A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Chapter 5, Part 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The last part of the novel takes the form of a diary chronicling the following spring. In the first entry, Stephen mentions his long conversation with Cranly, but rather than dwell on its substance he speculates idly on Cranly’s parents and family life. Many of the entries are short and enigmatic notes on religious symbolism and the idea of freedom. He also mentions that E____ C____ has probably been sick, and that he has gone out chasing girls with Lynch. A few entries later he mentions another religious argument with his mother, this time about the Virgin Mary; she accused him of reading too much and losing his faith, and he refused to repent.
Stephen uses his affinity for poetic symbolism to keep religion in some way in his life: his relationship to religion is still somewhat troubled and confused, despite his blithe, jaunty style. He seems to have compromised by reading the Bible not as spiritual guide but as literature. Despite Cranly’s warning, Stephen will not soften his opinion on religious matters for his mother’s sake. He seems to forswear family obligations along with politics and religion in order to protect his freedom.
Themes
Innocence and Experience Theme Icon
Religion, Nationality, and Freedom Theme Icon
In one entry, Stephen describes two disturbing dreams. In the first, he is standing in a castle crowded with statues of kings, who seem to stare at human sin and folly. In the second, transparent people emerge from a cave and stare at Stephen without speaking.
The dreams seem to convey Stephen’s latent unease and uncertainty about the idea of sin. He is not religious, yet he feels some secular notion of sin hanging over him.
Themes
Innocence and Experience Theme Icon
Religion, Nationality, and Freedom Theme Icon
In other entries, he mocks empty logical problems and mentions seeing E____ C____ in a café. Late spring brings him happiness; he thinks he can sense the future. In another entry, he finally talks to E____C____. She asks why he no longer comes to classes at the university, and he responds by telling her of his many artistic plans. On April 27th he finally leaves Ireland to go elsewhere, full of joy and fervor.
Despite the book’s many implied critiques of Stephen’s behavior and beliefs, the end of the novel is profoundly hopeful. Stephen might not yet be free from false ideas, residual religious guilt, and youthful hubris, but the future seems bright, as he leaves Ireland, which seems to him restrictive, to practice and build his art in the wider world.
Themes
Innocence and Experience Theme Icon
Religion, Nationality, and Freedom Theme Icon