Stephen receives a large monetary prize—thirty-three pounds—for excellent academic performance, and he spends the money quickly and generously on friends and family. He buys expensive food, theatre tickets, and presents. The money gives a fleeting order to his life, but when the money runs out the order falls apart. He feels foolish—inner and outer disorder overwhelm him once again, and he feels more alienated than ever from his family.
In this part of the novel, Stephen’s longing for order and even respectability becomes very clear. His sudden capacity to control his circumstances, the material life of the body, almost reconciles him to the outer world. But the reconciliation is very brief, and leaves no trace.
Stephen’s physical longings overwhelm him, and he starts wandering the city streets again. He remembers the Count of Monte Cristo's lover Mercedes, but his memories of boyhood seem much purer and sweeter than his present condition. He is tormented by lust and strange visions. One night, he finds himself in the prostitutes’ quarter. He ends up following one of the brightly dressed women into her room and they end up having sex. It is his first time. The world completely disappears for a little while.
Stephen is tortured by and ashamed of his lust because he has been taught over and over again throughout his Christian education that sex without marriage is a terrible sin. Even lustful thoughts, without action, were considered very sinful. His lust and shame, therefore, are at the root of his conflict between soul and body: the soul tries to abstain, but the body wants satisfaction.