Monthly Archives: September 2013

Stephen’s Budding Attraction to Color and Beauty

“The tablecloth was damp and limp. But he drank off the hot weak tea which the clumsy scullion, girt with a white apron, poured into his cup. He wondered whether the scullion’s apron was damp too or whether all white things were cold and damp” (pg. 10).

“White roses and red roses: those were beautiful colours to think of. And the cards for first place and second place and third place were beautiful colours too: pink and cream and lavender. Lavender and cream and pink roses were beautiful to think of. Perhaps a wild rose might be like those colours and he remembered the song about the wild rose blossoms on the little green place. But you could not have a green rose. But perhaps somewhere in the world you could” (pg. 9).

Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2008. Print.

Notes: Early on in the story and at such a young age, Stephen has an affinity for artistry and beauty. While at school, he is unhappy and dreads each day; descriptions of things at school are dreary, weak, damp, wet, cold, white and grey. Within these descriptions of his days at school, there are sparks of passion flowing out of him in the form of stream of consciousness. Something so insignificant as the flowers each boy has pinned on their jackets, and the  he takes an attraction to because he loves their colors, their vibrancy. His excitement or obsession with it takes the form in repeating sentences describing the flowers and their colors, similar to the style of Getrude Stein’s Melanctha. We start to see glimpses into Stephen at a young age where he isn’t fully aware of his own passions, what he is to become.

James Joyce: Portrait

“It pained him that he did not know well what politics meant and that he did not know where the universe ended. He felt small and weak. When would he be like the big fellows in poetry and rhetoric? That they had big voice and big boots and they studied trigonometry. That was very far away” (13).

“And the whitegrey face and the nocouloured eyes behind the steelrimmed spectacles were cruel looking because he had steadied the hand firs with his firm soft fingers and that was to hit it better and louder” (43).

Both passages mark this sense of innocence and smallness that as children we all feel. In the first quote Stephen reminds us what it’s like to want to grow up and how badly it’s wanted. That, a bit later on, he begins counting the semesters until he realizes that being grown-up is too distant a place to count to and then submits to that it will just come, eventually. In the second quote there is another sort of innocence. Stephen is positively naïve while his punishment is ongoing that this trusted figure will still be good, and how the shock occurs reverberates, long after the action has ended. His innocence is perhaps not shattered, but he has learned to distrust.

The Change in Feelings

“…He hardly knew where he was walking. Pride and hope and desire like crushed herbs in his heart sent up vapours of maddening incense before the eyes of his mind. He strode down the hill amid the tumult of suddenrisen vapours of wounded pride and fallen hope and baffled desire… ” (Joyce 72).

“…No life or youth stirred in him as it had stirred in them. He had known neither pleasure of companionship with others nor the vigour of rude male health or filial piety. Nothing stirred within his soul but a cold and cruel and loveless lust… ” (Joyce 80).

Notes- irony and learning.

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

A Portrait of Different Colors

“There were lanterns in the hall of his father’s house and ropes of green branches. There were holly and ivy round the pier glass and holly and ivy, green and red, tined round the chandeliers. There were red holly and green ivy round the old portraits on the walls. Holly and ivy for him and for Christmas.” (17-18)

“The word was beautiful: wine. It made your think of dark purple because the grapes were dark purple that grew in Greece outside houses like white temples.” (49)

Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. New York: Huebsch, 1918.Internet Archive.


The idea of colors play an important role in both passages. Colors can both represent an event and evoke feelings. Stephen uses the colors red and green for holly and ivy to symbolize Christmas. To conjure up nice thoughts he vividly visualizes what his father’s house would look like and he uses red and green to remind him of what the holidays at home would be. In the second passage he thinks the word wine is beautiful and nice to think about because it makes him visualize the color dark purple. In both instances he uses colors to evoke nice thoughts. The association of color with feelings allow readers to feel a certain way about different colors.


Stephen’s Sexual Cravings

“She too wants me to catch hold of her. He thought.  That’s why she came with me to the tram.  I could easily catch hold of her when she comes up to my step; nobody is looking.  I could hold her and kiss her” (58)

“His lips would not bend to kiss her.  He wanted to be held firmly in her arms, to be caressed slowly, slowly, slowly.  In her arms he felt that he had suddenly become strong and fearless and sure of himself.  But his lips would not bend to kiss her” (85)

Both of these passages are geared towards Stephen’s sexual desires, but towards different women; the first passage depicts Stephen’s sexual desire for E.C., a girl at the party whereas the second passage refers to Stephen’s sexual desire of getting intimate with a prostitute.  Joyce uses different tenses to portray Stephen’s sexual desires: Joyce uses first tense in the first passage with the word “I” whereas Joyce uses third tense in the second passage with words such as “he and she”.  Most importantly, both passages represents Stephen’s sexual cravings at different stage of his life; the first passage represents Stephen’s imagination as a young boy where he thinks of being intimate with E.C. and wanting to kiss her.  When boys are young and undergo puberty, they hold such sexual desires which Joyce shows through Stephen’s imagination.  However, in the second passage, Joyce depicts Stephen’s actual desire of getting intimate with the girl, representing his lust for the physical need of women.

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

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.

“What was after the universe? Nothing.”

“What was after the universe? Nothing. But was there anything around the universe to show where it stopped before the nothing place began? It could not be a wall but there could be a thin thin line there all round everything. It was very big to think about everything and everywhere.” (12)

“In a vague way he understood that his father was in trouble and that this was the reason why he himself had not been sent back to Clongowes. For some time he had felt the slight change in his house; and those changes in what he had deemed unchangeable were so many slight shocks to his boyish conception of the world.” (70)

Stephen’s growth in the way he views the world and society begins to shift as he ages. This is proving to be a coming-of-age novel among many other themes. We can see at an early age he thinks differently than many of the boys he goes to school with. And we especially see this emerge when his teacher calls him out for heresy in his paper, and again when he stands up to Heron about who is the best poet.

Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Random House, New York, 1928.

Portrait 1&2

“He felt his whole body hot and confused in a moment. What was the right answer to the question?” 11

“A shaft of momentary anger flew through Stephen’s mind at these indelicate allusions in the hearing of a stranger. For him there was nothing amusing in a girl’s interest and regard.” 64

notes: character’s interiority, interest in the mind rather than plot. searching for what’s right

Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Edited by Jeri Johnson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.


Uncle Charles smoked such black twist that at last his nephew suggested to him to enjoy his morning smoke in a little outhouse at the end of the garden.

James Joyce, “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” (New York: Random House Inc., 1996) 78

Much like the opening of the first chapter, the opening of the second chapter uses the title “his nephew” when speaking of Stephen instead of just saying his name. It’s a similar style of narration to that which we encountered in Melanchta. 

Portrait of the artist as a young man

“It pained him that he did not know well what politics meant and that he did not know where the universe ended. He felt small and weak.”

“We are an unfortunate priestridden race and always  will be until the end of the chapter.”

Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Edited by Jeri Johnson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. Page 13,  31.