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

CHAPTER 1

Summary (continued)

On the playground, Stephen hears voices yell out, "All in!" The players huddle together and Stephen is glad to go in among the "flushed and muddy" group. Roddy Kickam holds the ball and a boy asks him to kick it one last time. Simon Moonan says not to kick it because the prefect is looking. The boy accuses Simon Moonan of being "McGladeís suck." Stephen thinks about the odd sound of the word "suck." Stephen knows why the boy called Simon this name. Simon used to tie the prefectís false sleeves together behind his back and the prefect played at being angry. Stephen doesnít like the sound of sucking. He remembers a time at the Wicklow hotel when he had washed his hands in the lavatory and his father had pulled the stopper. The dirty water went down the hole and the last of hit had made a sound like the word "suck," only louder.

At this memory of the sound and the sight of the white lavatory, Stephen feels cold and then hot. He remembers that there are two knobs that turn on the water, one for hot and one for cold. He feels hot and then he feels cold. He thinks it is odd that he can picture the words printed on the knobs. He is chilled by the air in the corridor of his dormitory. It is damp. He had noticed the sound the gas makes when it comes on. It makes a "light noise like a little song." When the boys stop talking, he can hear it.

Stephen thinks of his mathematics class. Father Arnall writes a hard problem on the chalkboard. He organizes the class into two teams, named after the war of the roses, Lancaster, the red rose, and York, the white rose. Stephen wears a white rose. The figure is too hard for him. He is confused. Jack Lawton, on the Lancaster side, wins. Then, for the next figure, the priest urges them on. Stephen suddenly loses his eagerness to win. He feels his face turn white. He thinks it doesnít matter after all. White and red roses are lovely colors to think about and the prize cards for first, second, and third place were equally beautiful colors. He wonders if a wild rose could be those colors, lavender, cream, and pink. He remembers a song about "the wild rose blossoms on the little green place." He wonders if it is possible to have a green rose. He thinks "maybe somewhere in the world you could."


When class is over, the boys go to the refectory for dinner. He looks at the pieces of butter on his plate, but cannot eat his damp bread. He notices that the tablecloth is also damp and limp. He drinks his weak tea and wonders if the scullionís (the servantís) apron is also damp. He wonders if all white things are cold and damp. Stephen remembers that Nasty Roche and Saurin drink cocoa that their families sent them in the mail. Their fathers are magistrates.

All the boys at his school seem strange to Stephen. They all have different parents and different clothes and voices. Stephen wishes he were at home laying his head on his motherís lap. He knows he cannot be, though, so he wishes he were in bed. He drinks more tea and Fleming asks him what is the matter with him. Fleming says Stephen is "sick in his breadbasket" (his stomach) but that it will go away. Stephen knows he is not sick there; instead, he feels sick in his heart. Stephen wants to cry. He leans his elbows on the table and shuts and opens the flaps of his ears so he hears the noise of the refectory like the roar of a train at night and like the train going into a tunnel. He closes his eyes and opens and shuts the flaps of his ears, enjoying the sound.

The higher line boys (older boys) come into the middle of the refectory. They are Paddy Rath, Jimmy Magee, the Spaniard, a boy who is allowed to smoke, and a Portuguese. Then the lower line tables (tables designated for lower grades in the school) get up. Stephen notices that all the boys have a different way of walking. Stephen sits in a corner of the playroom ad pretends to watch a game of dominoes. He listens for the sound of the gas heater. Stephen sees the prefect standing at the door. Simon Moonan is knotting his sleeves. When the prefect goes away, Wells comes over to Stephen and asks him to tell the group if he kisses his mother before he goes to bed. Stephen answers that he does. Wells yells this news out to the others. All the boys laugh at Stephen. Then Stephen blushes and says he does not. Wells turns to the boys and says, "hereís a fellow says he doesnít kiss his mother before he goes to bed."

Stephen tries to laugh with the others, but his body feels hot and confused. He cannot figure out what the right answer to the question is. He tries to think of what Wellsís mother must look like, but he doesnít dare look at Wellsís face. He does not like Wellsís face. Stephen remembers Wells pushing him into the ditch water the day before. All the boys agreed that it was a mean thing to do. Stephen remembers the water as cold and slimy and he cannot stop thinking of the rat one boy had seen go into the water. "The cold slime of the ditch covered his whole body; and, when the bell rang for study and the lines filed out of the playrooms, he felt the cold air of the corridor and the staircase inside his clothes." He cannot stop trying to figure out what the right answer would be to Wellsís question about him kissing his mother. He muses on what it means to kiss. He thinks of the actions of putting his face up to say goodnight and his mother putting her face down. His mother put her lips on his cheek. Her soft lips wet his cheek and "made a tiny little noise kiss." He wonders why people do that with their two faces.

As he sits in the study hall, he opens the lid of his desk and changes the number from seventy-seven to seventy-six. The Christmas vacation is far away, "but one time it would come because the earth moved round always." He has a picture of the earth on the first page of his geography book. It is "a big ball in the middle of clouds." Fleming had colored the earth green and the clouds maroon. They were the same two colors that Dante used to represent Parnell and Michael Davitt. Stephen opens his geography book, but he cannot study the places in America. He thinks about the categories of geography "countries were in continents and the continents were in the world and the world was in the universe." On the flyleaf of his book he had written "Stephen Dedalus, Class of Elements, Clongowes Wood College, Sallins, County Kildare, Ireland, Europe, the World, the Universe." One night, Fleming had written on the opposite page "Stephen Dedalus is my name, / Ireland is my nation. / Clongowes is my dwellingplace / And heaven my expectation." When Stephen read the verses backwards, they were not poetry.

He reads the flyleaf from bottom to top until he gets to his name, "that was he," then he reads down the page again. He wonders what comes after the universe and decides "nothing." He wonders "was there anything round the universe to show where it stopped before the nothing place began?" He knows it cannot be a wall, but thinks it might be a "thin thin line there all round everything." He realizes how "big" it is to think about everything and everywhere and thinks only God can do that. He tries to think that big thought, but can only think of God. He thinks "God" is Godís name, just as Stephen was his own. When anyone prayed to God and said "Dieu," God knew it was a French person. Stephen knows that no matter what name people used in all the countries of the world, God understood all those languages and "still God remained always the same God and Godís real name was God."

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