A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man By James Joyce Summary and Analysis Chapter V

Summary

The final and longest chapter of the novel begins as Stephen sifts absently through pawn tickets that have provided money for the Dedalus family to buy bare necessities. His mother chides him that he'll be late for class, and later she voices her fears that a university education will change him. Meanwhile, his father curses him for laziness. Feigning lightheartedness, Stephen bids them good-bye and is off to the world of the university.

In the next scene, we see that Stephen is not a model scholar. During an English literature lecture, for example, he is bored with the tedium of routine literary application. His mind wanders, making it impossible for him to concentrate. He attempts to escape the confinement of the uninspiring lecture by thinking about words — their arrangement, their Latin derivatives, and their use in poetry — and he wonders if he'll ever escape routine study and be able to "forge out an esthetic philosophy" of his own.

At present, Stephen's theory of aesthetics is still in the formative stage, as is his personality and his character. However, during this chapter, we will see elements of his past life falling away gradually as Stephen interacts with his friends and university teachers who bring out new aspects of his evolving "young artist" self. By comparing Stephen with each of the characters he meets and speaks with, we can see how his intellect, his attitudes, and his aesthetic philosophy begin to take on new depths. For example, when MacCann approaches Stephen on the way to class, he calls Stephen "antisocial"; unlike his "democrat[ic]" classmate, Stephen is unconcerned about "equality among all classes and sexes."

The next student we meet is Davin, a simple but intense "peasant student," who addresses Stephen by the familiar name of "Stevie." Although Stephen is fond of Davin and values his passion and his athletic ability, he feels that Davin's loyalty to "the sorrowful legend of Ireland" makes him something of a "dullwitted loyal serf" (to England) and to the dying cause of Irish nationalism. Davin's provincial speech and attitudes are a marked contrast to the new, experimental eloquence of Stephen's thoughts and expressions. This contrast is best illustrated in Davin's recollection of his encounter with a young peasant woman. Although his experience loosely parallels Stephen's encounter with the girl standing in the stream (both women beckoned the men "without guile"), Stephen's poetic account elevates his experience to the level of art. In contrast, Davin's narrative, filled with crude Irish idioms, reduces his encounter to a shameful reality which is ultimately reflected in the eyes of a brash flower girl who greets them on the street in "her ragged dress . . . damp coarse hair and hoydenish face."

As Stephen goes toward the lecture hall, he meets the Dean of Studies, who engages him in a discussion of aesthetics and the responsibility of the artist. Speaking to the dean metaphorically about the nature of artistic enlightenment, Stephen attributes his own thoughts on the matter to the ideas of Aristotle and Aquinas. The dean's limited, literal understanding of Stephen's theoretical discourse frustrates Stephen and ultimately makes him pity the "faithful servingman" who fulfills his occupation without possessing true knowledge.

Stephen's discussion with the dean concludes when the physics professor enters and attempts to teach a group of willful, inconsiderate students. Joyce's emphasis on the ineffectiveness of Ireland's educational system is the impetus of this scene.

Afterward, Stephen takes part in a spirited discussion among a group of his fellow students. Later, he meets Cranly, a friend who, like the others, wants to discuss MacCann's petition for disarmament and the promotion of world peace. Stephen becomes irritated at Cranly's questioning and his insistence that Stephen sign the petition.

Stephen uses this situation as an opportunity to exert his independent thinking on the matter, and while doing so, he impresses Temple, an emotional, melodramatic fellow student. Temple follows Stephen around like an eager disciple, fervently supporting Stephen's decision not to sign the petition. His fawning attachment to Stephen so aggravates Cranly that Cranly tells Stephen, ". . . curse him! . . . Don't talk to him at all . . . you might as well be talking . . . to a flaming chamberpot as talking to Temple!'

Soon, Cranly and Stephen are joined by two other students, Lynch and Davin, who provide Stephen with another opportunity to enunciate his developing aesthetic philosophy. Later, during a hurling match, Davin shows concern for Stephen's growing isolation and his self-exalting pride; Davin urges him to embrace his Irish heritage: "Try to be one of us," he says. Stephen immediately rejects the suggestion and denounces Davin's dauntless patriotism and vows to "fly by those nets" of "nationality, language, and religion" which threaten to confine him.

Eventually, Stephen and Lynch separate from the group gathered to observe the hurling match, and Stephen further explains his theory of aesthetics to Lynch. He points out that although Aristotle did not provide definitions for pity and terror, he himself has defined both terms. He defines "pity" as the emotion that results when suffering is presented to — -and shared by — a human sufferer. "Terror," on the other hand, is the emotion that results when a human sufferer is presented with — and shares — the cause of human suffering.

Lynch doesn't understand these definitions, so Stephen repeats them, explaining the difference between "static" art (an appreciation of beauty for its own sake) and "kinetic" art (that which brings about an emotional response). Stephen then provides a step-by-step explanation of his aesthetic theory.

He proposes that "since the good is what is desirable, and since the true and the beautiful are most persistently desired, then the true and the beautiful must be good" (Ellman). Although Stephen does admit that what is beautiful to one person may not be beautiful to another, he emphasizes that the universal beauty of an object can be appreciated in terms of its "integras" (wholeness), its "consonantia" (harmony), and its "claritas" (radiance). Ultimately, he explains, the moment an individual comprehends and appreciates these qualities of an object of art, its beauty provides the observer with a spiritual experience which has been referred to as "the enchantment of the heart."

Lynch is confused but entertained by Stephen's definition of art, and so Stephen continues to explain how an individual can tell the difference between inferior and superior art. The "lyrical form," he states, "is the simplest verbal gesture of an instant of emotion," related directly to the experience of the artist himself. "Epical form," he continues, is a step away from the lyrical and presents the artist's "image in . . . relation to himself and to others." (The words "to others" are the key to this form of art.) Finally, the "dramatic form" is the most superior of the three forms of art because the artist's personality becomes submerged completely — leaving the work standing alone, interacting with others who observe it. This form of art fills "every person with . . . a vital force," which exudes from the work of art itself.

Stephen concludes that the duty of the true artist is to stand back from his completed creation and remain "indifferent" to it, allowing it to live a life of its own.

Following this lengthy explanation, rain begins to fall, and Stephen and Lynch return to the library. Lynch continues to talk, but Stephen is oblivious to his friend because he (Stephen) has observed Emma Clery, the girl to whom he has been attracted for a long time. He makes no attempt to speak to her, but his mind is filled with wonder: How does she spend her days? What is she thinking? Does she have a "simple and wilful heart"?

Next morning, Stephen awakens refreshed and impassioned by his dream about Emma. Her image created in him "an enchantment of the heart," which inspires him to write an elaborate villanelle in her honor, and as he does so, he recalls the first verse he wrote for her — ten years ago. Stephen is also reminded of the many times that he has thought about her since their first encounter on the tram steps. His completed, six-stanza villanelle contains a multi-dimensional view of her: she is an object of Stephen's worship, as well as a "temptress" of his desire.

In the next scene, Stephen is once again on the library steps. He gazes intently at the birds flying overhead. He counts them, traces their movements, and hears their cries as they beckon him to follow and "leave for ever the house of prayer and prudence into which he had been born." His thoughts are interrupted by the voices of Cranly, Dixon, Temple, and others. They begin a quicksilver, random discussion of political and religious ideas, and the bickering eventually develops into a battle of insults between Temple and Cranly, revealing their dislike for one another — primarily because of their jealousy over Stephen's attentions.

Suddenly, Emma — the girl of Stephen's dream — passes by; like the birds, she seems to invite Stephen to leave his life at the university. Urgently, Stephen asks Cranly to step away from the crowd for a private conversation; he desperately wants Cranly's opinion on a family matter: Stephen's mother is pressuring him to make his "Easter duty" (confession and communion), but Stephen, having adopted his non serviam credo, refuses to do so. Cranly advises Stephen to make his Easter duty — to please his mother, even though Stephen no longer believes in the sacredness of the Church rituals. Stephen counters with a series of logical retorts and makes Cranly wonder how a young man so "supersaturated with . . . religion" can disbelieve in the ceremonial rites of the Church.

Stephen confesses that he was once a fervent Roman Catholic — just as he was once a fervent disciple of his family and his country. But, having been disappointed, betrayed, and restricted by all of them, he now prefers to leave them all behind. He feels a deep need to declare his artistic, spiritual, and national independence. Stephen is sad that he and Cranly no longer view such matters in the same way, and his remorse is further compounded when he senses Cranly's anguished fear of being left behind. Nevertheless, claiming to fear nothing — not even an eternity in Hell — Stephen concludes his discussion by stating, "I will not serve that in which I no longer believe whether it call itself my home, my fatherland, or my church."

The final section of the novel consists of Stephen's diary entries as he prepares to leave Ireland. His first entry on March 20 reflects his last conversation with Cranly. The entries made during the following week reflect his feelings about leaving his friends, his family, his countryrmen, and his religion. As the entry dates approach the time of departure, Stephen's entries become more hopeful. They reveal an increasing fascination for language, and they contain references to mythical characters. In the entry recorded the day before he leaves Ireland, Stephen writes about his mother's prayer that he will "learn . . . what the heart is and what it feels." It is here that Stephen announces his avowed intention "to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race."

Stephen's final entry in his diary, dated April 27, invokes his mythical namesake, Daedalus. He asks his "old father, old artificer" to assist him in the pursuit of his artistic future.

Analysis

This chapter, the longest and most intricately analytical section of the novel, examines the influences (family, country, and religion) which have shaped Stephen's life thus far. It shows Stephen stripping himself, layer by layer, of each of the confining shackles which restrict his maturing artistic soul.

Unlike previous sections of the novel, this chapter is written in a lyrical and fragmented, discursive style. It reveals Stephen's metamorphosis into an artist as he rambles from subject to subject in an attempt to resolve his conflicts, and it summarizes Stephen's experiences thus far. Finally, we see Stephen putting them into perspective before he liberates himself in order to pursue his future as an artist living abroad — free from family country, and religion.

When the chapter begins, we see a parallel between the pile of pawn tickets and Stephen's pawning his integrity for a blind, unexamined loyalty to family, country, and religion. Stephen feels that his life has a profound purpose — ironic, really, in view of the pile of pawn tickets before him and his seemingly hopeless, humble beginnings. As he leaves for the university, his soul is battered by the sound of "his father's whistle, his mother's mutterings, and the screech of an unseen maniac" (a mad nun crying, "Jesus! O Jesus! Jesus!"). In this brief scene, Joyce gives life to the three forces which Stephen wants to free himself from — his family, his country, and his religion. We see Stephen's father's ever-demanding egotism (a symbol of family); we feel the oppression of Stephen's mother's continuous, submissive martyrdom (a symbol of country); and finally, we hear the irrational, lost call of a nun (a symbol of religion). Desperate to escape these three restraints which chain his restless soul to a subservient, doomed future, Stephen commits himself irrevocably to freedom, vowing to escape beyond the "echoes" of the voices which "threaten to humble the pride of his youth."

The word "pride" refers here to Stephen's pride in the knowledge which he has gained while studying the world's greatest philosophers and writers. Other voices, however, also threaten Stephen's emerging artistic soul — in particular, the voices of his fellow students at the university who represent the newest generation of Ireland's blind, unimaginative, subservient citizens.

MacCann, who urges Stephen to sign a petition for universal peace, represents the blind, ineffectual, and traitorous zeal of Irish patriotism. MacCann seems more concerned that Stephen pay lip service to the cause of world peace than believe in the cause itself. In contrast to MacCann, Stephen holds fast to his individuality, preferring his own goals rather than those of the unenlightened masses.

Stephen's friend Davin is a remnant of Ireland's provincial past. In both his speech and his actions, Davin represents the naive Irish populace who worship "the sorrowful legend of Ireland." Deep within Davin's eyes, Stephen sees the "terror of soul of a starving village" and perceives Davin's "rude imagination," which has been shaped by "the broken lights of Irish myth."

Discarding Davin (a symbol of Irish patriotism and culture), Stephen proceeds to challenge the sterile, "monkish" knowledge that he is receiving in the Irish institutions of higher learning. During his conversation with the Dean of Studies, Stephen reveals the marked difference between the "practical arts," which the dean represents, and the "liberal arts," which Stephen admires. Here, Joyce uses a "light" metaphor (the lamp symbolizing enlightenment). We see that Stephen's figurative approach to aesthetics is superior to the dean's limited, literal views on the subject. It is comic that Stephen's continued attempts to clarify his views further confuse the dean. Nonetheless, Stephen has an opportunity here to differentiate between his own aesthetic use of language, as opposed to the language that is used in the "literary tradition . . . of the marketplace" — that is, that which is taught by the dean. Stephen perceives the dean's scholastic limitations, and he pities him for his uninspired, but faithful service to his order. He realizes that a university education cannot adequately prepare someone like himself if he is to attain unique, individual, aesthetic ideals.

In order to further examine Stephen's ideas about art and the nature of the artist, Joyce creates a scene between Stephen and Lynch, using Lynch as a sounding board against which Stephen can enunciate his philosophy of aesthetics. The device is wooden and Stephen's pontificating sometimes seems ponderously dense, but clearly Stephen is as insistent about these aesthetic concepts as Father Arnall was about his concepts of sin and hell; the two scenes create a powerful contrapuntal balance within the last half of the novel.

However, it does seem strange that Stephen would choose to talk so earnestly and intimately with Lynch. Lynch's irreverence for Stephen's ideas, his crude remarks, and his childish pranks make him an unlikely confidant for Stephen's emerging philosophy of aesthetics. Thus we turn to Ellman, Joyce's acclaimed biographer.

According to Ellman, Joyce had a reason for portraying Lynch as a lout: the reason was revenge. Joyce had a friend (Vincent Cosgrave) who continually mocked Joyce's serious dedication to literature; Cosgrave also interfered with some of Joyce's friendships, and once, he even tried to steal away Joyce's only love, Nora Barnacle. Thus, Joyce devised an opportunity to even the score with Cosgrave by creating an obnoxious, "reptilelike" character with a "shriveled soul" and an ominous name, Lynch. Lynch's buffoonery and crude language, used as a measure for comparison here, serve to elevate Stephen's esoteric views on beauty and art. In contrast to the low-class, scatological Lynch, Stephen emerges as a philosopher and artist who has confidently left Lynch behind to wallow in the "excrement[al]" meanderings of his shallow, rutted thoughts.

Another shackle which threatens Stephen's artistic freedom is his complex perception of women. The reappearance of Emma Clery, the object of Stephen's first verse (written more than ten years ago), inspires him to write a villanelle, which incorporates all of his conflicting emotions concerning women — his worship of them, his desecration of them, and his need to feel fulfilled by them. By recreating his feelings about Emma and women in general, using the artistic form of the villanelle, Stephen frees himself from a sexual compulsion for women and is rewarded for his efforts by a vision of birds, soaring freely and prophetically through the sky.

As Stephen contemplates the flight of the birds, he considers the mythic possibilities of his future. He wonders about his namesake, Daedalus, about the Egyptian god of the arts, "Thoth," and about his diminishing relationship with Ireland.

Perhaps the most important relationship which Stephen feels compelled to sever — if he is ever to leave family, faith, and country — is his deep-rooted friendship with Cranly. Cranly is a character based on Joyce's real-life friend John Byrne. Cranly is the "priestlike" companion with "womanish eyes," who has proven himself a faithful and sincere friend of Stephen's during their years at the university. Stephen searches for reasons to dissolve their friendship because "if friendship exists, it impugns the quality of exile and of lonely heroism" (Ellman).

The first "reason" that Stephen "creates" for ending his friendship with Cranly occurs when Emma Clery makes a bow "across Stephen" in reply to Cranly's greeting. To Stephen, the bow is metaphorical:

Has Cranly been dating Emma "behind Stephen's back"? Is this the explanation for Cranly's recent, aggressive behavior toward Stephen? Seeing Cranly's behavior as part of a pattern of betrayal, Stephen convinces himself that he has been betrayed by Cranly. Until now, Cranly has been Stephen's priest-like confidant, but now, just before leaving Ireland, Stephen can, if he chooses, use this moment to justify breaking off his friendship with Cranly.

At this point, Stephen overlooks Cranly's so-called betrayal. Later, when he asks Cranly's advice, he is pained to discover that Cranly seems to have no integrity. Cranly is firm: Stephen should honor his mother's request and perform his "Easter duty" — even though Stephen no longer believes in Catholic rituals. To Stephen, Cranly is the epitome of compromise. Just as Ireland has long compromised its people to England and to the superstitious Catholic Church, so Cranly would compromise principles. Stephen wants — and needs — to escape this polluted system of values. Thus Stephen announces his imminent departure, stating he has no fear that he is making a mistake by fleeing Ireland. He says that he is willing to suffer for his art, even if it means that he will suffer during eternity.

This final conversation between Stephen and Cranly is referred to in Stephen's diary, and it reflects similar entries in Joyce's own notebooks. In ungrammatical and fragmentary language, Stephen records his thoughts about Cranly and about Cranly's elderly parents; Stephen labels Cranly as a "child of exhausted loins." This reference, as well as the allusion to Elisabeth and Zachary on the entry of the following day, recalls the account found in Luke, Chapter 1, which records the story of the elderly Zechariah and his barren wife, Elisabeth, who, according to the announcement delivered by the angel Gabriel, eventually gave birth to John the Baptist, the anointed precursor of Jesus Christ. Just as John urged sinners to repent of their sins in order to be delivered from the wrath of God, so too does Cranly warn Stephen about his denial of faith. However, Stephen fails to heed his friend's warning and vows to pursue his artistic credo — even at the risk of damnation.

The subsequent entries in Stephen's diary similarly reveal his efforts to break his bonds with the past. The entry on April 15 is pertinent because we see Stephen contemplating Dante's chaste admiration for Beatrice. Again Stephen thinks about his last conversation with Emma Clery; however, this time, he does so with new insight. He says, "Yes, I liked her today . . . it seems a new feeling to me . . . O, give it up, old chap! Sleep it off!"

Is this new feeling akin to what MacCann suggested in his petition for sexual equality? Does this feeling mean that women can be viewed as persons as well as objects? Stephen doesn't know for sure. Remember that he is a young man who is — at present — somewhat incapable of discerning matters of the heart. Even his mother knows this fact, as we learn later.

On the day before Stephen's departure, his mother expresses her hope that his emotional development will eventually parallel his artistic idealism. She hopes that Stephen learns about matters of the heart — in particular, that human affection eventually becomes as important to Stephen as his ability to appreciate art.

At the end, Stephen acknowledges her wish, as well as the possibilities that life has in store for him as he invokes his great patron's spirit to assist him on his way.

Glossary

Gerhart Hauptman (1862-1946) a naturalist who treated serious subjects (such as alcoholism) in a raw, down-to-earth way.

Guido Cavalcanti Dante's fellow poet and friend.

Synopsis Philosophiae Scholasticae ad mentem divi Thomae Summary of the Philosophy and Academic Opinions of Saint Thomas.

hoardings board fence pasted up with lots of advertisements.

India mittit ebur India exports ivory.

Contrahit orator, variant in carmine vates. A speaker concludes; poets vary in their rhymings.

in tanto discrimine in so many disputes or separations.

the national poet of Ireland Thomas Moore (1779-1852).

a young fenian a young man who rejects his nation's serf-like relationship to England, believing so fervently in Irish independence that he is ready to embrace terrorism. Often, bands of fenians hid out in the hills.

a hurling match a game combining elements of field hockey and rugby.

camaun a piece of hurling equipment resembling a field hockey stick.

to redden my pipe to light it.

Vive l'Irelande! Long live Ireland!

the Ireland of Tone and Parnell The goal of these Irish Nationalists was self-rule, along with civil and religious toleration.

Pulcra sunt quae visa placent. That is beautiful which pleases one's sight; or, said another way, whatever pleases the observer is considered beautiful.

Bonum est in quod tendit appetitus. The good is that toward which the appetite tends.

Per aspera ad astra Through adversity to the stars. (After experiencing hardships, anything is possible; or, said another way, the sky's the limit!)

his ghostly father the priest to whom he confesses.

Kentish fire a mighty show of applause, often stamping the feet, as well.

Ego habeo. I have.

Quod? What?

Per pax universalis For universal peace.

Credo ut vos sanguinarius mendax estis . . . quia facies vostra monstrat ut vos in damno malo humore estis. I believe that you are a bloody liar . . . because your face looks as though you're in a damned bad mood.

Quis est in malo humore . . . ego aut vos? Which one [of us] is in a bad mood . . . I or you?

Pax super totum sanguinarium globum Peace through the whole bloody world.

Nos ad manum ballum jocabimus. Let's go play handball.

super spottum on this very spot.

Pulcra sunt quae visa placent. A thing is beautiful if the apprehension of it pleases.

visa any form of aesthetic apprehension of perception, such as sight or hearing.

Pange lingua gloriosi. Celebrate with a boastful tongue.

the Vexilla Regis the royal or King's (standard) flag.

Goethe (1749-1832) German playwright, poet, and novelist. His work is characterized by an interest in the natural, organic development of things, rather than in any dualistic schemes.

Laocoon an essay by Gotthold Lessing, which is also known by the title, "On the Limits of Painting and Poetry." This dissertation disputes former theories on the subject and establishes Lessing's own differentiation between art criticism and literary criticism.

Turpin Hero the old English ballad from which Joyce derived the title of an unfinished narrative, Stephen Hero, which eventually became A Portrait.

seraphim the highest order of angels.

a villanelle a fixed nineteen-line form, originally a French invention, employing only two rhyming sounds and repeating the lines according to a set pattern. The finest villanelle in English is Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night."

Ego credo ut vita pauperum est simpliciter atrox, simpliciter sanguinarius atrox, in Liverpoolio. I believe that the life of the poor is simply atrocious, simply bloody atrocious, in Liverpool.

Thoth the Egyptian god of wisdom and the inventor of the arts, sciences, and the system of hieroglyphics. The Greeks and Romans referred to him as the cunning communicator Hermes, or Mercury.

the opening of the national theatre The production that night was The Countess Cathleen. The Catholics hated it, thought that it was blasphemous.

The Tablet an ultra right-wing English Catholic paper.

The Bride of Lammermoor one of Sir Walter Scott's most popular historical romances.

Pernobilis et pervetusta familia an illustrious and old family ancestry.

paulo post futurum it's going to be a little later.

ipso facto obviously; as one can see; it speaks for itself.

Mulier cantat. A woman is singing.

Et tu cum Jesu Galilaeo eras. And you were with Jesus the Galilean.

risotto alla bergamasca a rice dish made with cheese and either a fish or chicken stock, prepared in the style of Bergamo, Italy.

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After he commits the “violent sin” where does Stephen hear sermons that terrify him?




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