Notes on A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Themes

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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Topic Tracking: Religion

Part 1

Religion 1: At Clonglowes, Stephen is very humble before God and religion. He is afraid to not say his prayers and he has an implicit faith in the wisdom and goodness of his teachers because they are men of God.

Religion 2: The explosive argument at Christmas dinner shows how important and how politically heated religious issues are in Ireland at this time. Stephen also learns that religion is worth getting worked-up about as he sees his father break down in tears over it.

Religion 3: Young Stephen's respect for religion is shown by the frightened dumbfoundedness he has about the possibility that some of his classmates may have stolen church money or church wine.

Religion 4: The unfair beating Stephen suffers, and Father Arnall's failure to set the prefect straight, give Stephen his first reason to doubt the moral authority of religious men.

Religion 5: Stephen, although he has chosen justice over blind obedience to authority by telling on the prefect, is still at this point humble before religious authority. He reminds himself to be "quiet and obedient" (pg. 61) before the prefect.

Part 2

Religion 6: Stephen's indifference about going to church with Uncle Charles indicates that he's lost some of his religious awe and faith at this point.

Religion 7: When Mr. Dedalus tells Stephen he had a good laugh with the rector and the prefect over the time Stephen complained about being beaten, Stephen is forced to reinterpret the past. The faith he felt in justice reigning at the end of Part 1 is completely shaken.

Religion 8: Despite his religious education, Stephen's visit to a prostitute at the end of Part 2 marks his decision to experience the world via sin rather than piety.

Part 3

Religion 9: Not only is Stephen sinning, he's being quite hypocritical by continuing to act the part of a religious leader at school. His guilt, however, catches up with him early in the religious retreat.

Religion 10: Father Arnall's sermons work on Stephen exactly as planned. Remembering that one's fate--heaven or hell--is determined by one's actions on Earth, Stephen is persuaded by fear and guilt to confess his sins.

Part 4

Religion 11: Stephen refuses the offer to join the priesthood--sensual life and experience are too important to him. He feels this decision is a refutation not only of the priestly life, but of religion itself, and senses his imminent "fall."

Religion 12: When he's walking home from the world of a religious father and into the neighborhood of his own father, it is suggested that Stephen feels both these types of fathers as possible models for his own life.

Part 5

Religion 13: In his conversation with Cranly, Stephen seems ready to completely turn from religion in pursuit of art. He even quotes Lucifer, allying himself with the fallen angel: "I will not serve" (pg. 260).

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