Cyclical Train

“Then he heard the noise of the refectory every time he opened the flaps of his ears.  It made a roar like a train at night.  And when he closed the flaps the roar was shut off like a train going into a tunnel.  That night at Dalkey the train had roared like that and then, when it went into the tunnel, the roar stopped.  He closed his eyes and the train went on, roaring and then stopping, roaring again, stopping.  It was nice to hear it roar and stop and then roar out of the tunnel again and then stop” (10).

“First came the vacation and then the next term and then vacation again and then again another term and then again the vacation.  It was like a train going in and out of tunnels and that was like the noise of the boys eating in the refectory when you opened and closed the flaps of the ears” (13).

The reappearance of the train image on page 13 in terms of term and vacation helps Joyce capture Stephen’s personal fascination with cyclicality, but also the pleasure that can be taken from it.  Cyclical events have a negative connotation, as though the act of repeating is wasteful.  However, Joyce goes against the connotation by noting how Stephen “opens” the flaps of his ears, suggesting they were closed. Stephen was attempting to escape from the busy but unending clamor of the refectory, however, by having the slight moments of reprieve, Stephen can return to the noise gladly and enjoyably. The similar attitude towards vacation and term reinforces Joyce’s concern with how cyclicality is present in everyday life, and it will be interesting to see how he expands on the idea throughout the rest of the novel.

Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. New York: Oxford University Press In., 2000. Print.

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