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Free Study Guide-A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES

CHAPTER 1

Summary

The novel opens with an excerpt from a children’s story "Once upon a time and a very good time it was . . ." The story is about a "moocow" who comes down the road and meets a nice little boy named "baby tuckoo." This is a story Stephen’s father tells him. His father looks at Stephen through the glass and Stephen notes that his father has a hairy face. Stephen also remembers a nursery rhyme that includes the words "O, the wild rose blossoms / On the little green place." When he sings it, he says "O, the green wothe botheth."

Stephen feels the sensations of cold and warm upon getting into his bed. His mother puts an oilsheet on his bed and he notices that it smells odd. He also notices that his mother has a nicer smell than his father does. His mother plays a song on the piano, "The Sailor’s Hornpipe" and Stephen dances to it. The sound is like this "Tralala lala / Tralalala tralaladdy . . ." When Stephen dances, Uncle Charles and Dante clap for him. Stephen knows these two are older than his parents.

Stephen notices that Dante commemorates two Irish nationalist heroes, Michael Davitt and Parnell. When Stephen brings Dante a tissue, she sneezes for him. In Stephen’s family’s building live the Vances. Their daughter’s name is Eileen. He plans to marry Eileen when he grows up. When Stephen gets into trouble, he hides under the table. His mother says he will apologize and Dante teases him that if he does not apologize, eagles will pull out his eyes. She sings a chant to him "Pull out his eyes / Apologise, Apologise, / Pull out his eyes."


When Stephen goes to boarding school, he does not like sports. The playground is full of boys and the prefects (teacher-coaches) urge them to play hard. Stephen stays on the fringe in football (soccer for Americans), out of sight of his prefect and out of reach of the kicking feet. He acts like he was running for the ball every once and a while. "He felt his body small and weak amid the throng of players." In contrast is Rody Kickam. Stephen knows Rody would be the captain. Stephen thinks Rody is a "decent fellow." On the other hand, Nasty Roche is a "stink." One day Nasty asks Stephen what his name is. When Stephen responds, Nasty wants to know what kind of name that is. Stephen cannot answer. Nasty asks him, "What is your father?" Stephen responds that his father is a gentleman. Nasty wants to know if Stephen’s father is a magistrate.

On the football field, Stephen creeps from point to point on the fringe. His hands are bluish with cold. He keeps his hands in the pockets of his suit. He thinks of the two meanings he knows for belt. One is a belt worn with clothing and the other is to hit someone. He remembers hearing some boy tell Cantwell that he would give him a belt in the second match of the football game. Cantwell offered a counter-challenge and said Cecil Thunder would give him a "toe in the rump."

Stephen knows that is not a nice expression and he remembers his mother’s warning that he not speak with the rough boys in his college. At the thought of his mother, he pictures her saying good- bye to him on his first day of school. She had lifted her veil and kissed him. Her nose and eyes were red from crying. He had pretended that he didn’t see that she was crying. He thinks she is a nice mother, but he does not like it when she cries. His father had given him some pocket money and told him to write home if he needed anything. He advised Stephen never to "peach" (tell) on a fellow. Stephen had watched as the rector had shaken hands with his parents and as they drove off calling out "good-bye" to him.

On the football field, Stephen gets "caught in the whirl of a scrimmage." He is afraid of the "flashing eyes and muddy boots." He bends over to look through the legs. He sees the rough game from that angle. Then he sees Jack Lawton’s yellow boots kick the ball and all the other boots run after it. Stephen runs after them half-heartedly and then stops. He thinks of the upcoming holiday and remembers that after supper in study hall, he will change the number in his desk from seventy-seven to seventy-six, the number of days until he goes home for holidays.

He wishes he were in study hall instead of being out in the cold. He looks at the castle (his school building) and wonders from which window Hamilton Rowan had thrown his hat. Stephen remembers a day when he was called to the castle and shown the slugs of the bullets in the wood. The butler had also given him a piece of shortbread. He liked the look of the castle. It reminded him of what he had imagined Leicester Abbey would look like. He likes the sentences in Doctor Cornwall’s Spelling Book. They are like poetry to Stephen "Wolsey died in Leicester Abbey / Where the abbots buried him. / Canker is a disease of plants, / Cancer is one of animals." Stephen wishes he could lie on a rug by a fire and think of these sentences.

He shivers. He remembers Wells pushing him into the square ditch because he refused to trade his snuffbox for Wells’s seasoned hacking chestnut. The water had been horribly cold and slimy. Stephen is especially horrified by the fact that one of the boys in his class said he once saw a rat jump into the ditch water.

Stephen’s thoughts turn to his mother at home. He imagines that she would be sitting with her feet on the fender of the fireplace. Her "jewelly slippers" are hot and have a warm smell. Thinking of his mother reminds Stephen of Dante. Dante knows a lot of things. She had taught him geographical landmarks in Africa, America, and the moon. Stephen compares Father Arnall’s knowledge to Dante’s and knows the priest knows more because he is a priest, but he also remembers his father and uncle Charles saying she was clever and well-read. Stephen knows that when Dante makes a noise in her throat after eating, it is called heartburn.

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