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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 5

Notes

The last chapter of the novel is a leave-taking chapter. Stephen is preparing to leave Ireland so he can go away somewhere and be free to practice the kind of art or artful life that he has imagined. He will go away, but he will not leave Ireland behind since he will write exclusively about its people and places and thinking. So he is thinking both of the future when he will be away from it and Irelandís past and present which he will incorporate into his art and which are already incorporated into his thinking. Perhaps because Stephen is pondering the future and the past, Joyce includes several images of time out of whack in this chapter. In the first scene, Stephen is late for school. He looks at a half broken clock and asks his mother what the correct time is. She knows it immediately and goes to adjust the clock. Again on his way to school, he looks at his watch and sees that it is also giving the wrong time when he hears church bells tolling eleven. He is not sure even of the day of the week. He must duck into a newspaper shop to read the time line to see the date.

Women are featured only indirectly in the novel, but Stephenís distorted images of them serve as a sort of enabling mechanism for the steps of Stephenís progress in life. These women include his mother, Emma or "E.C.." the pregnant woman who invites Davin inside her home and peasant women in general, and the girl Stephen sees in chapter four wading in the water. Stephenís mother is powerful in her powerlessness. She inhabits Stephenís consciousness as a whining and complaining voice of duty to the church and to conventional morality. Stephen is pulled by the guilt she inspires in him, but feels that if he succumbs to her, he will lose his freedom. Thus, Joyce follows a long line of artists and thinkers who base the repudiation of the mother as the starting place for the young manís launch into life.

A second major image of woman in chapter five is the image of Irish peasant women. Stephen is moved by his friend Mat Davinís story of a pregnant peasant woman inviting him to her bed. When he relates the incident later, he adds the image of milk, writing that she offered Davin a cup of milk. She evokes the childhood memory of peasant women who stood in doors watching the train carrying the young boy Stephen on his way home from Clongowes. Stephen romanticizes peasant women as a sort of soul of Ireland. The soul of Ireland beckons Davin who is walking home, but only watches him as he passes on a train for home, the symbol of mechanization of travel. This romanticized image of peasant women obviously reduces their agency as historical and social people to turn them into voiceless backdrops for a theory of art and the exiled artist. Joyce seems at least somewhat aware of the problem of his reduction of women to symbols for Ireland. When Stephen is met by a flower seller who beckons him to buy flowers for his girl, he first thinks of her as the soul of guilelessness, then notices the marks of poverty on her and hurries away.


Another, more individualized symbol of woman as Ireland is Emma, named only once in the novel. She is otherwise referred to as E.C., Stephenís beloved, or "her." Out of one encounter with her on the steps of a tram when he failed to act on the moment and kiss her, Stephen builds a whole world of fantasy. He writes vague poetry to her. He imagines what she would like in his writing. He images her betraying him with a young priest and with Cranly. Finally, at the end of the novel, we see Stephenís maturity as he realizes for the first time that he likes her when she wishes him well in his pursuits.

The last chapter of the novel is a culmination of the play of language that has operated in each of the chapters. It is the language of the artist as a young man, full of the echoes of his favorite writers, at times self-questioning and at times self- assured, and it is also what he considers the language of colonizers. In Stephenís encounter with the dean of studies, he mentions the word "tundish" as a synonym for "funnel." The dean is clearly a plodding thinker. He canít keep up with Stephen in his pursuit of a definition of art. Yet, Stephen feels condescended to when the man assumes that the word "tundish" is a Gaelic word. He feels despair that English, his only language, is not properly his, but the language adopted by or imposed upon a colonized land. Later, he finds out the word "tundish" is actually an old English word.

The question of Irish nationalism comes up over and over again in the novel. In the last chapter, it comes up in relation to Stephenís school friend Mat Davin who urges him to become one of "us," to claim his Irish nationality and to stop looking eastward toward the Europe of England and France for the sources of his art. In a revealing conversation with Davin, Davin asks Stephen if he is even Irish. Here, Davin is assuming that being Irish means pledging allegiance to Irish independence from the colonizer England. It means being one with the people instead of standing back from them with a sneer. To Stephen, though, being Irish means being all that he is, containing all the contradictions of a colonized subject. Stephen feels the loss of Gaelic which he never knew, of Irish folklore which he knows only vaguely, of a sense of oneness with the folk of Ireland. Yet he also feels the pull of the rest of Europe where he sees the most important developments in art and philosophy happening. His family is English-oriented as many Irish peopleís families were, but they were still Irish families. He finally claims that he is after all as Irish as Davin is Irish. In one of the last journal entries, Stephen reports hearing the story of one of his schoolmates who has just come back from a visit to the west of Ireland where he met and spoke to an old Irish man. They spoke in Gaelic and in English and the old man wonders at the queer people that must be far away from him. Stephenís ambivalence toward this old man is a summation of his ambivalence toward Ireland. He knows he must ignore the old manís words, but he also means the old man no harm.

Joyce continues the motif of carnivalization in the physics theater at Stephenís university. As the professor goes on with great seriousness about the coil he is demonstrating, Moynihan makes funny remarks. Stephen feels his mind shaking off its cloistered existence and dancing about. In his mindís eye, he sees the dowdy professors of the university dancing and tumbling with each other on the grass. Again, when Stephen is taking his theory of art deadly seriously, Cranly carnivalizes him, remarking on his lust for a statue in a museum, calling out "bulleseye" when Stephen makes another step in his definitions, and generally refusing to take Stephen seriously. By including this element, Joyce demonstrates his distance from Stephenís young manís theory of art.

Throughout the novel, Stephen is a man apart. In this he is the image of the artist as it was created in the latter half of the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century, alone and isolated from the uncomprehending society he is both attempting to describe and attempting to communicate with. The modernist version of this artist is what we see in Stephen. He defines freedom as an escape from the nets of social obligation and responsibility. He refuses to sign the petition for international peace, recognizing the contradictions in the politics of those who do sign it. He thinks of this call to sign up as one of the nets for the soul when it wants to be free. He refuses to conform to the notion of filial piety even when it means his mother will have more worry. Joyce seems to be both behind Stephen in his bid for freedom and questioning Stephen in his inability yet to love.

Stephenís theory of art is also given in a half-ironic tone by Joyce. For example, according to Stephen, literature is the highest and most spiritual form art takes. Then he notes that it is unfortunate that literature often mixes forms. The joke here is that the novel weíre reading is a study in mixed forms. Moreover, it carefully avoids the lofty level for art as it constantly brings in the lower body--farting, sex, etc.--as an antidote to those who would take themselves too seriously. Again, regarding Stephenís theory about the impersonal artist who stands back from his creation trimming his fingernails Joyce inserts this theory into a novel that is about the life of an artist and one that is quite insistently autobiographical. When Stephen reaches the height of his theory on art, it begins to rain and he and Lynch have to take shelter in the library. Here, Joyce seems to be getting a joke in on the young artist as all wet and in need of further reading. The process of art is captured in the novel when Stephen writes the poem to Emma. This process includes a whole range of motivations and elements inspiration, jealousy, pride, intellect and lust. Perhaps a related incident describes the difficulty of maintaining a lofty pose. Stephen remembers a time when he was riding a bicycle through some woods and was suddenly overcome with the beauty of the place. He got off his bike and prayed fervently until he saw he was about to be caught and began to whistle a tune from a recent pantomime.

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