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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 5

Summary

Stephen has a late breakfast of weak tea and bread crusts. He looks through the pawn tickets laying on the table. The broken clock lies on its side on the mantle. He asks his mother the correct time. She adjusts the clock and tells him it is 1030. She reminds him that he is late for his lectures at the university. He goes to the sink and lets his mother wash his neck and ears. His father whistles down from the upstairs and yells down the question if his daughterís "bitch of a brother" has left yet. Stephen laughs at his fatherís mistake in using a feminine epithet for a man. His mother worries that the university is bad for his morality. He leaves the house through the back door and picks his way among the sodden trash laying in the streets. From the insane asylum for nuns nearby, he hears a nun screaming out the name of Jesus. He tries to get the sound out of his ears. He feels overwhelmed by all the voices of the morning, his fatherís, his motherís, the mad nunís, which he hears as "voices offending and threatening to humble the pride of his youth."

As he smells the wet trees, however, he thinks of the plays of Gerhart Hauptmann and feels pleasure. At each point in his journey, he is reminded of another great writer--Newman, Cavalcanti, Ibsen, Jonson. When he was tired of reading the ancients Aristotle or Aquinas, he often looked to the Elizabethans for the pleasure of their dainty songs. He felt like his mind was like a doubting monk listening to the songs of the Elizabethan age. He spent his days at the university building up a great deal of skepticism about all that he read and heard. Then, he would stand apart from others and feel that the beauty of language wrapped around him. When he lost the "brief pride of silence," he is always happy to return again to the common lives around him. He goes around in the dirty city with a light heart.


As he walks to the university, he meets a man he always sees. He calls him "the consumptive man with the dollís face and the brimless hat." He wonders what time it is and looks at his watch. It is telling the wrong time, but then he hears a bell tolling eleven. He wonders what day it is and pokes his head into a news agentís shop to read the headlines. It is Thursday. He thinks of the lessons he has that day English, French, physics. He thinks of what the English lecture will be like and feels restless and hopeless about it. He can see his classmatesí bent heads writing in their notebooks the boring reduction of great literature to definitions and dates. They are instructed to write favorable and unfavorable criticisms side by side in their notebooks. He doesnít bend his head to write. He looks out the window and smells an odor of decay. He thinks of Cranly, who sits in front of him in class. He can always only picture Cranly as a head and shoulders, never as a whole body. He remembers telling Cranly all his longings. Cranly had listened to him silently, never responding.

Thinking of his friendís listlessness, he feels as though all the words around him have turned "been emptied of instantaneous sense." Even the advertisements on shop windows begin to fascinate him. He feels as if he is walking among "heaps of dead language." He recites a poem about an ivy whining along a wall and feels disgusted at its idiocy. He tries to fix it, thinking of the words separately, moving in his thoughts to the time he learned the word "ivory" in his Latin lessons. He feels great affection for the ancient writers like Horace. He has a book of Horace which once belonged to two brothers fifty years before. They had written their names on its cover. He feels sad that he will only ever be "a shy guest at the feast of the worldís culture." He is trying to develop an aesthetic philosophy, a theory of the beautiful, and he is upset to think that such a pursuit is not valued by his time. He feels like Dublin is a city of the ignorant. He sees a statue of the national poet of Ireland at Trinity and looks at it without feeling angry. He thinks of it as being humbly aware of its ignorance.

This line of thinking reminds him of his friend at university, Davin. He always calls Davin the peasant student. Davinís speech sounds close to old English. Davin had studied under the great Irish legend, Michael Cusack. As a child, Davinís nurse had taught him Irish language and Irish myth. Stephen thinks of Davinís attitude toward Irish myth as similar to peopleís attitude toward the Roman Catholic religion, as "the attitude of a dullwitted loyal serf." Mat Davin thinks of anything English as bad and can only think of France for its foreign legion, in which he thinks of one day serving. Stephen thinks of Davin as having access to the "hidden ways of Irish life." One night, Davin had told Stephen a story as they walked together. Davin said he had gone to a game and had been so excited by it that he had missed his ride home. He decided to walk home. On the way, he stopped at a cottage to ask for a drink of water. A young woman answered the door. She looked as if she were ready for bed. Her shoulders were bare and her hair was down. She also looked pregnant. She invited him to spend the night, assuring him that her husband was away and they wouldnít be disturbed. Davin had left in fear and had never told anyone else about the incident. Stephen is reminded of the peasant women he used to see standing in doorways as he rode home from Clongowes on the train.

He is interrupted in his thoughts by a flower seller, a young girl with blue eyes the color of the flowers she is selling, calling to him to buy flowers for his girl. Stephen tells her he has no money. She persists until he tells her again. When he first sees her, he sees "images of guilelessness." In a moment, he sees her ragged dress and damp hair. He walks away from her quickly because he is afraid she will start joking with him. He walks along Grafton Street feeling discouraged in his poverty. Then he gets to Stephenís Green where the wet earth smells of incense. He thinks of the gallant city of his eldersí stories as having shrunk in old age.

When he arrives at the university, it is too late to go to French class, so he goes to the physicís theater. As he goes into the room, he sees the dean of studies crouching at the fireplace starting a fire. He offers help and the dean, a priest, offers to teach him the useful art of lighting a fire. He looks at the priest as he kneels and thinks of him as shrunken with age in the lowly service of God, not having attained even the beauty of spiritual striving. The dean asks Stephen if he is an artist and offers the commonplace that "the object of the artist is the creation of the beautiful." He wonders how one knows what is the beautiful. Stephen quotes Aquinas, who said it is whatever is pleasing to the eye. The priest attempts to challenge Stephen with further intellectual questions, but all the while heís talking, Stephen is thinking of him as "pale and loveless." As the priest talks, Stephen thinks his words have a "hard jingling tone." Stephen attempts to discuss his aesthetic theory with the dean. He says it is always a problem to know if a word is being used according to literary tradition or the tradition of the marketplace. When he gives an example, the dean takes it literally. When Stephen corrects him, the dean returns to his own idea of a lamp shedding light on philosophical problems.

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