A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

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

Summary
Analysis
Stephen now orders his life according to a strict regimen of prayer – a holy person or idea for every day of the week. Every day is also divided into different sorts of prayers and devotions. He feels himself growing closer to god, and he thinks of all his prayers as a growing sum of money in a divine account.
Stephen has chosen to control his sinful impulses by rigidly ordering his days. His routine suppresses not only his sexual longing but also a great deal of his ordinary inner experience. He feels that his actions are connected to the abstraction of heaven rather than to the details of earth.
Themes
Order and the Senses Theme Icon
Religion, Nationality, and Freedom Theme Icon
Stephen carries many rosaries in his pockets, and they seem to him to have no name, color, or smell. He prays for redemption constantly. He prefers to think of the imagery associated with god, like wind and birds, because the plain fact of god’s love is difficult for him to comprehend. Similarly, it is difficult for him to relate to the love and hate described “solemnly” in sermons and plays.
His orderly life drains objects like rosaries of sensory detail. But his resolve to choose soul over body, holy abstraction over detail, slowly weakens: he finds that he can’t understand god as a concept and focuses instead on Biblical details and symbols, which are closer to his artistic disposition.
Themes
Soul and Body Theme Icon
Innocence and Experience Theme Icon
Order and the Senses Theme Icon
Religion, Nationality, and Freedom Theme Icon
The entire world has come to seem to Stephen like an expression of god’s love, and reality seems to disappear behind this vision. To keep himself grounded, he tries to discipline each of his five senses; he looks at the ground when he walks, he endures unpleasant noises and smells (especially the smell of fish), he fasts often, and he places himself in uncomfortable or painful positions. At first he is not tempted to sin lustfully, but he finds it difficult to control minor angers and irritations. Slowly, prayer ceases to be a comfort. He is tempted to sin once again, but holds himself back. He begins to feel guilty almost constantly, and wonders whether his virtuous way of life has succeeded in bettering his soul.
The relationship between religion, order, and the senses is clearest in this section of the book. Stephen has learned that he must repress his senses in order to feel close to god; as a result, the sensory experience through which he knows the world fades and disappears, and reality seems to disappear as well. In a way, he forces himself to exist as though he were already disembodied: worldly concerns and experiences disappear, and only god’s love remains. But the world forces itself back in, and his method stops working.
Themes
Soul and Body Theme Icon
Order and the Senses Theme Icon
Religion, Nationality, and Freedom Theme Icon