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THE STORY - CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
Just as Chapter One introduced the major themes and motifs, this last chapter recalls them, expands them, and ties them together.
Now that Stephen has been converted to the religion of art, he is pursuing his goal of becoming a literary figure. As a student at the university, he debates with fellow students and teachers many issues, such as Irish nationalism, his family, and the Church. You'll also see some evidence of his artistic and intellectual development: his theory of art and an ambitious poem. The diary excerpts at the end sum up Stephen's attitudes and express his final revolt.
The exalted youth flying high at the end of the last chapter is now down to earth in the usual transitional pattern of rise and fall from one chapter to the next. In his shabby, untidy house, he is breakfasting on a meager meal of watery tea and crusts of fried bread, a sharp contrast to the festive Christmas meal of the first chapter. He is still under his parents' wings. His mother grumbles as she washes his neck. His father whistles for him and curses him. As Stephen, resentful, walks to the university through littered streets, he is clearly ready to fly away on his own. Have you had days in which family life seems unbearable, as it does to Stephen? Dublin and his family are offending "the pride of his youth."
The thoughts that swirl in Stephen's mind as he walks to class give us clues to his present feelings and describe some earlier university scenes. You'll notice how important literature has become to him. The Dublin streets bring to mind scenes written by his favorite writers: Gerhart Hauptmann, a German playwright (1862-1946); the previously mentioned John Henry Cardinal Newman; the thirteenth-century Italian poet Guido Cavalcanti; Joyce's own hero, Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906); the seventeenth-century English writer Ben Jonson. Language, too, fills his mind, as you see in the word plays on ivy and ivory. You also see glimpses of his classmates-the idealistic MacCann, Cranly, the "confessor" Stephen tells of "all the tumults and unrest and longing in his soul," and Davin, the Irish "peasant" and fervent nationalist.
NOTE: STEPHEN'S FRIENDS
Many of Stephen's friends are modeled after people in Joyce's own student circle. George Clancy (Davin) was killed by British government troops while he was mayor of Limerick during Ireland's fight for independence. Francis Skeffington (MacCann) was also killed by British troops, during the Easter rebellion of 1916. J. F. Byrne (Cranly) was Joyce's closest friend until his disapproval of Joyce's bawdy behavior in Paris earned Joyce's anger. (As a result, Cranly is portrayed as being prim and perhaps homosexual, which Byrne was not.) Soon you'll meet Lynch, modeled after Joyce's close friend Vincent Cosgrave. This portrait, too, is biased: Joyce bore Cosgrave a grudge for standing aside while Joyce was involved in a street brawl; Cosgrave was also a brief and unsuccessful rival for the affections of Nora Barnacle. When the annoyed Joyce wrote about Cosgrave in Portrait of the Artist, he gave him the name of an evil Irish mayor who hanged his own son. In 1927 Cosgrave/Lynch was found drowned (a presumed suicide) in London's Thames River, fulfilling Joyce's prediction that his life would be a failure.
Stephen finds himself haunted by a story Davin has told him. While walking the countryside on a dark night, Davin knocked at a house for a glass of water and was greeted by a young woman. Half-naked, perhaps pregnant, she asks him to spend the night. Davin, tempted, is "all in a fever," but he flees.
Why does Davin's story strike Stephen so strongly? Perhaps partly because it was told by Davin, who has an innocence and a simplicity Stephen knows he lacks. Partly, too, the woman seems to represent an Ireland that Stephen finds both seductive and disturbing. The milk she offers Davin links her to the moocow and other cows that represented Ireland earlier in the book-the often beautiful but finally stifling Ireland Stephen must reject. She's also been compared to fallen Eve tempting still-innocent Adam. Like so many other images in Portrait of the Artist, her symbolic meaning is ambiguous but powerful nonetheless.
At the university, as in his former schools, Stephen feels alienated. A conversation with the dean of studies increases this feeling. As the dean lights a fire, he and Stephen discuss the useful arts-such as fire-starting-versus the liberal arts. Is a fire beautiful only if it is useful? Stephen stands on the side of pure beauty. In support of his stand, he quotes the thirteenth-century religious thinker, Saint Thomas Aquinas, his favorite philosopher. In the end, the dean patronizingly advises Stephen to focus on practical matters before flying off in pursuit of art and beauty. Stephen doesn't. For him, the dean is "an unlit lamp," a cleric with a closed mind. Once again, he is disappointed in the priests-the fathers, like his own, who prove themselves false. The encounter with the dean sets the stage for Stephen's later statement of a theory of art based on Aquinas.
In physics class, too, Stephen feels isolated as his fellow students crack good-humored, bawdy jokes. He will not sign his friend MacCann's petitions for world peace and disarmament. He also rejects Davin's efforts to involve him in Irish cultural affairs, like the revival of the Gaelic language and indigenous Irish sports. His ideological friends berate him. MacCann calls him "a minor poet," who has a lot to learn about his social obligations. "Try to be one of us," says Davin. "Be a poet or mystic later." He also faults Stephen for being a loner-"a born sneerer."
In fact, Stephen shares some of his friends' concerns. Like Davin, he worries if the English language imposed on Ireland by conquerors can ever be truly his-as you see during his discussion of the words "tundish" and "funnel" with the dean. But to Stephen, his calling as an artist means that he must not become embroiled in social issues. Besides, he has little patience for Ireland. His country does not deserve his concern. She has betrayed her heroes, from Wolfe Tone to Parnell. She is "the old sow that eats her farrow." He will not be eaten. "You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets."
If you agree with Davin that Stephen is a prideful egotist, you may condemn his rejection of worthy causes. Do you agree with Stephen that an artist should separate his work from social concerns?
Joyce himself was not completely unconcerned with politics; he called himself a Socialist in principle. In general, though, he thought an artist should stick to the concerns of the spirit, and he devoted his life to the intense, lonely, and ill-paid labor of writing (and defending) his unconventional books.