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THE STORY - CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES
CHAPTER ONE (continued)
FIRST SCHOOL EXPERIENCE
From Stephen's earliest memories in the prelude, the story shifts abruptly to a schoolyard at Clongowes. Boys are in the midst of a rough-and-tumble ball game. Stephen is afraid and only pretends to be playing, just to keep out of trouble. He is clearly not one of the boys; he feels small, weak, and inadequate. The words "small" and "weak" are sprinkled throughout this section.
The overall feeling in this section is one of isolation and homesickness. The section also hints at some themes that will be explored more fully later. Nasty Roche asks Stephen, "What kind of name is Dedalus?" Stephen doesn't answer-but eventually he'll see the importance of his name. To Roche's next question, Stephen replies that his father is "a gentleman." But unlike the fathers of some other boys, Stephen's father isn't a "magistrate" (a judge). This is Joyce's way of revealing that although for the time being Simon Dedalus can afford to send his son to an expensive school, his income and his social position are precarious compared to those of the other fathers. You'll soon see how precarious they are.
One of the most unpleasant things to happen to Stephen at school is his being pushed by another boy, Wells, into a cold and slimy cesspool, the "square ditch."
There was a student named Wells at Clongowes in Joyce's time, and he may have been the boy who pushed young James Joyce into the square ditch. Joyce also uses the real names of other students, including Nasty Roche. If you were writing a novel, would you use the names of actual people? Why?
As Stephen thinks about his time at school, he also thinks about the words he's learned there. His growing appreciation for language becomes one of the most important themes in the book. A "belt" can be worn around a suit. It can also be a hit, a punch. (This is a simple example of the puns that Joyce loved in writing.) A page or so later, Stephen broods about the word "suck." Its sound is ugly, and it evokes two separate, unpleasant images-Simon Moonan, a teacher's pet, flattering the priest, and the sound of dirty water running down a drain. (You'll see that water almost always has unpleasant associations in the first part of the book.) Stephen's interest in language will grow, and will be a factor in his decision to become a writer.
In arithmetic class, Stephen, a good student, has been made head of York, the "white rose" team, which is pitted, as always, against Lancaster, the red rose" team. Stephen tries hard, but the red rose team wins.
NOTE: SIGNIFICANCE OF THE ROSE
The names of the arithmetic teams refer to the names of the opposing forces in fifteenth-century England's Wars of the Roses. The House of Lancaster had been represented by the red rose; the House of York by the white rose. Ireland enlisted under the banner of York, which lost the war. As a result of these dynastic conflicts, Henry VII, founder of the Tudor dynasty, became king and began to replace the Irish nobility with English lords, a policy that was a major source of conflict between the two countries. Thus, by being captain of the white rose team, Stephen champions Ireland against England. Later, you'll see that he does resent England for imposing its culture and language on his country. However, you'll also see that he can't identify with Ireland either.
Other roses crop up frequently in Portrait of the Artist. The wild rose is part of the toddler's earliest memories in the prelude. The rose has many associations for Stephen. It is linked with women, love, and beauty, including the beauty of art.
The boy observes that the Jesuit master in charge of the math class, Father Arnall, seems cross but is really chuckling. This is one of the many times Stephen will notice the hypocrisy of the priests, as his doubts about religion develop. In Clongowes, Arnall is shown as a reasonably fair teacher. Later on, as retreat master at Belvedere College, he will play a darker role in Stephen's religious life.
Wells, who knocked Stephen into the square ditch, now harasses him with a question-"Do you kiss your mother before you go to bed?" No matter how Stephen answers, he's laughed at. The question is linked in his mind with other questions: about sexuality (why do people kiss?), about God and the universe, thoughts so complex they make him tired.
Stephen begins to feel sick and feverish. Perhaps his tumble into the ditch has made him ill. He prays, and dreams of going home to his family. On awakening he discovers he is indeed ill and is sent to the infirmary. A fellow student, Athy, comments again on Stephen's unusual last name and asks him more riddles. At this point much of life is a riddle to Stephen. Perhaps the chief one is his father. Who is he? What is his role in the world? Understanding his father is an important part of Stephen's understanding of himself.
NOTE: THE DAEDALUS MYTH
Once again, Joyce brings up the question of Stephen's last name. At this point, Stephen doesn't grasp the meaning of "Dedalus." Later, he'll come to understand that he shares his name with Daedalus, the inventor of ancient Greek myth who constructed an imprisoning maze and then had to create a means of escape from it. Can you already see how this story might relate to Stephen? (See the section on the Daedalus myth.)
While Stephen is ill, the news of the nationalist leader Parnell's death weaves itself into a dream. In the dream Dante, Stephen's governess, is one of the chief mourners. She's draped in maroon for Davitt, green for Parnell. (In fact you saw a few pages earlier that Dante removed the green backing from her hair brush because Parnell was now "a bad man.") Parnell's death, and its consequences for Irish politics and for Stephen's family, will be dramatized further in the next section of the chapter.
As you look back on this section, note how Joyce consistently uses repeated details of color, lightness and darkness, sounds, and other sense impressions to convey Stephen's frame of mind. Images like wetness, coldness, and whiteness provide the links that connect fragments of his memory. In the bleak playground scene, the colors convey coldness; the light is gray, Stephen's suit is gray, his cold hands are blue. When he is feeling ill, the word "white" is repeated frequently to suggest both a hospital environment and Stephen's pale, youthful virtue, or purity. As you read, try to find other sensory words that Joyce uses to convey emotional messages.