Part 2, Section 4 (pg. 91-102) and 5 (pg. 102-108) Notes from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Part 2, Section 4 (pg. 91-102) and 5 (pg. 102-108)

Stephen goes with his father to visit Mr. Dedalus' old school in Cork. On the train ride, Stephen is generally embarrassed by his father, especially his drinking. They get to the school, where a porter leads them on a tour, which isn't impressing Stephen with its stink of "jaded and formal study" (pg. 95). He's startled out of his disgust, however, when he sees the word "foetus" carved several times in one of the desks. The word, with its mild sexual connotations, has a strange effect upon Stephen:

"A vision of their life, which his father's words had been powerless to evoke, sprang up before him out of the word cut in the desk." Part 2, pg. 95

Topic Tracking: Language 6

Some of the sexually suggestive language that has begun to appear in the narrative is better explained by this response of Stephen's. Apparently, his mind has been full of sexual fantasies of late, and he's been tormenting himself, thinking that he's the only boy in the world who has such thoughts. We get a good summary of Stephen's self-perception at this point in his life:

"He recalled his own equivocal position in Belvedere, a free boy, a leader afraid of his own authority, proud and sensitive and suspicious, battling against the squalor of his life and against the riot of his mind." Part 2, pg. 96

Stephen's mind continues to riot as he half-listens to his father' stories, which both bore and anger him. As an attempt to get his focus back, he does something similar to the list of places he'd written in his notebook at Clongowes. Now he repeats in his head that he is Stephen Dedalus, he is in Cork, their room is in the Victoria Hotel. All this makes him try to remember his childhood, but the memories are dim. Stephen is obviously having trouble coming to terms with the fact that he will grow older and never again be the child he once was.

Before leaving Cork, Mr. Dedalus meets some of his old cronies at a bar, and Stephen is again bored, angered and alienated by the chatter about the good old times that he considers foreign and uninteresting. He gets some lines of the poet Shelley's in his head: "Art thou pale for weariness/ Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth/ Wandering companionless...?" (pg. 102) Stephen's mind, while certainly a bit self-indulgent, is more focused on artistic and passionate matters than is that of his father or anyone else he sees around him.

Topic Tracking: The Artist 7

Some time later, Stephen and his family are in the bank of Ireland, where Stephen is handed the money for an academic prize he's won. Stephen is both generous and frivolous with the money, buying himself and his family treats, giving out loans, and riding the tram all around the city. When the money runs out, Stephen is crushed to feel as alone and miserable as ever. He begins to wander the streets of Dublin again, his blood boiling and taking him into the seedier parts of the city. Finally, the fate he's been heading toward is fulfilled when a prostitute takes his arm and leads him into her room. Stephen is steamrolled by the experience:

"He closed his eyes, surrendering himself to her, body and mind, conscious of nothing in the world but the dark pressure of her softly parting lips. They pressed upon his brain as upon his lips as though they were the vehicle of vague speech; and between them he felt an unknown and timid pressure, darker than the swoon of sin, softer than sound or odour." Part 2, pg. 108

Topic Tracking: Language 7
Topic Tracking: Modernism 4
Topic Tracking: Religion 8

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