Notes on Objects & Places from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Objects/Places

Dublin: The Irish city where Joyce and Stephen grow up. The city-with all of its diversity and gritiness-seemed to inspire Joyce the same way it does Stephen; it is stimulating to the mind and the senses. Joyce was an exile from Dublin for most of his adult life, but the city is still the setting for all of his major fiction.

Ireland: The Ireland of Stephen's time was a place where politics, history and religion (Catholics vs. Protestants) made for a lot of tension. The influence of the English was still on everyone's minds and there was a strong nationalist movement, which sought to bring back Ireland's old culture and language. The boys Stephen knows at the university talk a lot about the nationalist issue, and the question of what role he should play as an artist in Ireland's nationalist struggle is something Stephen often thinks about.

Clongowes: The first school that Stephen attends. Private, all-boys, and run by Jesuit priests, Clongowes does much to form Stephen's expectations of school and education. At Clongowes, Stephen is a model student, though somewhat of an outsider. It is here that some of Stephen's respect for the religious life is diminished after he is unfairly hit with a pandybat by one of the priests.

Dedalus: Stephen's last name and also the name of a character from Greek mythology who built mazes and was once trapped inside one of his own creations. He escaped this predicament by making wings of wax and flying out of the labyrinth and is known as the 'cunning artificer' for his ability to escape dilemmas by his own work and cunning.

pandybat: A flat, wooden bat that the priests at Clongowes hit the boys with as a form of punishment. The pandybat is particularly painful and is much feared by the boys. Stephen is unfairly hit with the pandybat once.

Blackrock: A suburb south of Dublin where the Dedalus family and Uncle Charles live for a while. They're forced to leave because of financial troubles.

The Count of Monte Cristo: A famous adventure novel by Alexandre Dumas. Stephen finds the novel particularly engaging, and his imagination often runs wild when he thinks of Mercedes, the leading lady in the book.

Belvedere: The school that Stephen goes to as an older boy. It is here that he is approached by the school director about the possibility of giving his life to God as a priest.

Virgin Mary: Mary is a symbol of the pure inspiration women can be to men. She is for Stephen the opposite of the other sort of women in his life-prostitutes. Stephen often calls Mary to mind when his life feels like it's getting out of control.

Lucifer: Lucifer was an angel who fell from heaven and became king of the underworld after he refused to serve God. His famous phrase of defiance is 'I will not serve,' words that Stephen himself repeats near the end of the novel.

St. Thomas Aquinas: A 13th century Catholic theologian from Italy who wrote extensively about aesthetics (the theory of what is beautiful and what is art). Much of what Stephen articulates as his own aesthetic theory is borrowed, and often misapplied, from Aquinas.

Stephen's poem: Stephen completes his only poem one inspired morning while he's a university student. Even if it's not a great work of art, the poem is important because it marks a beginning of artistic creation (rather than just talk about artistic creation) for Stephen.

stream of consciousness: The style of writing where a character's thoughts stream naturally into the text to show the character's actual thought process. Characterized by sudden stops and jumps, moments of incoherence and fluid patterns, this style was used by Joyce in parts of Portrait, though not as much as in his later works.

retreat : The Catholic retreat that happens at Stephen's school affects him profoundly. Stephen has been particularly sinful-thinking impure thoughts and frequenting prostitutes-and the hellfire sermons terrify him into a resolution to give all this up and live a holy life again.

epiphany: Similar to 'feeling the light bulb turn on,' this is a moment when everything suddenly becomes clear. Joyce made the epiphany famous. Stephen has a moment of epiphany when he sees the bird girl on the beach and realizes he will be an artist.

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