A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man


James Joyce

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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: Chapter 3, Part 3 Summary & Analysis

After the sermon is over, Stephen goes up to his room to pray and think about his soul. He feels cold and confused, and he thinks in horror of his many sins. He tries not to hear or see anything, but he is struck with a disgusting vision of hell, full of demons and excrement. He goes to the window to pray and mourns his lost innocence.
When Stephen tries to consider his soul, he is invaded by the awful scenes described in the lectures, with an emphasis on filth and excrement. The lectures that were meant to bring Stephen closer to his soul seem to block his access to it.
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Stephen leaves the house, thinking with confusion about his animal nature – its demands and stupidities. His animal nature seems to him an awful second soul of a lower order, which lives inside him like a parasite. He resolves to confess his sins, and finds a chapel on one of the streets he frequents. Inside, he feels the foretaste of humiliation but resolves to live purely under god from now on. He enters the confessional for the first time in eight months, and he describes his sins to the priest. The priest implores him to abandon his habits and absolves him. Stephen is moved to tears, and he walks home with a beautiful sense of purity and cleanliness. Even his kitchen seems full of peace and glory.
Stephen decides to identify with his ‘purer’ soul and not his animal soul. He thinks his real soul is almost lost, like a tiny flicker, and he goes to confession to regain it. His thoughts, in this section, sound like a childish version of the sermon – his own unique voice has disappeared. In trying to regain his soul according to the priest’s instructions, he begins to lose what we might call the secular soul – the idiosyncrasy of his thoughts and ideas. We might say that his joy after confession is the joy of being free from his self.
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