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Joyce's semi-autobiographical chronicle of Stephen Dedalus' passage from university student to "independent" artist is at once a richly detailed, amusing, and moving coming-of-age story, a tour de force of style and technique, and a profound examination of the Irish psyche and society.
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"Et ignotas animum dimittit in artes."
ovid, metamorphoses, viii., 18.
ONCE UPON a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo. . . .
His father told him that story: his father looked at him through a glass: he had a hairy face.
He was baby tuckoo. The moocow came down the road where Betty Byrne lived: she sold lemon platt.
O, the wild rose blossoms On the little green place.
He sang that song. That was his song.
O, the green wothe botheth.
When you wet the bed, first it is warm then it gets cold. His mother put on the oilsheet. That had the queer smell.
His mother had a nicer smell than his father. She played on the piano the sailor's hornpipe for him to dance. He danced:
Uncle Charles and Dante clapped. They were older than his father and mother but Uncle Charles was older than Dante.
Dante had two brushes in her press. The brush with the maroon velvet back was for Michael Davitt and the brush with the green velvet back was for Parnell. Dante gave him a cachou every time he brought her a piece of tissue paper.
The Vances lived in number seven. They had a different father and mother. They were Eileen's father and mother. When they were grown up he was going to marry Eileen. He hid under the table.
His mother said:
—O, Stephen will apologise.
—O, if not, the eagles will come and pull out his eyes—
Pull out his eyes,
Pull out his eyes.
Pull out his eyes,
Pull out his eyes,
The wide playgrounds were swarming with boys. All were shouting and the prefects urged them on with strong cries. The evening air was pale and chilly and after every charge and thud of the foot-ballers the greasy leather orb flew like a heavy bird through the grey light. He kept on the fringe of his line, out of sight of his prefect, out of the reach of the rude feet, feigning to run now and then. He felt his body small and weak amid the throng of players and his eyes were weak and watery. Rody Kickham was not like that: he would be captain of the third line all the fellows said.
Rody Kickham was a decent fellow but Nasty Roche was a stink. Rody Kickham had greaves in his number and a hamper in the refectory. Nasty Roche had big hands. He called the Friday pudding dog-in-the-blanket. And one day he had asked:
—What is your name?
Stephen had answered: Stephen Dedalus.
Then Nasty Roche had said:
—What kind of a name is that?
And when Stephen had not been able to answer Nasty Roche had asked:
—What is your father?
Stephen had answered:
Then Nasty Roche had asked:
—Is he a magistrate?
He crept about from point to point on the fringe of his line, making little runs now and then. But his hands were bluish with cold. He kept his hands in the side pockets of his belted grey suit. That was a belt round his pocket. And belt was also to give a fellow a belt. One day a fellow had said to Cantwell:
—I'd give you such a belt in a second.
Cantwell had answered:
—Go and fight your match. Give Cecil Thunder a belt. I'd like to see you. He'd give you a toe in the rump for yourself.
That was not a nice expression. His mother had told him not to speak with the rough boys in the college. Nice mother! The first day in the hall of the castle when she had said goodbye she had put up her veil double to her nose to kiss him: and her nose and eyes were red. But he had pretended not to see that she was going to cry. She was a nice mother but she was not so nice when she cried. And his father had given him two five-shilling pieces for pocket money. And his father had told him if he wanted anything to write home to him and, whatever he did, never to peach on a fellow. Then at the door of the castle the rector had shaken hands with his father and mother, his soutane fluttering in the breeze, and the car had driven off with his father and mother on it. They had cried to him from the car, waving their hands:
—Good-bye, Stephen, goodbye!
—Good-bye, Stephen, goodbye!
He was caught in the whirl of a scrimmage and, fearful of the flashing eyes and muddy boots, bent down to look through the legs. The fellows were struggling and groaning and their legs were rubbing and kicking and stamping. Then Jack Lawton's yellow boots dodged out the ball and all the other boots and legs ran after. He ran after them a little way and then stopped. It was useless to run on. Soon they would be going home for the holidays. After supper in the study hall he would change the number pasted up inside his desk from seventyseven to seventysix.
It would be better to be in the study hall than out there in the cold. The sky was pale and cold but there were lights in the castle. He wondered from which window Hamilton Rowan had thrown his hat on the haha and had there been flowerbeds at that time under the windows. One day when he had been called to the castle the butler had shown him the marks of the soldiers' slugs in the wood of the door and had given him a piece of shortbread that the community ate. It was nice and warm to see the lights in the castle. It was like something in a book. Perhaps Leicester Abbey was like that. And there were nice sentences in Doctor Cornwell's Spelling Book. They were like poetry but they were only sentences to learn the spelling from.
Wolsey died in Leicester Abbey Where the abbots buried him.
Canker is a disease of plants,
Cancer one of animals.
It would be nice to lie on the hearthrug before the fire, leaning his head upon his hands, and think on those sentences. He shivered as if he had cold slimy water next his skin. That was mean of Wells to shoulder him into the square ditch because he would not swop his little snuffbox for Wells's seasoned hacking chestnut, the conqueror of forty. How cold and slimy the water had been! A fellow had once seen a big rat jump into the scum. Mother was sitting at the fire with Dante waiting for Brigid to bring in the tea. She had her feet on the fender and her jewelly slippers were so hot and they had such a lovely warm smell! Dante knew a lot of things. She had taught him where the Mozambique Channel was and what was the longest river in America and what was the name of the highest mountain in the moon. Father Arnall knew more than Dante because he was a priest but both his father and Uncle Charles said that Dante was a clever woman and a wellread woman. And when Dante made that noise after dinner and then put up her hand to her mouth: that was heartburn.
A voice cried far out on the playground:
Then other voices cried from the lower and third lines:
—All in! All in!
The players closed around, flushed and muddy, and he went among them, glad to go in. Rody Kickham held the ball by its greasy lace. A fellow asked him to give it one last: but he walked on without even answering the fellow. Simon Moonan told him not to because the prefect was looking. The fellow turned to Simon Moonan and said:
—We all know why you speak. You are McGlade's suck.
Suck was a queer word. The fellow called Simon Moonan that name because Simon Moonan used to tie the prefect's false sleeves behind his back and the prefect used to let on to be angry. But the sound was ugly. Once he had washed his hands in the lavatory of the Wicklow Hotel and his father pulled the stopper up by the chain after and the dirty water went down through the hole in the basin. And when it had all gone down slowly the hole in the basin had made a sound like that: suck. Only louder.
To remember that and the white look of the lavatory made him feel cold and then hot. There were two cocks that you turned and water came out: cold and hot. He felt cold and then a little hot: and he could see the names printed on the cocks. That was a very queer thing.
And the air in the corridor chilled him too. It was queer and wettish. But soon the gas would be lit and in burning it made a light noise like a little song. Always the same: and when the fellows stopped talking in the playroom you could hear it.
It was the hour for sums. Father Arnall wrote a hard sum on the board and then said:
—Now then, who will win? Go ahead, York! Go ahead, Lancaster!
Stephen tried his best but the sum was too hard and he felt confused. The little silk badge with the white rose on it that was pinned on the breast of his jacket began to flutter. He was no good at sums but he tried his best so that York might not lose. Father Arnall's face looked very black but he was not in a wax: he was laughing. Then Jack Lawton cracked his fingers and Father Arnall looked at his copybook and said:
—Right. Bravo Lancaster! The red rose wins. Come on now, York! Forge ahead!
Jack Lawton looked over from his side. The little silk badge with the red rose on it looked very rich because he had a blue sailor top on. Stephen felt his own face red too, thinking of all the bets about who would get first place in Elements, Jack Lawton or he. Some weeks Jack Lawton got the card for first and some weeks he got the card for first. His white silk badge fluttered and fluttered as he worked at the next sum and heard Father Arnall's voice. Then all his eagerness passed away and he felt his face quite cool. He thought his face must be white because it felt so cool. He could not get out the answer for the sum but it did not matter. White roses and red roses: those were beautiful colours to think of. And the cards for first place and third place were beautiful colours too: pink and cream and lavender. Lavender and cream and pink roses were beautiful to think of. Perhaps a wild rose might be like those colours and he remembered the song about the wild rose blossoms on the little green place. But you could not have a green rose. But perhaps somewhere in the world you could.
The bell rang and then the classes began to file out of the rooms and along the corridors towards the refectory. He sat looking at the two prints of butter on his plate but could not eat the damp bread. The tablecloth was damp and limp. But he drank off the hot weak tea which the clumsy scullion, girt with a white apron, poured into his cup. He wondered whether the scullion's apron was damp too or whether all white things were cold and damp. Nasty Roche and Saurin drank cocoa that their people sent them in tins. They said they could not drink the tea; that it was hogwash. Their fathers were magistrates, the fellows said.
All the boys seemed to him very strange. They had all fathers and mothers and different clothes and voices. He longed to be at home and lay his head on his mother's lap. But he could not: and so he longed for the play and study and prayers to be over and to be in bed.
He drank another cup of hot tea and Fleming said:
—What's up? Have you a pain or what's up with you?
—I don't know, Stephen said.
—Sick in your bread basket—Fleming said—because your face looks white. It will go away.
—O yes, Stephen said.
But he was not sick there. He thought that he was sick in his heart if you could be sick in that place. Fleming was very decent to ask him. He wanted to cry. He leaned his elbows on the table and shut and opened the flaps of his ears. Then he heard the noise of the refectory every time he opened the flaps of his ears. It made a roar like a train at night. And when he closed the flaps the roar was shut off like a train going into a tunnel. That night at Dalkey the train had roared like that and then, when it went into the tunnel, the roar stopped. He closed his eyes and the train went on, roaring and then stopping; roaring again, stopping. It was nice to hear it roar and stop and then roar out of the tunnel again and then stop.
Then the higher line fellows began to come down along the matting in the middle of the refectory, Paddy Rath and Jimmy Magee and the Spaniard who was allowed to smoke cigars and the little Portuguese who wore the woolly cap. And then the lower line tables and the tables of the third line. And every single fellow had a different way of walking.
He sat in a corner of the playroom pretending to watch a game of dominos and once or twice he was able to hear for an instant the little song of the gas. The prefect was at the door with some boys and Simon Moonan was knotting his false sleeves. He was telling them something about Tullabeg.
Then he went away from the door and Wells came over to Stephen and said:
—Tell us, Dedalus, do you kiss your mother before you go to bed?
Wells turned to the other fellows and said:
—O, I say, here's a fellow says he kisses his mother every night before he goes to bed.
The other fellows stopped their game and turned round, laughing. Stephen blushed under their eyes and said:
—I do not.
—O, I say, here's a fellow says he doesn't kiss his mother before he goes to bed.
They all laughed again. Stephen tried to laugh with them. He felt his whole body hot and confused in a moment. What was the right answer to the question? He had given two and still Wells laughed. But Wells must know the right answer for he was in third of grammar. He tried to think of Wells's mother but he did not dare to raise his eyes to Wells's face. He did not like Wells's face. It was Wells who had shouldered him into the square ditch the day before because he would not swop his little snuffbox for Wells's seasoned hacking chestnut, the conqueror of forty. It was a mean thing to do; all the fellows said it was. And how cold and slimy the water had been! And a fellow had once seen a big rat jump plop into the scum.
Posted December 8, 1999
This James Joyce's most personal novel written about one man's impressionable childhood and follows him through to his college years as he comes to a greater understanding of individualism and intellectulal freedom and throws off the limitations of his catholic upbringing. The novel is a masterpiece of writing style that defies time and place and becomes a book of everlasting, and everpresent importance. The book is written in a stream of conscience style (somewhat similar to Dostoevsky but more so) that can at times be difficult to follow. This is certainly not your typical beach reading, or grocery line novel. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a terribly moving novel, but it must be read with great patience, and presence of mind. You have to be willing to work for it to feel the true and indescribable force of this novel. The novel is required reading for any serious reader.
5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 12, 2009
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is ranked by the Modern Library as the third greatest English-language novel of the twentieth century. I have no idea why. I just found it to be extremely boring. The book is the semi-autobiographical coming of age of Stephen Dedalus, the alter ego of James Joyce. From his questions and anxiety over the roles of women and his dealings with them to his on-again-off-again struggles with religion, A Portrait of the Artist...just didn't keep my interest. It's not a bad story really but I just did not dig the prose. I haven't given up on James Joyce yet but I really hope his other books won't put me to sleep.
3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 8, 2002
James Joyce is one of the world's greatest authors of all time. He wrote poetry and prose and, in his final book, Finnegans Wake, created his own language. This book is a great tale of Stephen Deadalus through his early life that, in analysis, provides a 'portrait' of the young James Joyce. Probably Joyce's best book for the beginner Joyce-fan, this Penguin Putnam Classic is fully annotated by an ingenious scholar to help the reader who does not understand all of Joyce's plays on words and tricks. This is essential for everyone's personal library!
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 28, 2008
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The style of writing was really interesting, though I'm not sure if I completely liked it or not. The subject matter wasn't interesting to me at all. If you can get through two-thirds of the book then the prose is rather beautiful and philosophical. I only skimmed through it, though, as I could not bring myself to keep reading the two-thirds of it that were completely boring. By the time I got to the interesting parts I really didn't know what was going on in the story, only that the prose was fantastic and the main character had undergone a transformation from an obedient boy to a philosopher in his own right.
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Posted October 6, 2005
I did not find this book to be very enjoyable. Although Joyce certainly deserves recognition for his stylistic achievements, his plot leaves much to be wanted. There were more references to religion than I felt necessary and the characters were not at all likeable. That said, this is probably a more enjoyable work of fiction for readers who can relate to the character's need to become more than who he is.
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Posted October 16, 2014
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Posted February 21, 2014
We are introduced to the character Stephen as a young boy as he grows to manhood. Stephen is sometimes strange, smart, brave and shy. Emphasis on the strange most of the time.
This is a book I almost wish I had read it for a class so there would be a discussion and I would understand it better.
I am not sure how Joyce considers this young man an artist because he is inches away from becoming a priest. Unless this is suppose to be Joyce’s story. The first chapter is gibberish to me and I almost didn’t go past it. But I did and it got better. Although as soon as it got better and I understood what Stephen was talking about he would on OCD rant about pretty much on anything like hell, authors, philosophy …
I know a lot of people dislike this book and sadly I am one of them.
Posted February 23, 2012
James Joyce artfully crafts his novel to examine a struggle that everyone must go through at some point or another: finding yourself and your own path. Joyce is brilliant and it is my opinion that everyone should read this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 9, 2004
The strengths and weaknesses of this book are one: either you love them or disdain them. Joyce and his contemporaries stripped ideas of plot and character further and further away, until the mundane was endowed with the extraordinary- even today, this is too much a leap for some readers, who can't seem to find anything satisfying to cling on to in Stephen's persona or happenstance- Can we leave it at: either you like it or don't? But indisputably the language is extraordinary... if we read the book for the language alone, like Gertrude Stein encourages us with some of her books, it'd be enough.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 10, 2003
I read this book when I was a teenager and, although I couldn't understand it all, of course, I was enthralled, enchanted, intoxicated, inspired by it ... Poetry, like music, communicates without always being understood. Since then, I've lost count of the number of times I've reread it. It captures so well the feeling of being a child, ... the upbringing of an Irish Catholic, ... the growth of an artist, ... the experience of writing a poem, ... the birth of an adult soul from the womb of childhood!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 25, 2003
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a virtuoso performance in language. The imitations of the thoughts and perceptions of a child are masterful. The famous sermon about the tortures of hell is amazing every time you read it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 23, 2003
This is probably one of the best books of all time. At the start of this book nothing will make sense but if you keep with it things will come together. Once you have read it once you can't wait to read it agin.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 12, 2003
James Joyce's Portrait is a self-centered, boring and difficult book to grasp. His flailing ideas that the reader should have to work for the book--in order to understand and appreciate it etc etc is absurd. Literature is for pleasure and joy. I don't think many people want to read a book in order to struggle and feel pain. Portrait is written about a seemingly regular, boring young man: Stephen Dedalus. It is only Joyce's language that manages to bring this hum-drum character to life. I can't believe we are expected to revel in Stephen's epipahanies and feel interest in his mundane life. The fact that Joyce would try to pawn this off an a semi autibiography is absurd. Perhaps he is trying to show how intrinsically boring and ordinary he is...in that case, I don't want to have to read through his life. The book is written lazily, especially the end, where Stephen and Joyce simultaneously prattle on. Beautiful language, terrible read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 7, 2002
In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce portrays numerous images of his early childhood through his late teenage years. Searching for his true purpose in the world, Stephen Dedalus, the protagonist in the work, encounters many hardships and trials; he struggles against his family, his church, his nationality, and himself. A Portait of the Artist as a Young Man provides an accurate insight of Joyce's mind and explains his idea of true art associated with aesthetics. Be sure to read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man before tackling Joyce's monumental masterpiece, Ulysses.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 19, 2001
Though sometimes overshadowed by Ulysses, Joyce's first novel is ultimately quite meaningful and a pleasure to read. Portrait begins Joyce's experiments with language in its shifting styles, but on the whole is easier to understand than his later work. As with Ulysses, its richness is twofold: it portrays in detail the condition of Ireland approximately 100 years ago; but the ideas and truths pondered here are rather timeless. This book is full of memorable scenes and passages and I would highly recommend it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 6, 2000
this book changed the way i view many different things. i recommend this book to people all of the time, and i am going to purchase a different version of the book with foot notes in it so i can read it againWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 15, 2000
Unquestionably one of the literary giants of the twentieth-century and of all time, James Joyce captured the adolescence of Stephen Daedalus, who desired to become a writer. In Portrait of the Artist, Joyce perfects the art and style that would appear in Ulysses and later in the pure art of Finnegans Wake. This coming-of-age novel set in fin-de-siecle Ireland sees Daedalus trying to find creativity in the face of an increasingly restricting country, religion, and family. Joyce's works are a progression, and in order to understand Ulysses, one must first comprehend Portrait. Portrait is one of the masterpieces of a truly gifted artist.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.