Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | MonkeyNotes
THE STORY - CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
This chapter is one long sequence of sin, remorse, and repentence, a reaction to Stephen's newfound sexual freedom. Guilt-ridden, Stephen succumbs to the temptation to fall back into the comforting but constricting arms of mother Church.
Stephen has changed between the end of Chapter Two and the beginning of Chapter Three. (Joyce doesn't make it clear how much time has elapsed between the two chapters-perhaps only a few months, perhaps as much as a year.) Stephen's craving for "bruised potatoes" and fat hunks of mutton (a robust Irish stew) is the symbol of his gross new life of lust. At night he wallows in the low world of prostitutes. But his first sexual rapture has waned. Be sure to notice how carefully Joyce's language parallels Stephen's disillusionment. No more poetic passages describe Stephen's activities. The style is blunt and the tone is realistic-the beer-stained tables, the coarse solicitations of the prostitutes.
In sin, Stephen seems to have found a "dark peace." He thinks he is accepting his state of mortal sin coolly. But his subconscious mind creates images of chaos. A math equation turns into a peacock's tail unfolding itself like his soul, sin by sin.
The key words repeated to convey Stephen's guilty mood in this section
are "dull," "dark," "dusk," and "cold."
As he repents later, the words will change to "grey," "white,"
and "pale"- all images of cleanliness and purity.
If you have ever denied feelings of guilt and tried to pretend you didn't care, like Stephen, you know it's hard to stifle these feelings completely. Stephen is aware that he is guilty not only of lust, but of the other six "deadly sins," especially that of pride. He even seems to take pride in his own sins.
NOTE: THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS
By long Christian tradition, the seven deadly (cardinal) sins are lust, anger, gluttony, covetousness, envy, pride, and sloth. Their nature and consequence was explained most famously in St. Thomas Aquinas' thirteenth-century work, Summa Theologica. To be guilty of one of these failings in thought, word, or deed is to be in a state of mortal sin. Merely feeling remorse will not help the sinner. He or she must confess, receive absolution, and do penance.
Stephen has stopped going to Mass-to go to Mass in a state of mortal sin is to commit the further sin of sacrilege. But he takes a perverse pleasure in contemplating the Church doctrines he has violated, and he continues to serve as leader (prefect) of the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary, one of the college's two devotional societies, which meets in church on Saturdays. The prefect is supposed to be an exemplary Catholic, observing the rules of behavior and the rites of confession and Communion. At times, the gentle image of the Virgin in the church makes him consider repentance.
The rector of Belvedere announces a three-day retreat, a period devoted to religious meditation. This prospect strikes terror into Stephen's heart. He obviously feels more guilt than he will admit to himself. The hold of religion is still strong.
A retreat is an exercise in religious meditation. It is based on the model set up by the founder of the Jesuit order, Saint Ignatius of Loyola. This retreat is in honor of Saint Francis Xavier, a sixteenth-century Jesuit priest known for his missionary work in India and the Far East.
The retreat master is Clongowes' Father Arnall. He has aged since Stephen left. Seeing him reminds Stephen of his early years at Clongowes, and he recalls the innocence of his childhood.
Father Arnall opens the retreat by telling the boys that the most important thing in the world is the salvation of one's soul. He prays that if any poor soul in the audience is in mortal sin, the retreat will be the turning point in his life. He promises to speak of the "four last things"- death, judgment, hell, and heaven. (Joyce doesn't choose to record the sermon on heaven, which doesn't suit his purpose, to show how frightened Stephen is of hell.)
Arnall's sermons on death and judgment chill Stephen's soul. When the day of judgment comes, God will know the truth, and Stephen will be exposed in front of all those he has deceived. On that terror-filled day, it will be too late to repent.
Stephen is convinced that every word of the sermon is aimed at him. He is ashamed of his sexual excesses. He feels he has defiled Emma-and other women-in his lustful thoughts. In his anguish, he takes comfort in the Virgin Mary, refuge of sinners. He even imagines that she joins his hands and Emma's in a gesture of peace.