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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)

Stephen gets tired thinking like this. He turns the page and looks at the green earth amidst the maroon clouds. He wonders which it was best, to be for the green or the maroon. Dante had ripped up her green that was for Parnell and told Stephen that Parnell was a bad man. Stephen wonders if his family is arguing at home about this issue at that moment. He knows this is called politics and that there were two sides to it Dante was on one side and his father and Mr. Casey were on the other. His mother and uncle Charles took no sides. The newspaper always included something on politics. Stephen is upset that he doesn’t know what politics mean and that he also doesn’t know where the universe ends.

He feels small and weak. He wonders when he will be like the boys in poetry and rhetoric. "They had big voices and big boots and they studied trigonometry." That time of his life was far away. He would have to go home to vacation, then next term of school, then vacation, then another term, and so on. It was like a train going in and out of tunnels, an image that reminds him of the noise in the refectory when he closed and opened the flaps of his ears. It is so far away. He wishes he could go to bed, but he still has to go to chapel. He thinks of how lovely it will be when he gets into bed and gets the sheets warm. He knows he will first have to get into cold sheets. The thought makes him shiver. Then he thinks of how the sheets get hot and feels how lovely it is to be tired. He yawns and feels very sleepy.

The bell rings for night prayers and Stephen files out with the others. The corridors on the way to the chapel are darkly lit as is the chapel. The chapel is cold and the marbles in the chapel are the color of the sea at night. Stephen thinks the sea is cold day and night, but colder at night. Under the sea wall by his father’s house it is cold and dark. Yet, the kettle is always on the hob ready for making punch.


The prefect of the chapel prays and Stephen knows the answers by heart "O Lord, open our lips / And our mouth shall announce Thy praise. / Incline unto our aid, O God! / O Lord, make haste to help us!" Stephen notices that there is a cold, night smell in the chapel, but thinks it is a holy smell. Stephen thinks of the smell of the old peasants who kneel in the back of the chapel at Sunday mass, the "smell of air and rain and turf and corduroy." He thinks they are "holy peasants." One boy said they live in Clane. Stephen knows there are small cottages in Clane. From the train from Sallins, he had once seen a woman standing in the door of a cottage holding a child. He thinks it would be lovely to sleep one night in that cottage. The thought occurs to him, "But, O, the road there between the trees was dark! You would be lost in the dark." He feels afraid.

The prefect of the chapel says his last prayer. He prayed also "against the dark outside under the trees." He prays that God will visit them and drive away the snares of the enemy and he prays that God’s angels will stay with them and that God will always bless them.

In the dormitory, Stephen’s fingers tremble as he unbuttons his clothes. He hurries himself so he can have time to say his prayers before the gas is lowered. Otherwise, he will go to hell. He prays for God to bless his father, mother, brothers, sisters, Dante, and uncle Charles. He climbs into bed and curls "himself together under the cold white sheets, shaking and trembling." He consoles himself with the thought that he wouldn’t go to hell when he died and that the shaking would stop.

He hears the prefect say good-night and walk away. He pictures where the prefect is walking. He wonders if it is true that a black dog with eyes as big as carriage lamps walked along the end of the dark corridors at night. The boys said it was the ghost of a murderer. Stephen feels a shiver of fear. He sees the dark entrance hall of the castle. He pictures old servants in old dress in the ironing room. He thinks of it as being a long time ago. The servants were quiet. A figure came up the staircase. He wore the cloak of a marshal. His hand was pressed to his side. He looked at his servants out of strange eyes. They saw him and knew that he had received his death wound in the battle of Prague.

Stephen thinks of how cold and strange it is to think of that story. He thinks of the dark as being like that. It contains pale, strange faces, eyes as big as carriage lamps, ghosts of murderers, and figures of marshals. He wonders what they wanted to say that made their faces seem so strange. He remembers the chapel prefect’s prayer beseeching God to visit them and drive away . . .

This thought is interrupted by Stephen’s new thought of how wonderful it will be to go home for the holidays. The other boys had told him of the celebratory mood of the leave-taking. They would all get onto the cars early in the morning and send up three cheers for the rector. Stephen pictures the cars driving past the chapel. The boys’ caps would all be raised. They would drive along country roads to Bodenstown. They would pass the Jolly Farmer and the boys would send up cheer after cheer. They would drive through Clane and see peasant women standing in their doorways. He would smell the lovely smell of Clane "rain and wintry air and turf smouldering and corduroy."

The train was a "long chocolate train with cream facings." He would see guards going to and fro. The trains would race past the Hill of Allen. He would see the "telegraph poles passing, passing." He saw colored lanterns in his father’s house and ropes of greenery. Holly and ivy would be wound around the chandeliers and around the old portraits on the walls. Everyone would exclaim, "Welcome home, Stephen!" His mother would kiss him. He wondered if that was right. His father would be a marshal, higher than a magistrate.

The noises of Stephen’s dream meld together with the noises of curtain rings being pulled back and of water being splashed into basins. He hears the noises of boys getting up and dressing. He hears the prefect clapping his hands and telling the boys to "look sharp." Stephen’s bed is very hot and he feels his face and body very hot. He sits up on the side of his bed feeling weak. Fleming asks him if he is ill. He tells Stephen to get back into bed and assures him that he will tell McGlade.

Stephen "crouched down between the sheets, glad of their tepid glow." He hears his classmates talk about him as they dress. They say it was a mean thing for Wells to do to throw Stephen in the ditch. Then, Stephen hears a voice at his bed asking him if he plans to tell. It is Wells. Stephen remembers his father saying that "whatever he did, never to peach on a fellow." He shakes his head no and feels glad. Wells says he did not mean to do it and apologizes. Stephen knows Wells apologized only because he was afraid. Stephen is afraid it is some disease. He remembers his lessons "canker was a disease of plants and cancer one of animals." It feels like a long time ago that he was out on the football field creeping on the fringe of the line. He remembers the story of "Leicester Abbey lit up. Wolsey died there. The abbots buried him themselves."

Stephen sees the prefect’s face. He has to assure the prefect that he is not "foxing" (faking) his illness. When he feels the prefect’s cold damp hand, he thinks it is "the way a rat felt, slimy and damp and cold." He thinks of rats with their two eyes to look out of, their sleek, slimy coats, their "little little feet tucked up to jump." He figures that rats can understand how to jump but cannot understand trigonometry. When they are dead, they lay on their sides and they become "only dead things."

The prefect comes back into his room and tells him to get up and dressed to go to the infirmary. He makes a joke "We must pack off to Brother Michael because we have the collywobbles! . . . How we wobble when we have the collywobbles!" Stephen thinks the prefect is "very decent to say that" because he was trying to make Stephen laugh, but he cannot laugh. The prefect calls out "Quick march! Hayfoot! Strawfoot!" At the infirmary, Stephen sees Brother Michael and smells the medicine from the bottles on the shelves. Stephen notices that Brother Michael calls the prefect "sir" and wonders why he always had to be a brother. "Was he not holy enough or why could he not catch up on the others?"

A boy out of the third of grammar (third grade in the grammar school) is also in the infirmary. He calls out a request for some buttered toast. Brother Michael says he will soon "get his walking papers." Brother Michael stirred the fire and shook the poker at the boy then left. The boy fell asleep.

Stephen wonders if the school officials had written home to his parents. He imagines his letter to his mother telling her he is sick, wants to go home, and requesting that she come and get him from the infirmary. He thinks of how far away his parents are. He wonders if he will die. Even though it is a sunny day, he knows a person can die just as well then. He thinks about what would happen if he died before his mother came. The school would have a dead mass for him in the chapel just as he was told they had had for Little. He thinks of all the boys being there at the mass with sad faces, including Wells, who would be ostracized by the others. The rector would be there in his raiments and candles would surround the catafalque (a raised structure on which the coffin would stand). They would carry his coffin to the cemetery and Wells would be sorry for what he had done. The bell would toll slowly.

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