A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

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An intelligent, sensitive, anxious, and ill-tempered boy growing up in an increasingly impoverished Catholic household in Dublin. In his long student years, Stephen passes through many discrete stages. He matures from a shy, frail child with a magically keen eye (and ear and nose) for sensory detail to a studious, moody teenager filled with vague longing for love, fame, and worldly beauty. When he comes physically of age, he is anguished to discover that he cannot reconcile his austere Catholic upbringing with his intense erotic desire. His shame becomes so great that he turns wholeheartedly to religion in search of spiritual peace. But despite his many years of religious observance, he comes to find the religious life and worldview profoundly unsatisfying: shallow, illogical, and boring. Stephen seems to find peace, or something like it, only when he discovers his vocation and ambition as a writer.

Stephen Dedalus Quotes in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

The A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man quotes below are all either spoken by Stephen Dedalus or refer to Stephen Dedalus. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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).
Chapter 2, Part 1 Quotes

Words which he did not understand he said over and over to himself til he had learned them by heart: and through them he had glimpses of the real world about him.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus (speaker)

He did not want to play. He wanted to meet in the real world the unsubstantial image which his soul so constantly beheld. He did not know where to seek it or how: but a premonition which led him on told him that this image would, without any overt act of his, encounter him.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus
Chapter 2, Part 2 Quotes

The vastness and strangeness of the life suggested to him by the bales of merchandise stocked along the walls or swung aloft out of the holds of steamers wakened in him the unrest which had sent him wandering in the evening from garden to garden in search of Mercedes.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus

He was angry with himself for being young and the prey of restless foolish impulses, angry also with the change of fortune which was reshaping the world about him into a vision of squalor and insincerity. Yet his anger lent nothing to his vision. He chronicled with patience what he saw, detaching himself from it and testing its mortifying flavor in secret.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus

During this process all these elements which he deemed common and insignificant fell out of the scene. There remained no trace of the tram itself nor of the trammen nor of the horses: nor did he and she appear vividly. The verses told only of the night and the balmy breeze and the maiden lustre of the moon.

All the descriptions of fierce love and hatred which he had met in books had seemed to him therefore unreal. Even that night as he stumbled homewards along Jones’s Road he had felt that some power was divesting him of that suddenwoven anger as easily as a fruit is divested of its soft ripe peel.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus

While his mind had been pursuing its intangible phantoms and turning in irresolution from such pursuit he had heard about him the constant voices of his masters, urging him to be a gentleman above all things and urging him to be a good catholic above all things. … And it was the din of all these hollowsounding voices that made him halt irresolutely in the pursuit of phantoms. He gave them ear only for a time but he was happy only when he was far from them, beyond their call, alone or in the company of phantasmal comrades.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus
Chapter 2, Part 3 Quotes

The sentiment of the opening bars, their languor and supple movement, evoked the incommunicable emotion which had been the cause of all his day’s unrest and of his impatient movement of a moment before. His unrest issued from him like a wave of sound: and on the tide of flowing music the ark was journeying, trailing her cables of lanterns in her wake.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus
Chapter 2, Part 4 Quotes

As the train steamed out of the station he recalled his childish wonder of years before and every event of his first day at Clongowes. But he felt no wonder now.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus

It shocked him to find in the outer world a trace of what he had deemed till then a brutish and individual malady of his own mind. His recent monstrous reveries came thronging into his memory. They too had spring up before him, suddenly and furiously, out of mere words. … The letters cut in the stained wood of the desk stared upon him, mocking his bodily weakness and futile enthusiasms and making him loathe himself for his own mad and filthy orgies.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus

By his monstrous way of life he seemed to have put himself beyond the limits of reality. Nothing moved him or spoke to him from the real world unless he heard in it an echo of the infuriated cries within him. He could respond to no earthly or human appeal, dumb and insensible to the call of summer and gladness and companionship, wearied and dejected by his father’s voice.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus

He had not died but he had faded out like a film in the sun. He had been lost or had wandered out of existence for he no longer existed.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus

He had known neither the pleasure of companionship with others nor the vigour of rude male health nor filial piety. Nothing stirred within his soul but a cold and cruel and loveless lust. His childhood was dead or lost and with it his soul capable of simple joys, and he was drifting amid life like the barren shell of the moon.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus
Chapter 2, Part 5 Quotes

He had tried to build a breakwater of order and elegance against the sordid tide of life without him and to dam up, by rules of conduct and active interests and new filial relations, the powerful recurrence of the tides within him. Useless. From without as from within the water had flowed over his barriers: their tides began once more to jostle fiercely above the crumbled mole.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus
Chapter 3, Part 1 Quotes

It was his own soul going forth to experience, unfolding itself sin by sin, spreading abroad the balefire of its burning stars and folding back on itself, fading slowly, quenching its own lights and fires. They were quenched: and the cold darkness filled chaos.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus

A cold lucid indifference reigned in his soul. At his first violent sin he had felt a wave of vitality pass out of him … no part of body or soul had been maimed but a dark peace had been established between them.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus
Chapter 3, Part 2 Quotes

His soul was fattening and congealing into a gross grease, plunging ever deeper in its dull fear into a sombre threatening dusk, while the body that was his stood, listless and dishonoured, gazing out of darkened eyes, helpless, perturbed and human for a bovine god to stare upon.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus
Chapter 3, Part 3 Quotes

But does that part of the body understand or what? The serpent, the most subtle beast of the field. … Who made it to be like that, a bestial part of the body able to understand bestially and desire bestially? Was that then he or an inhuman thing moved by a lower soul than his soul? His soul sickened at the thought of a torpid shaky life feeding itself out of the tender marrow of his life and fattening upon the slime of lust.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus
Chapter 4, Part 1 Quotes

The world for all its substance and complexity no longer existed for his soul save as a theorem of divine power and love and universality.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus
Chapter 4, Part 2 Quotes

In vague sacrificial or sacramental rites alone his will seemed drawn to go forth to encounter reality: and it was partly the absence of an appointed rite which had always constrained him to inaction whether he had allowed silence to cover his anger or pride or had suffered only an embrace he longed to give.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus

The music passed in an instant, as the first bars of sudden music always did, over the fantastic fabrics of his mind, dissolving them painlessly and noiselessly as a sudden wave dissolves the sandbuilt turrets of children.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus

It was a grave and ordered and passionless life that awaited him, a life without material cares. … At once from every part of his being unrest began to irradiate. A feverish quickening of his pulses followed and a din of meaningless words drove his reasoned thoughts hither and thither confusedly. … Some instinct, waking at these memories, stronger than education or piety, quickened within him at every near approach to that life, an instinct subtle and hostile, and armed him against acquiescence. The chill and order of the life repelled him.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus

His destiny was to be elusive of social or religious orders. … He was destined to learn his own wisdom apart from others or to learn the wisdom of others himself wandering among the snares of the world.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus
Chapter 4, Part 3 Quotes

Did he then love the rhythmic rise and fall of words better than their associations of legend and colour? Or was it that, being as weak of sight as he was shy of mind, he drew less pleasure from the reflection of the glowing sensible world through the prism of a language manycoloured and richly storied than from the contemplation of an inner world of individual emotions mirrored perfectly in a lucid supple periodic prose?

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus

Was [the flying form] a symbol of the artist forging anew in his workshop out of the sluggish matter of the earth a new soaring impalpable being? … His soul was soaring in an air beyond the world and the body he knew was purified in a breath a delivered of incertitude and made radiant and commingled with the element of the spirit.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus

This was the call of life to his soul, not the dull gross voice of the world of duties and despair, not the inhuman voice that had called him to the pale service of the altar. An instant of wild flight had delivered him and the cry of triumph which his lips withheld cleft his brain.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus
Chapter 5, Part 1 Quotes

The soul of the gallant venal city which his elders had told him of had shrunk with time to a faint mortal odour rising from the earth.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus

The language in which we are speaking is his before it is mine. How different are the words home, Christ, ale, master on his lips and on mine! I cannot speak or write these words without unrest of spirit. His language, so familiar and so foreign, will always be for me an acquired speech. I have not made or accepted its words. My voice holds them at bay. My soul frets in the shadow of his language.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus (speaker)

The soul is born, [Stephen] said vaguely, first in those moments I told you of. It has a slow and dark birth, more mysterious than the birth of the body. When the soul of a man is born in this country there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus (speaker)

The feelings excited by improper art are kinetic, desire or loathing. Desire urges us to possess, to go to something; loathing urges us to abandon, to go from something. These are kinetic emotions. The arts which excite them, pornographical or didactic, are therefore improper arts. The esthetic emotion (I use the general term) is therefore static. The mind is arrested and raised above desire and loathing.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus (speaker)

… though the same object may not seem beautiful to all people, all people who admire a beautiful object find in it certain relations which satisfy and coincide with the stages themselves of all esthetic apprehension. These relations of the sensible, visible to you through one form and to me through another, must be therefore the necessary qualities of beauty.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus (speaker)

Can excrement or a child or a louse be a work of art?

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus (speaker)
Chapter 5, Part 2 Quotes

The instant of inspiration seemed now to be reflected from all sides at once from a multitude of cloudy circumstance of what had happened or of what might have happened.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus
Chapter 5, Part 3 Quotes

A trembling joy, lambent as a faint light, played like a fairy host around him. But why? Her passage through the darkening air or the verse with its black vowels and its opening sound, rich and lutelike?

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus

The soft beauty of the Latin words touched with an enchanting touch the dark of the evening, with a touch fainter and more persuading than the touch of music or of a woman’s hand. The strife of their minds was quelled.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus, Cranly

I will not serve that in which I no longer believe whether it call itself my home, my fatherland or my church: and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defense the only arms I allow myself to use – silence, exile, and cunning.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus (speaker)

The life of his body, illclad, illfed, louseeaten, made him close his eyelids in a sudden spasm of despair: and in the darkness he saw the brittle bright bodies of lice falling from the air and turning often as they fell. Yes; and it was not darkness that fell from the air. It was brightness. Brightness falls from the air.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus

And under the deepened dusk he felt the thoughts and desires of the race to which he belonged flitting like bats, across the dark country lanes, under trees by the edges of streams and near the poolmottled bogs.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus
Chapter 5, Part 4 Quotes

Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race. Old father, old artificer, stand me now and ever in good stead.

Related Characters: Stephen Dedalus (speaker)
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Stephen Dedalus Character Timeline in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

The timeline below shows where the character Stephen Dedalus appears in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1, Part 1
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Simon Dedalus tells his toddler son Stephen a story about a cow who meets a boy named baby tuckoo. Stephen imagines that... (full context)
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Next, Stephen remembers dancing for Uncle Charles and Dante, his Catholic governess; Dante carries brushes that symbolize... (full context)
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At some point, young Stephen tells everyone that he wants to marry the girl next door, a Protestant girl named... (full context)
Chapter 1, Part 2
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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... (full context)
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The cold of the day reminds Stephen that a classmate pushed him into a cold wet ditch the day before. The cold... (full context)
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Stephen walks to his arithmetic class. The class is divided into two teams, York and Lancaster.... (full context)
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After class, Stephen files with his classmates into the dining room. The food and the atmosphere are so... (full context)
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Later, Stephen plays dominoes halfheartedly in the playroom and tries to hear the hissing of the gas... (full context)
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The next morning, Stephen wakes up with a fever and stays in bed while the other boys dress. Wells,... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 1, Part 3
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Stephen is home for the winter holidays. Uncle Charles, Dante, his father Simon Dedalus, Simon’s friend... (full context)
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Stephen listens to the conversation with confusion; who is right? He knows that Dante, Mr. Casey,... (full context)
Chapter 1, Part 4
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In the next scene, Stephen is back at school. He overhears his classmates talking on the playground about some older... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Stephen realizes that Father Dolan has acted very unfairly and unkindly, even though he is a... (full context)
Chapter 2, Part 1
Stephen spends the summer at his family’s house in Blackrock, a suburb of Dublin. He spends... (full context)
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On Sundays, Stephen, his father, and Uncle Charles go for long walks around the neighborhood. Stephen listens eagerly... (full context)
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Stephen and a boy named Aubrey Mills become friends and form an adventurers’ club; they explore... (full context)
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Aubrey goes to school in the fall, but Stephen does not return to Clongowes: his family has been experiencing financial troubles. He imagines living... (full context)
Chapter 2, Part 2
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One morning that fall, Stephen watches as workmen carry away most of the furniture in his home to prepare for... (full context)
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In Dublin, Stephen has the time and freedom to wander around at will – the same vague restlessness... (full context)
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One day, Stephen goes with his mother to visit his aunt. Her family is gathered looking at the... (full context)
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The next day Stephen tries to write a poem for her; he strips the poem of every specific circumstance... (full context)
Chapter 2, Part 3
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Stephen, now sixteen years old, is a student at Belvedere, a Jesuit school. It is the... (full context)
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A little ways away, a few of Stephen’s friends stand smoking cigarettes. Heron, Stephen’s closest friend, mentions that he saw Stephen’s father walking... (full context)
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Soon enough, though, Stephen begins joking with his friends. “Admit!”, Heron says, to get Stephen to confess his secret... (full context)
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A boy comes to call Stephen back to the theatre, because it’s almost time for him to go onstage. Heron thinks... (full context)
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Backstage, a man paints Stephen’s face to make him look middle-aged, but the thought of the girl waiting for him... (full context)
Chapter 2, Part 4
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Stephen and his father are taking the night train to Cork, Simon’s hometown, so that Simon... (full context)
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...look at the inscriptions on the desks. The word ‘foetus’ cut into the wood startles Stephen and gives him a vivid image of the student life of his father’s time –... (full context)
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...weary, painful thoughts with pleasant stories and fatuous advice about having fun and being gentlemanly. Stephen realizes that nothing in the external world matters to him unless it resembles his inner... (full context)
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After Simon sells his property, he drags Stephen from bar to bar. Stephen is embarrassed by his father’s sentimentality, excessive drinking, and smarmy... (full context)
Chapter 2, Part 5
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Stephen receives a large monetary prize—thirty-three pounds—for excellent academic performance, and he spends the money quickly... (full context)
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Stephen’s physical longings overwhelm him, and he starts wandering the city streets again. He remembers the... (full context)
Chapter 3, Part 1
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Stephen sits in class on a December evening, thinking about dinner and about the nightly adventures... (full context)
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Stephen thinks of the scroll on his wall that indicates his role as leader of a... (full context)
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Class ends, and Stephen walks outside with Heron and a few other boys. They go to listen to the... (full context)
Chapter 3, Part 2
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After the lecture, Stephen walks home and eats dinner. The grease on his lips makes him feel like a... (full context)
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Stephen feels as though the speech is addressed to him directly; he thinks that the words... (full context)
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It is raining when Stephen walks to the chapel the following day, and he imagines that the great flood has... (full context)
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Stephen walks out of the chapel profoundly shaken. He feels as though he has already died... (full context)
Chapter 3, Part 3
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After the sermon is over, Stephen goes up to his room to pray and think about his soul. He feels cold... (full context)
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Stephen leaves the house, thinking with confusion about his animal nature – its demands and stupidities.... (full context)
Chapter 4, Part 1
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Stephen now orders his life according to a strict regimen of prayer – a holy person... (full context)
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Stephen carries many rosaries in his pockets, and they seem to him to have no name,... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Chapter 4, Part 2
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After the end of the winter vacation, Stephen is called to meet with the director of the Jesuit college. The priest begins by... (full context)
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After he finishes with the preliminaries, the priest suggests to Stephen that he might be well-suited for a career in the clergy. Stephen listens to this... (full context)
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When Stephen gets up to leave, the priest urges him to consider the matter very carefully. As... (full context)
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Stephen wonders at how little his life of religious devotion has affected him, in the end.... (full context)
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Stephen then thinks lovingly of his father’s messy, lively house. He comes home a little while... (full context)
Chapter 4, Part 3
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Stephen waits anxiously in the street while his father speaks to a tutor about his admission... (full context)
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As he walks, Stephen looks at Dublin in delight, and feels memories overwhelm him like lovely music. Suddenly, he... (full context)
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...around him. He notices a birdlike girl standing in the water some distance away. In Stephen’s eyes, she is wonderfully beautiful. She feels his eyes on her and turns to look... (full context)
Chapter 5, Part 1
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In the time that has passed between chapters, Stephen’s family has become increasingly impoverished. Stephen drinks tea and looks at the pawn tickets indicating... (full context)
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Different stretches of his walk to school remind Stephen of different authors: Hauptmann, Newman, Cavalcanti (a friend of Dante’s), and Ibsen. He spends most... (full context)
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The thought of class makes Stephen bored and restless. He thinks of the face of Cranly, his closest friend, and decides... (full context)
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Stephen comes across a statue of Thomas Moore, the national poet of Ireland, which he looks... (full context)
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Stephen recalls a story Davin once told him. One October night, Davin was walking home to... (full context)
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Stephen walks to his physics classroom, where he finds the dean of studies struggling to light... (full context)
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They continue their conversation, which trips awkwardly over linguistic confusions and distinctions. Stephen uses the word ‘tundish,’ an Irish word for ‘funnel’ that the English priest doesn’t recognize,... (full context)
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...physics professor comes in and takes attendance, which finds Cranly absent. The lecture begins and Stephen dutifully copies down complex and puzzling formulas. Meanwhile, a student named Moynihan makes crude and... (full context)
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...for universal peace. Cranly has been waiting outside, and he has already contributed his signature. Stephen thinks the Czar looks like an insane Christ. The friends complain to each other about... (full context)
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It turns out that everyone has signed the petition except Stephen. Davin asks whether Stephen considers himself an Irishman; Stephen explains that he does not want... (full context)
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When the other boys begin to play a game, Stephen and a student named Lynch walk away, talking. Stephen tells Lynch his ideas about pity... (full context)
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Stephen pays little attention to Lynch and continues his dry disquisition. Art, he says, is drawn... (full context)
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Lynch, unsatisfied by these high-minded definitions, persists in asking about the nature of beauty. Stephen sighs inwardly and gives an example. Why do we find women beautiful, he asks? One... (full context)
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...a plump student named Donovan and talk briefly with him about exam results and dinner; Stephen quietly mocks his mundane interests. They resume their conversation after he walks away. Stephen refers... (full context)
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Next, Stephen divides art into three forms: the lyric, which is centered on the artist; the epic,... (full context)
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...the steps of the Irish academy. She had been flirting with a priest last time Stephen saw her, so he looks at her with spite. Other students talk dully about medical... (full context)
Chapter 5, Part 2
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Stephen wakes up in a romantic, “enchanted” mood, probably because he dreamed about E____ C____. His... (full context)
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Stephen remembers talking to E____ C____ at a party; she had asked him to play piano... (full context)
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Stephen’s inspiration returns, and he writes a few elevated and abstract stanzas. He remembers the poem... (full context)
Chapter 5, Part 3
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Stephen stands outside the library staring at a flock of birds. As he focuses on their... (full context)
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...W. B. Yeats play, The Countess Cathleen, which many people found offensive and unpatriotic. Then Stephen goes into the library to find Cranly, who is discussing a chess problem with another... (full context)
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Cranly greets E____ C____ as she walks out of the library, and Stephen suspects that Cranly likes her too, thinking nervously of his past “confessions” to him. He... (full context)
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Stephen calls Cranly away to speak to him in private. Stephen looks at a ritzy hotel... (full context)
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Stephen tells Cranly that he has had a fight with his mother earlier that evening. His... (full context)
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Stephen recalls several religious figures (including Christ himself) who would not touch their mothers or treated... (full context)
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Stephen feels that his friendship with Cranly is coming to an end. He tells his friend... (full context)
Chapter 5, Part 4
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...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... (full context)
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In one entry, Stephen describes two disturbing dreams. In the first, he is standing in a castle crowded with... (full context)