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The preacher's knife had probed deeply into his disclosed conscience, and he felt now that his soul was festering in sin. Yes, the preacher was right.

Then comes an eight page tirade by Father Arnall on the nature of Hell, this time concentrating on spiritual torments. The intricate dissection and analysis presented in these speeches emphasises for the reader the trivial hair-splitting aspect of this way of thinking, and the fact that Joyce devotes so much space to them is an indication of their huge importance for Stephen's development. Stephen's terror and need for escape become acute. Just as the rector had asked, his mind is now concentrating purely on death, judgement, Hell, and Heaven.

In the evening he cannot enter his own bedroom without feeling he is facing judgement, and when he tries to sleep he has his own vision of Hell and his mental and physical sufferings reach their climax. God had allowed him to see the hell reserved for his sins: stinking, bestial, malignant. For him! The only escape from these torments is an 'apology'; confession and repentance. There are many parallels in detail as well as in overall form between Chapters 1 and 3. In Chapter 1 he is repelled by coldness and dampness in the exterior world, and now he is finding these sensations in his own body.

Just as in Chapter 1 he accepted the authority of rector Conmee during a time of impaired vision, so he is now accepting the authority of the church while 'blinded' by fear. His eyes were dimmed with tears and, looking humbly up to heaven, he wept for the innocence he had lost. He stood up in terror and walked blindly into the box. The impairment of vision represents the impairment of his reason. He is 'blind to the truth', and 'cannot see' where he is going. In Chapter 1 Stephen found his way to Conmee's office with the help of an 'old servant', and in Chapter 3 he finds his way to the chapel with the help of 'an old lady with an oilcan.

Stephen's fear of authority is represented in two similar sentences from Chapters 1 and Stephen's heart leaped up in fear. The essence of Stephen's attitude towards authority has not changed between the two chapters. Intellectually he wants to rebel against it and become independent, but emotionally he fears it. God had promised to forgive him if he was sorry. He was sorry. O sorry! Hell in Chapter 3 is equivalent to the eagle and the pandybat in Chapter 1, and with these words Stephen is apologising, just as his mother and Dante said he would, to save himself from the eagle which would pull out his eyes.

He is not yet ready to risk eternal damnation for his acts of rebellion, as he is by the end of Chapter 5. He has so far dealt only in shows of rebellion. Chapter 3 ends, as did Chapters 1 and 2, with Stephen feeling that he has achieved ultimate peace of mind. He sat by the fire in the kitchen, not daring to speak for happiness. It was not a dream from which he would wake.


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The past was past. But Joyce makes it plain, through the immature prose style and the immaturity of Stephen's vision of life, that it is not going to last. All Stephen has really found is another transient state of mind which, like his pride in his martyrdom for justice at the end of Chapter 1, and his joy and relief in physical love at the end of Chapter 2, is later to be demolished.

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Critical Essays about“A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” - Lit Aid

For the time being, the solace Stephen has found in the church is emphasised by his sense of smell, which, right from Chapter 1 where 'his mother had a nicer smell than his father' p. Where once 'The sordid details of his orgies stank under his very nostrils' p. While Stephen thinks his acceptance of the church will be permanent, his motivation is purely emotional, and his will power is not involved. It is easy to be good, and he can disown responsibility for his actions by submitting to the notions of God and Satan. His emotional state is transitory, and once his fear has subsided he will no longer need the church.

The part of his personality which is not transitory - his truth-seeking spirit - will soon reawaken, and the dream which he thinks is 'not a dream from which he would wake' p. A reader looking for a conventional wrapping-up of the plot in the final chapter will be disappointed, for Chapter 5 shows that the story of Stephen's development has by no means ended. Throughout the book we have seen that each chapter ends with Stephen feeling himself to be on the threshold of a 'new dawn' in his life, and that the next chapter begins with a demonstration that the 'new dawn' was largely self-delusion.

Chapter 5 indicates that this process is a continuing one. In this respect Joyce's art is closer to real-life that the 'beginning - middle - end' structure of the conventional novel form. He takes his technique one step further in his final novel Finnegan's Wake , which opens with the second half of a sentence begun on the last page, suggesting the ceaseless revolving progress of the earth itself.

Throughout the novel we see Stephen stumbling through his childhood by a series of painfully misjudged but unavoidable steps. At the end he may not achieve full maturity, but he does achieve a degree of freedom from what he sees as the 'nets' cast by society and its authorities.

Jane Eyre And A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man

At least he learns to distinguish and define the 'nets' over which he must fly, which is no small achievement, and a necessary beginning to independence. When the soul of a man is born in this country there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to flight by those nets.

Portrait Artist Young Man Essay

At the end of Chapter 4, at what is really the climax of the novel, Stephen has a vision of becoming an artist. Joyce presents this vision in a way which clearly associates it with the Icarus myth, and which shows Stephen's ideas to have the usual mixture of insight and misconception. His strange name seems to him a prophecy. The repetition of the word 'seemed', the romantic style, and the question mark indicate that there is a large degree of uncertainty and unreality about this vision of the future. Stephen instinctively senses the uncertainty but he does not formulate it.

His next thoughts take him further and higher in his romantic vision, and again, the fanciful prose style indicates that this passage is not be taken at face value as a realistic understanding on Stephen's part. His throat ached with a desire to cry aloud, the cry of a hawk or eagle on high, to cry piercingly of his deliverance to the winds. This was the call of life to his soul, not a dull gross voice of the world of duties and despair.

Here we can detect a fundamental contradiction of which Stephen is unaware. On the one hand he sees himself forging 'out of the sluggish matter of the earth', but on the other hand life to him is to soar like eagle and 'cry piercingly of his deliverance to the winds'. His concept of the artist is pure fantasy. There is a gulf between theory and practice in his relation to the world, and the contrast between the end of Chapter 4 and the opening of Chapter 5 serves to emphasise this point.

His ideal vision is associated with calm, beautiful images of water. His real life of home and Dublin is associated with dirty stagnant water.

Critical essays on James Joyce's A portrait of the artist as a young man

His feeling of disgust for Dublin is made apparent in many other ways, for example the deformed characters, static clocks, and the pathway of rubbish, with the result that he eventually calls Ireland 'the old sow that eats her farrow. Stephen's pride and arrogance reach a peak in this chapter. Although Joyce implies that we, like some of Stephen's fellow students, should criticise Stephen for his arrogant sneering attitude we realise that it is the only way out for him; the only way he can avoid being trapped in the nets.

He shook the sound out of his ears by an angry toss of his head and hurried on.

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - James Joyce BOOK REVIEW

Through Chapter 5 we get a picture of the kind of person Stephen has become by following him through a series of dialogues with his college friends. These friends are not filled out as characters in themselves but serve as a means of drawing out Stephen's ideas and challenging them for the benefit of the reader.


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  • The first instance of this is with McCann, who, at this point, does not even appear, except in Stephen's memory. Dedalus, you're an antisocial being, wrapped up in yourself. I'm not. I'm a democrat and I'll work and act for social liberty and equality p. Stephen is to reject all such political and social ideals in favour of art, as we see later from his reaction to being asked to sign a petition for universal peace.

    The affair is doesn't interest me in least, said Stephen wearily. His attitude towards political and social responsibility is being tested, and he honestly, though priggishly, shuns involvement. Stephen's attitude towards nationalism and the Irish spirit is tested against another student, Davin. One night the young peasant, his spirit stung by the violent or luxurious language in which Stephen escaped from the cold silence of intellectual revolt, had called up before Stephen's mind a strange vision.

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    He likes Davin for his simplicity and the music of his speech, but he eventually has to break away from him because he cannot accept his blind servile faith in Ireland.