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A Portrait of an Artist


Family Life
Chap 1 - Summary
Chap 1 - Interpretation
Chap 2 - Summary
Chap 2 - Interpretation
Chap 3 - Summary
Chap 3 - Interpretation
Chap 4 - Summary
Chap 4 - Interpretation
Chap 5 - Summary
Chap 5 - Interpretation
Themes - Beytrayal
Themes - Imagery





The opening of this Chapter provides scenes of Stephen away from the Jesuit Boarding School.

Finally the summer holidays have arrived, which Stephen has been waiting for with much anticipation.  His family has moved from Bray to Blackrock, which is around 5 miles to the south of Dublin. He spends much of his time with his great-uncle, Charles.  “While he smoked the brim of his tall hat and the bowl of his pipe were just visible beyond the jambs of the outhouse door.” Uncle Charles called this outhouse “his arbour” and he shared this accommodation with the garden tools and a cat. He was able to smoke his foul-smelling tobacco “black twist” without interruption.

Charles and Stephen’s day usually involved a walk through the town market place then onto the park where they would meet up with Mike Flynn, an old friend of Simon, Stephen’s father. Mike would put Stephen through his paces, as he wanted Stephen to be a good runner.  After the exertions in the park Stephen and his uncle would often go to the chapel where Charles would involve himself in making ardent prayers presumably for the family.

At the weekend, Stephen, Simon and Uncle Charles would participate in long walks, and Stephen would be intrigued with the family stories or Irish politics that the two adults indulged in. At this time Stephen was reading “The Count of Monte Cristo” and he would often escape reality and pretend to be Mercedes’ dashing lover. Stephen would exhibit his romance by engaging in fantasies with his friend Aubrey Mills as they relived the adventures described in “Cristo”. 

The main problem facing the family was Simon’s financial situation and Stephen realized that they could not afford to send him back to Clongowes. After the summer holidays he would enroll at Belvedere College, a prestigious Jesuit Day School.  Not only had Stephen’s school life been changed, but the whole family position was in steady decline to a life of poverty.  The family moved to a dismal house in Dublin, far removed from their previously comfortable home.  As a means of escape, Stephen absorbed himself with fantasies of love and romance; in particular he had fond loving memories of Eileen, Dedalus’ Protestant neighbor.

At first Stephen is excited at the thought of attending Belvedere College, but then this is tainted when he learns that his father has revealed the incident at Clongowes with Father Conmee and Father Dolan.

There is a jump in time of about two-and-a-half years and we find Stephen at around 14 years old. We learn that he has settled in well at Belvedere and is regarded by the teachers as an accomplished essay write and actor. In all respects he has become a model student.  Stephen has found a new sense of confidence mainly due to his academic abilities. Stephen is preparing to make his entrance in the school play when he is confronted by two classmates, Heron and Wallace. They tease Stephen about his dedication to his studies, and a girl who shows an interest in Stephen’s acting who has come to see the performance of the play. Stephen is now used to dealing with these bullies and he answers their taunts by reciting the Confiteor, the prayer said during mass for the forgiveness of sins.

Stephen now enjoys some notoriety, for in the past some of his essays were described as heretical by one of the English teachers. Stephen obtusely took this as a compliment.  His reputation causes Heron and his companions to be jealous of Stephen, and they instigate a fight with him. He is eventually forced to answer their questions on literature. Stephen regards Cardinal Newman and Byron as the best poets, but Heron and his henchmen insist that Tennyson is the best.  They force Stephen to agree with them.  Stephen shrugs off the boys’ taunts, for he is more focused on the young girl who has come to see him in the play. He wishes that he had a more masculine part to play on the stage in front of the girl, and he is somewhat embarrassed about his performance. The episode leaves him confused, having mixed feelings about his wounded pride and his desire for the young girl.

The next scene deals with Stephen’s father, Simon, disposing of the remainder of his property in Blackrock by auction. The auction will take place in Cork and we note that Simon is drinking quite heavily during the journey. Simon spends much of the time reminiscing about the past and better times.  He takes Stephen to his old college, Queen’s College in Cork. Stephen finds it difficult to visualize his father as he is now, but he realizes by examining the graffiti on the wooden desks, that he is not alone in being preoccupied with sex.  He realizes that this is a natural situation for adolescent boys. Simon is unable to relate to his son’s needs and the fact that he needs support whilst going through this transition into manhood.  What advice he does give, only highlights his own shallowness and inadequacy.

Stephen feels quite alone and at odds with the world around him. When he recalls his childhood experiences they are again focused around his restlessness and loneliness.  Instead of building his son up, Simon has a tendency to bring him down, and during their circuit of the local pubs, he seems to delight in humiliating Stephen.   Simon shows his insensitivity by recounting his own and his father’s drunken revelries. 

In conclusion, Stephen regards his own childhood as mainly an unhappy time, and that he should not dwell on the past, but try and make the best of the present and the future.

The next scene deals with Stephen receiving prize money for a winning essay. Never having had money of his own to spend, he embarks on a sojourn of extravagance.  He buys gifts and enjoys expensive dinners and pays for some much-needed improvements to his family home. This brief exuberance soon gives way to disillusionment and he spends much of his time wandering the dark streets of Dublin.  Whilst traveling through Dublin’s brothel district he accepts an invitation from a young pink-gowned prostitute when he is seduced. “He closed his eyes, surrendering him to her, body and mind, conscious of nothing in the world but the dark pressure of her softly parting lips.”


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