A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man conveys many moods. It begins in a happy mood that transitions into melancholy, flamboyance, tragedy, and seriousness. For example, the beginning of Chapter 1, Part 1 has a lighthearted, childish mood that shifts rather abruptly into a more melancholy scene in Chapter 1, Part 2:
The wide playgrounds were swarming with boys. All were shouting and the prefects urged them on with strong cries. The evening air was pale and chilly and after every charge and thud of the foot-ballers the greasy leather orb flew like a heavy bird through the grey light. He kept on the fringe of his line, out of sight of his prefect, out of the reach of the rude feet, feigning to run now and then. He felt his body small and weak amid the throng of players and his eyes were weak and watery.
Here, phrases like "pale and chilly" and "small and weak" create a mood of bleak hopelessness. Stephen was not gifted in physical activity but rather in intellectual and artistic activities; he has not yet found his calling and remains on the sidelines of the otherwise rollicking game. However, when Stephen later practices his best arts (such as reading, writing, and speaking), he is far more joyful, and the mood of the story shifts to reflect his moments of newfound happiness.