Bats seem, to Stephen
, to represent something essential about the conflicted, dark, mysterious Ireland of his childhood. He does not make the comparison entirely clear, yet he refers to it several times, with strong feeling: “he felt the thoughts and desires of the race to which he belonged flitting like bats across the dark country lanes,” he writes in one place; and “she was a figure of the womanhood of her country, a bat-like soul waking to the consciousness of itself in darkness and secrecy and loneliness.” At the turn of nineteenth century, Ireland was emerging from many centuries of British domination to a strong sense of national pride and dreams of independence. Stephen feels that Irish identity and self-awareness is still very young and uncertain, like a blind bat flying in the dark; it is also secretive and elusive, unlike the raucous Fenian celebrations in the streets. It is his artistic ambition to capture this identity and bring it to light.