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CHAPTER ONE (continued)


Back at Clongowes, Stephen is faced with the realities of authority, guilt, and punishment. There has been a school scandal. Some boys who ran away have been caught and will either be publicly flogged or expelled.

Stephen is not sure what the runaways are guilty of. Some boys say that they stole money from the rector's (headmaster's) room. Others think they stole wine used for communion. Athy, Stephen's companion in the infirmary, insists he knows: the boys were indulging in "smugging" (schoolboy homosexual acts) with younger boys in the lavatory.

The rumors revive the veiled sexual connotations of the first scene at Clongowes. Stephen doesn't know what smugging is or why the boys chose to do it in the dank, unpleasant lavatory. The offense must be serious, because the punishment is severe. Joyce again emphasizes Stephen's state of sexual innocence (purity) at this stage of his life.


One of the graffiti written on the toilet walls is "The Calico Belly," a gross schoolboy pun on the Latin title of Julius Caesar's famous treatise on his Gallic wars, Commentarii de Bello Gallico. Even the youngest pupils at Clongowes studied Latin, and Caesar's work was standard early reading.

One of the boys involved in the scandal is nicknamed Lady Boyle, because he has a delicate air and is always paring his fingernails. Boyle's hands remind Stephen of the slender white hands of Eileen, the little playmate he wants to marry in the prelude. He recalls an innocent sensual moment when she placed her soft, cool hand in his pocket and touched his own.


Eileen's streaming golden hair and her cool white hands make Stephen think of the phrases "Tower of Ivory" and "House of Gold," part of a prayer to the Virgin Mary. This is one of the many times throughout the book that the young boy's erotic feelings are linked to images of the Virgin. The hands of Boyle and Eileen are clearly related to sexual awakening, but their whiteness suggests that the sexuality is still pure and basically dormant. The whiteness is connected to the ivory tower of the Virgin, another image of combined sensuality and innocence.

Stephen and his classmates fear that because of the smugging scandal, a general punishment will be meted out to the whole student body. They particularly dread pandying, the striking of the palms with a pandybat, a leather strap stiffened with whale bone.

In the classroom, Father Arnall has excused Stephen from work because his eyeglasses have been smashed. But Father Dolan, the rector's assistant, punishes him with the dreaded pandybat for not writing. He insists Stephen is merely pretending his glasses are broken so he can avoid studying. The "firm soft fingers" of the priest steady Stephen's hands for the punishment as the pandybat descends on Stephen's palms.


Joyce himself was unfairly pandied by a Father James Daly while he was at Clongowes, and for the same unjust reason. Stephen's reactions to the pandying are clearly autobiographical. Stephen mentions two more pandyings later in the book, saying he had deserved more. Records in the punishment book at Clongowes show at least three more pandyings for Joyce: one for forgetting to bring a book to class, one for wearing muddy boots in the house, and one for "vulgar language."

You'll notice, too, how threatened blindness (Stephen's loss of his glasses) is linked to punishment.

Added to Stephen's physical pain is the humiliation of having to kneel in the middle of the classroom. But most dreadful of all, as you know if you have ever been unjustly punished, is realizing that life often is unjust. The phrase that occurs throughout this section is "cruel and unfair."

In view of the fact that he had been excused from writing, Stephen particularly resents Father Arnall's lukewarm defense. Even priests can be cruel and unfair. Again, Stephen's faith in the authority of his elders is shaken as it was at the Christmas dinner. His disappointment with the priests (false fathers) in his educational environment will be no less than his disappointment with his own father.

Stephen's classmates encourage him to complain to the rector, Father Conmee. Heartened by the example of great men of valor he has read about, he sets off on the long, difficult journey to the rector's office.

Note the way Joyce chooses details to set the mood of Stephen's sense of doom. The office is hushed. There is a skull on the desk (a reminder of man's ultimate fate?) and a "strange solemn smell in the room." Stephen trembles as he tells his story. But the rector is kindly. He soothes the shaky lad and assures him he will straighten out Father Dolan's "mistake."

Stephen, feeling victorious, races back down the path he had followed so hesitantly before. His schoolmates cheer him as a conquering hero. Justice is triumphant-at least for the moment. Not only has he won over the dark forces of unjust priests, but he has overcome his own fear. It is a turning point: "He was happy and free."

In this moment of victory, however, Stephen tries to remember not to gloat or give in to pride, but to remain modest and obedient. For now, his triumph as a rebel, the climax of this chapter, results in a resolve to conform. But the battle between rebellion and conformity, between pride and obedience, will continue throughout Portrait of the Artist, and its future outcome may be different.

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