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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 2

Summary (continued)

One morning two big vans come to Stephenís house and the men come in and dismantle the house. They take the furniture and leave. From the window of the railway carriage where he sits with his red-eyed mother, Stephen sees the vans drive away. That evening Mr. Dedalus cannot get the parlor fire to light well. Uncle Charles sits in the half-furnished room dozing. The family portraits lean against the wall. The floor is muddied by the movers. Stephen sits at his fatherís feet and listens to his father give a long monologue, little of which he understands. His father mentions having enemies and assures Stephen he plans to fight them. Stephen gets the feeling he is being enlisted in the fight and that he has some duty to perform.

For Stephen, "the sudden flight from the comfort and reverie of Blackrock," and traveling through the gloomy city of Dublin to a "bare cheerless house" is very sad. He has a vague sense of foreboding about the future. He now understands why the servants often stood in hallways and whispered among each other. His father tells him he still has the drive of his youth and that the familyís fortunes are not dead yet.

Dublin very different from his earlier experiences. Uncle Charles is now senile and unable to be sent out on errands by the family, so Stephen is freer than he had been in Blackrock. He explores the city gradually, expanding his knowledge of its geography, passing through the docks and quays, "wondering at the multitude of corks that lay bobbing on the surface of the water in a thick yellow scum." He sees the vast and strange merchandise stacked up at the port and it awakens in him the same kind of unrest that had sent him out in the evenings in search of Mercedes. He imagines himself in another Marseilles, except he doesnít have the bright sky and trellises. He feels vaguely dissatisfied, but continues wandering.

Occasionally, Stephen goes with his mother to visit relatives. They pass brightly lit shops festive in the Christmas season, but "his mood of embittered silence did not leave him." He has many causes for being so embittered. He is angry at being young and he is angry at his familyís financial hardship "which was reshaping the world about him into a vision of squalor and insincerity." Yet his anger does nothing for his vision. He chronicles what he sees in a detached way, "testing its mortifying flavour in secret."


One day he sits in his auntís kitchen. His aunt is reading the evening paper. She exclaims over a picture of Mabel Hunter. A little girl stands next to her and looks at the picture. She exclaims just as Stephenís aunt just did "The beautiful Mabel Hunter!" She adds that this actress is an "exquisite creature." A boy comes in from the street carrying coal. He drops his load and rushes over to look at the picture. He shoulders the girl aside to see.

The kitchen is in an "old darkwindowed house." A woman sits in front of the fire and makes tea. She tells the story of what the priest and doctor had said and of the changes she has noticed lately. Stephen sits listening to "the words and following the ways of adventure that lay open in the coals, arches and vaults and winding galleries and jagged caverns. His attention is drawn to a figure coming into the room. "A skull appeared suspended in the gloom of the doorway." The figure asks if that is Josephine. The woman at the fireplace answers, "No, Ellen. Itís Stephen." When Stephen greets her, she smiles a silly smile. She repeats several times that she thought Stephen was Josephine.

One day Stephen attends a childrenís party at Haroldís Cross. "His silent watchful manner had grown upon him and he took little part in the games." The children run and play noisily and Stephen tries to take part but cannot. "He felt himself a gloomy figure among the gay cocked hats and sunbonnets." When he goes to a corner to sit alone, he relishes his loneliness. The joy of the party had at first seemed false and trivial to him, but now it soothes him. It hides the "feverish agitation of his blood." Stephen sees a girl keep glancing his way.

When the party is over, Stephen stands in the hallway with the others as they put on their things. The girl puts on a shawl and Stephen walks with her toward the tram. It is the last tram of the evening. The horses know it and shake their heads. Everything is quiet except for the sound of the horses. The horses seem to listen to him. Stephen stands on the upper step and the girl on the lower one. She moves back and forth between his step and hers and a couple of times stands close to him on his step. "His heart danced upon her movements like a cork upon a tide." He hears what her eyes say to him. He feels as if in "some dim past" he has heard her tale before. He sees her dress, sash and stockings--her "vanities"-- and feels as if "he had yielded to her a thousand times." He hears an inner voice asking him if he will take her gift. He remembers when he and Eileen had stood together looking at the hotel grounds and she had suddenly laughed and run down the curve of the path. "Now, as then, he stood listlessly in his place, seemingly a tranquil watcher of the scene before him." He thinks to himself that this girl, like Eileen, wants him to catch hold of her. He thinks how easily he could kiss her. However, he doesnít act on his impulse. When he sits alone on the empty tram he tears his ticket to pieces and stares ahead gloomily.

The next day, Stephen sits at his table with a new pen and a new bottle of ink along with a new green exercise book in front of him. Out of habit, he has written the Jesuit motto on the first page, "A.M.D.G." He has written a title to a poem he is trying to write, "To E.___ C.___. He knows this is the best way to begin because he has seen the collected poems of Lord Byron with similar titles. After having written the title he starts daydreaming and doodling on the cover of the book. He remembers that on the morning after the big Christmas dispute, he had tried to write a poem about Parnell on the back of one of his fatherís second notices of payment due. He had been unsuccessful. Instead, he had written the names and addresses of his classmates.

Now he worries that he will fail again in writing a poem, but he "thought himself into confidence." During the process of thinking about the incident, all the things about it that he thought were common and insignificant disappeared. In his vision, there is now "no trace of the tram itself nor of the tram-men nor of the horses nor did he and she appear vividly." He writes of the night, the breeze, "and the maiden lustre of the moon." The two protagonists of his poem feel some sorrow for no clear reason and when the moment comes to kiss in parting, they do so. After he finishes the poem, Stephen writes the letters L.D.S. and hides the book. Then he goes to his motherís bedroom and stares at his face in the mirror of her dressing table for a long time.

Stephenís long time of leisure and free time is almost over. One night, his father comes home with news that keeps him talking all through dinner. He has been looking forward to his fatherís return all day because he knew they were having mutton hash for dinner and he anticipated his father making him dip his bread in the gravy. However, he does not get to enjoy it because his father is talking about running into a man who would get Stephen into a school. Mr. Dedalus wants to keep Stephen going to Jesuit schools because he believes the Jesuits can get a person a position later. Mr. Dedalus pushes his plate to Stephen and tells him to finish whatís on it. He tells him his long holiday is over. Mrs. Dedalus says she is sure Stephen will work hard especially since he will have Maurice with him. Mr. Dedalus calls Maurice over and tells him he is sending him to school.

Mr. Dedalus tells Stephen that the rector, now a provincial, had told him the story of Stephen and Father Dolan. He calls Stephen an "impudent little thief." Mrs. Dedalus worries whether Father Conmee was annoyed at Stephenís behavior. Mr. Dedalus says that on the contrary, the provincial had called Stephen a "manly little chap." The rector said that on the night Stephen talked to him, he had joked with Father Dolan about it, saying that if he didnít watch out, young Dedalus would send him up for twice nine (suspension). As Mr. Dedalus tells the story, he imitates Father Conmeeís voice. He repeats the priestís words that they all had a hearty laugh together.

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