A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Chapter 1, Part 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In the next scene, Stephen is back at school. He overhears his classmates talking on the playground about some older boys that had been punished for some mysterious offense. Wells thinks the boys stole some wine from the sacristy, but Athy tells them that the older boys had been caught doing something sexual (“smugging”) with Simon Moonan and Tusker Boyle.
It’s important to note that what seems to be Stephen’s first encounter with sexuality immediately links sexuality with punishment and sin. One might say, also, that the encounter construes sex as something separate from women, which helps to explain Stephen’s lonely, introverted sexuality as a teen.
Themes
Innocence and Experience Theme Icon
Soon, the boys are called back to the classroom. Stephen sits idly during the writing lesson, thinking about the beauty of the word ‘wine’ and of the rector’s unpleasant winy breath. The day before, a boy had knocked Stephen down and broken his glasses, so everything looks small and far away. Father Arnall comes in to teach the Latin lesson and shouts at some of the boys for their poor performance; Stephen wonders if the priest’s empty anger is a sin. Father Dolan, a head teacher, comes in holding a pandybat (a stiff leather strap) and flogs Fleming on the hands for being lazy. He flogs Stephen as well, though Stephen had been excused from his work until his new glasses arrived. Just before he leaves, Father Dolan threatens to come back every day to ‘pandy’ lazy boys.
This scene suggests that seeing, for Stephen, is not quite as important as the other senses – perhaps because it is slightly less inward facing. Stephen is happy to be freed from the responsibilities of communal class activity to spend his time daydreaming instead. He thinks once again about the connections and disconnects between the sounds of words and the things they represent. In this scene, Stephen also begins to question the goodness of the priests; he starts to discern that the mantle of religion does not immunize the wearer from sin.
Themes
Soul and Body Theme Icon
Innocence and Experience Theme Icon
Literature and Life Theme Icon
Order and the Senses Theme Icon
Religion, Nationality, and Freedom Theme Icon
Stephen realizes that Father Dolan has acted very unfairly and unkindly, even though he is a priest. When he mentions this to the other boys, they back him up and encourage him to complain to the rector (the head of the school). Stephen thinks of men in antiquity who had been wrongly punished and imagines a picture from a book about Greece and Rome. He feels anxious and uncertain, but he remembers that his name, unlike the plain “Dolan,” resembles the names of great men, so he finally makes his way to the rector’s office. The kindly rector promises to speak to Father Dolan and excuses Stephen from his studies for a few days. When he gets outside, the boys cheer for him and his victory. He listens to the noises of the cricket bats.
After thinking so often about names, Stephen turns his attention to his own name – especially its mythological dimensions. The ancient Greek figure named Daedalus is most famous for two accomplishments: building a labyrinth to house the half-man, half-bull Minotaur, and fathering Icarus, the foolish boy who flew too close to the sun on wings his father made for him. The ancient Greek word ‘daidala,’ after which Daedalus was named, refers to finely crafted sculptures. Stephen suddenly feels linked to his mythic name; its literary heritage gives him the courage to stand up to the cruel priest, and in doing so achieve a victory celebrated by the other boys—a true triumph for an introverted boy like Stephen.
Themes
Literature and Life Theme Icon