the Parnell brush recently because she decided that Parnell was a bad person. He understands that his family is divided along political lines, but he doesn’t know why.
Stephen has difficulty paying attention to geography, a flat and factual description of the world, and thinks instead about the textures of names and about the relationship between names and the things they represent. Stephen notes that there is something strange about the fact that there are many names for god: it means that the English name is not absolute, not perfect. But god is supposed to be absolute and perfect. Therefore, there is a significant inconsistency between god and the word for god, the object and the name. Yet he is not aware of the political happenings of the day regarding Parnell.
The next morning, Stephen wakes up with a fever and stays in bed while the other boys dress. Wells, thinking he caused Stephen’s illness by throwing him in the ditch, apologizes and makes Stephen promise not to tell on him. A teacher comes to feel Stephen’s head, but the teacher’s cold hand makes Stephen think of the rats in the ditch. The teacher takes Stephen to the infirmary, where he thinks about death and his own funeral.
The teachers at Clongowes are sometimes kind but usually neither effective nor comforting. Although the priest that comes to take Stephen to the infirmary is there to help him, his actual task is less vivid to Stephen than his sensory association with rats. As always, Stephen is deep in his own mind.
A kindly teacher named Brother Michael helps him get settled in, and a boy named Athy talks to him about political arguments at home and asks him to solve a silly riddle. Stephen thinks the reflections of the fire on the wall resemble waves, and he thinks the voices in the background might be the sound of waves. Suddenly he hears Brother Michael announce to a crowd of people that Parnell has died. The crowd begins to cry, and Stephen imagines Dante walking indifferently by.
Parnell, the important separatist leader, died a year after his fall from power and from grace, which can be traced directly to the public exposure of his long-term affair with a woman named Katherine O’Shea, the wife of a Parliament member. Ireland’s Catholic Church bitterly denounced Parnell for his moral transgression, but his death was a cause of grief for many.