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Free Study Guide-A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 2

Summary (continued)

His fatherís voice drones on. His father is encouraging him to be sociable when he gets out on his own. He adds that when he was Stephenís age, he enjoyed hanging out with other young men. He says they could all do something, sing, oar, play sports, tell stories. He says they had a good time, but were all good gentlemen and "bloody good honest Irishmen too." Mr. Dedalus tells Stephen that is the kind of young men he wants his son to be friends with. He says he is talking as a friend, not as an authoritative father, because he doesnít think a young man should be afraid of his father. He says he and his father were more like brothers than father and son. Then he tells the story of the day his father (whom he calls "the governor") caught him smoking. He says that his father saw him smoking and passed by him without saying anything. Then, the next day, he took out his cigar case and said, by the way, I didnít know you smoked. You should try one of these cigars. Simon Dedalus laughs, but his voice sort of breaks into a sob. Simon says his father was the handsomest man in Cork at the time. Stephen feels as though "his very brain was sick and powerless." He feels that by choosing a "monstrous way of life" he has put himself outside reality. "Nothing moved him or spoke to him from the real world unless he heard in it an echo of the infuriated cries within him." He feels totally alienated from his surroundings and from his father. He even has to repeat to himself, "I am Stephen Dedalus. I am walking beside my father whose name is Simon Dedalus. We are in Cork . . ."

He suddenly finds it hard to remember his childhood. He can only recall the names of Dante, Parnell, Clane, and Clongowes. He remembers as a child being taught geography by Dante and then being sent away to school where he had made his first communion and watched the firelight play against the wall of the infirmary and dreamed of being dead. Instead of him dying, Parnell died. "He had not died but he had faded out like a film in the sun." He feels as though he has wandered out of existence.

On the evening of the day the property is sold, Stephen goes with his father around the city of Cork. They go to bars, to the market, walk the streets. All evening, Mr. Dedalus tells the same tale about him being an old Corkonian, who has been trying for thirty years to get rid of his Cork accent in Dublin and that Stephen is "only a Dublin jackeen."

They leave their hotel early in the morning. At the coffeehouse, Mr. Dedalusís cup rattles loudly because he has delirium tremens from drinking so much. Stephen tries to cover the sound out of shame. He feels as though "one humiliation had followed another." His fatherís old friends had teased Stephen, testing his knowledge of Latin and making him say if Cork or Dublin girls were the prettier. When Mr. Dedalus says Stephen is not that sort, that he is level-headed and does not concern himself with girls, they tease him and tell Stephen that his father was a big flirt in his younger days. One old man tells Stephen he remembers seeing Stephenís grandfather as a young man "riding out to hounds." Stephenís father orders another round of drinks and says he feels no more than eighteen years old. He claims that he is a better man than Stephen is any day of the week. He boasts that he can sing better, vault better, and run the hounds better than Stephen can. The other man says Stephen will beat his father in intellect. Mr. Dedalus just says he hopes Stephen will be as good a man as his father. The old men thank God that they have lived so long and done so well.


Stephen watches them lift their glasses to drink. "An abyss of fortune or of temperament sundered him from them." He feels as if his mind were older than theirs. "It shone coldly on their strifes and happiness and regrets like a moon upon a younger earth." He feels no youth in himself as they do in themselves. Stephen thinks of how he has never known the pleasures of companionship, the vigor of health, nor filial piety. He feels nothing in his soul but "a cold and cruel and loveless lust." He feels as if he were "drifting amid life like a barren shell of the moon." He remembers a part of one of Shelleyís poems about someone who is pale from the weariness of climbing alone to heaven and looking at the earth. He is chilled by its contrast of human powerlessness and inhuman cycles of activity.

Stephen wins a prize of thirty three pounds for an essay he wrote. His mother, brother, and cousin stand outside while he and his father go up to the bank of Ireland to collect his money. At the counter, Stephen acts as if he is calm and feels embarrassed when the teller stops to talk to him and his father. Mr. Dedalus lingers in the hall telling Stephen it used to be the house of commons of the old Irish parliament. He piously speaks of the old Irish parliamentarians. He claims that these men of the older times would never be seen with the men who lead the nation today.

It is October and the wind blows around the bank. His mother, brother, and cousin have "pinched cheeks and watery eyes." Stephen notices his mother is not well clothed for the cold weather. He thinks of a mantle (cloak) he had seen the other day in a store. It cost twenty guineas. Stephen suggests they go to dinner. Mrs. Dedalus warns that they should choose an inexpensive place. Someone suggests a place called Underdoneís. Stephen assures them the price doesnít matter and walks ahead of them so they have to hurry to keep up.

Stephen spends his money in a "swift season of merrymaking." He buys groceries and delicacies. He takes his family to the theatre. He keeps Vienna chocolate for his guests. He buys presents for everyone. He writes "resolutions." He loans money to his family members. He enjoys drawing up the papers and figuring up the interest. Then his money runs out "The pot of pink enamel paint gave out and the wainscot of his bedroom remained with its unfinished and illplastered coat." His house returns to its former poor economy. He returns to his regular life of school. All his resolutions and plans fall apart. He feels foolish for his optimism. "He had tried to build a breakwater of order and elegance against the sordid tide of life without him and to dam up, by rules of conduct and active interests and new filial relations, the powerful recurrence of the tides within him." He feels that this has all been useless. He feels that the water has come and overflowed his barriers.

He feels his "own futile isolation." He does not feel any bit closer to his mother, brother, or sister. He is amazed that he is even related to them. He wants desperately to satisfy the "fierce longings of his heart." He doesnít care that he is living in moral sin. He feels a "savage desire" in himself and nothing sacred gets in the way of satisfying it. "He bore cynically with the shameful details of his secret riots in which he exulted to defile with patience whatever image had attracted his eyes." He feels as if he is moving around in the daytime and nighttime around a distorted world. A feminine figure might come to him in the daytime who is very demure and innocent, while at night she is full of "lecherous cunning," her "eyes bright with brutish joy." He only feels guilty in the morning.

He returns to wandering. It is like he used to wander when he lived in Blackrock. Yet, here, he has no vision of nice gardens and kindly lights in the windows to pour a tender influence on him. Only now and then does he think of his image of Mercedes in the back of his mind. He remembers the scene and his "sadly proud gesture of refusal" which he had always imagined he would make after years of separation and adventure. These moments are rare in the midst of the "fires of his lust." He wanders up and down the "dark slimy streets." He moans to himself as if he were a beast. He wants to force a woman to sin with him. He feels agonized by this desire. He cries out in despair, "a cry for iniquitous abandonment, a cry which was but the echo of an obscene scrawl which he had read on the oozing wall of a urinal."

He wanders in a "maze of narrow and dirty streets." He hears drunken people and party-goers. He wanders among prostitutes. He trembles and his vision becomes blurred. The yellow light of the gaslights seem to be burning before some kind of altar. The women stand around in groups as if they are dressed for some rite. He feels as if he were in another world, awoken after several centuriesí sleep. He stands still in the middle of the street. A young prostitute grabs his arm and calls him Willie. He goes with her to her room. She has a huge doll sitting in a chair with its legs apart. Stephen finds himself speechless as she gets undressed. He stands silently in the middle of the room and she comes over to him and embraces him "gaily and gravely." When he sees her warm calm, he feels like bursting out into hysterical weeping. He has tears of joy and relief in his eyes. She runs her hand through his hair and asks for a kiss. He canít make himself kiss her. "He wanted to be held firmly in her arms, to be caressed slowly, slowly, slowly." When she holds him, he suddenly feels strong and fearless. She suddenly kisses him and he surrenders himself to her. In her kiss, he feels some vague speech and feels an "unknown and timid pressure, darker than the swoon of sin, softer than sound or odour."

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