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A STEP BEYOND
TESTS AND ANSWERS
11. In Chapter Five, Davin, MacCann, and Cranly act as devices for revealing Stephen's deeply held opinions. His interaction with them also calls attention to Stephen's difficulty with friendship and love.
The peasant Davin represents the Irish effort to draw new strength from its past ("the sorrowful legend of Ireland") and to rekindle national pride. He is interested in sports, an Irish passion. He tries to teach Gaelic to Stephen and to involve him in national matters. Stephen likes Davin but rejects his efforts to involve him in Irish matters. In doing so, he has a chance to air his criticisms of Ireland.
MacCann is the humanitarian involved in international causes. He believes in universal brotherhood and works hard to improve man's lot. Stephen's refusal to sign MacCann's petitions proves again that he rejects "all enthusiasms." As an artist, he wants to remain uninvolved with causes. By contrast, MacCann's activism serves to underline Stephen's self-absorption.
Cranly serves as neutral listener to Stephen's innermost thoughts. He mainly listens in his role of confessor-analyst. But he too challenges Stephen about his behavior to his mother and his inability to feel the emotion of love.
12. Stephen is profoundly attached to his mother until she objects to his attending the university. Early glimpses of his "nice mother" of the prelude are of a gentle, peacemaking woman. This is her chief role in the Christmas dinner scene. You know how attached Stephen is to her by his fusion of the mother figure with the Blessed Virgin and with his romanticized ideal women. Davin's peasant woman in Chapter Five is a motherly figure (probably pregnant). Even the first prostitute to whom he yields has a motherly aura.
It is Stephen's choice of a university education over a priest's life that causes the "first noiseless sundering" of his attachment to his mother. He feels her faith is getting stronger as his own wanes. It makes her hostile to his university career, which is so exciting for him. In Chapter Five, the burden of his admission to Cranly is that he has refused to do his Easter duty of going to confession before Mass, causing her deep grief. He evades Cranly's question about loving his mother. Yet at the end she is folding her son's clothes, helping to prepare for his departure, which may be a sign that her love for her son exceeds her devotion to religion. Stephen's evasion of Cranly's question suggests that his devotion to his literary destiny exceeds his love for his mother.
13. Words represent power for Stephen. They are the threads that guide him through the maze of his youth. They play an active role; they reveal to Stephen that his destiny is to be a writer.
The first hint of the importance of language is in the childish wordplay of the prelude: "Apologise,/Pull out his eyes." In the first scene at Clongowes, Stephen plays with the words: "belt," "suck." He admires God for being a linguist and understanding all the languages of his flock. Even ordinary sentences from his spelling book sound like poetry. Words can be riddles (Athy's name) and yet solve riddles. They can bring on epiphanies (moments of revelation)- for example, "foetus" in the visit to Cork.
You'll find many instances of the importance of words and wordplay scattered through the book. A key passage in Chapter Four describes the role that words play as a window to the real world. The phrase "a day of dappled seaborne clouds" sets off the moment of revelation in which Stephen sees that his destiny lies in the art of words. He perceives the world of emotion can best be expressed through "a lucid supple periodic prose." On his way to the university, words frolic in his head in whimsical "wayward rhythms." Words fill him with "a soft liquid joy."
14. The girl on the beach is nameless. She is both real and a symbol. Stephen describes her as "the angel of mortal youth." She belongs both to heaven (angel) and to earth (mortal). Stephen will never see her again, but she has marked his life.
The mortal girl is healthy and beautiful. She is feminine without being provocative. She is firm-fleshed and rounded, like a woman, but her face and hair are "girlish." Stephen feels "profane joy" at her sight, but he compares her to a seabird, his new symbol of freedom.
Joyce has scattered symbolic details in his description of the girl, but what she stands for is open to interpretation. Is she a siren (temptress) with a green trail of seaweed, luring Stephen back to a green Ireland? Does green seaweed make her the symbol of Irish womanhood? Her ivory-hued thighs and her slate blue skirts are the colors of the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. ("Ivory" also recalls virginal Eileen (Vance) of the pale hands.) The comparison with the dove is thought by some to refer to the dove as symbol of the Holy Ghost that appeared in the sky when Christ was baptized by St. John the Baptist. They see the girl as a heavenly messenger approving Stephen's baptism into the religion of art. Or perhaps she is meant to represent Stephen's muse, the classical, pagan source of artistic inspiration.
You might argue that the girl on the beach represents all of these meanings-the sacred and profane, the real and the romantic, the religious and artistic-since she seems to represent a vision of perfect unity for Stephen.