A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man


James Joyce

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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: Foil 1 key example

Chapter 5, Part 1
Explanation and Analysis—Lynch & Stephen:

Lynch is Stephen's friend and fellow student. However, the two differ greatly and are ultimately foils for one another. For example, Lynch is unable to appreciate Stephen's ideas or adequately contribute to their conversation about the meaning of art and beauty. Lynch lacks lofty artistic aspirations; he would be satisfied with a more conventional occupation. And most notably, he is also portrayed as simple and animalistic. In Chapter 5 Part 1 Stephen compares him to a reptile:

Stephen turned towards his companion and looked at him for a moment boldly in the eyes. [...] The long slender flattened skull beneath the long pointed cap brought before Stephen’s mind the image of a hooded reptile. The eyes, too, were reptilelike in glint and gaze. Yet at that instant, humbled and alert in their look, they were lit by one tiny human point, the window of a shrivelled soul, poignant and selfembittered.

There is only a "tiny human point" in Lynch's eyes; otherwise (in Stephen's opinion) he resembles a reptile. After the narrator describes this observation, the two have a conversation about pity and terror—emotions that one assumes Stephen should feel upon observing a "reptilian" human. But Stephen maintains emotional distance and strives in all of his observations to embody the lofty thinker who aspires to the creation of high art. This, in turn, differentiates Stephen him from Lynch and from his other peers, too, reminding the reader of Stephen's superior potential for artistic success.