A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Chapter 5 Summary
Stephen eats a foul-sounding breakfast of watery tea, fried bread, and bacon fat in the Dedalus kitchen. He leafs through a box of pawnshop tickets, further evidence that the family is getting poorer and poorer.
The clock is an hour and twenty-five minutes too fast (presumably they can’t afford to get it fixed), and Stephen is running late for his lectures. We gather that he’s a university student now.
Mrs. Dedalus nags Stephen a little about getting to class on time.
Stephen allows his mother to scrub his face and tut-tut over him before he leaves.
Mr. Dedalus yells down to ask rudely if Stephen is gone yet, and his little sisters cover for him as he sneaks out the back door.
Stephen’s mother comments sadly that the University has changed him, and in response, he sarcastically kisses his hand at his family as he leaves.
As he walks to school through piles of garbage, he hears a crazy nun screaming in the religious insane asylum near his house.
Stephen is full of disgust (nothing new here) for his surroundings. To take his mind off the dirty city around him, he thinks of his favorite writers.
Stephen has been thinking a lot more about literature; he spends much of his time puzzling over certain texts. He goes back and forth between his intellectual world and the real one.
The clock strikes eleven, and he thinks of an acquaintance named MacCann, who told Stephen that he’s an anti-social being.
There’s an incredible confusion with time here, even outside of the disorderly Dedalus household. Stephen isn’t even sure what day it is, and many of the clocks around seem to be off somehow. However, he knows that it is eleven o’clock, which means that he’s late for a French lecture. He imagines the English class he just missed – in his mental image, everyone else is hunched over their notes except for Stephen and his friend Cranly whose monk-like face he sees in great detail.
Stephen walks down a lane, looking from side to side at the shop signs, but they seem to lose their meaning, leaving him surrounded by metaphorical piles of "dead language."
Language again captures Stephen’s imagination. He recalls bits and pieces of texts he’s learned, which seem inane to him now.
Stephen muses on his study of the Classics; he feels like his book of Horace is still somehow vibrant and "human," but he’s worried that he’ll never get much further in his study of the world’s cultures.
A statue reminds Stephen of his friend and fellow student Davin, who is like a young "peasant." Davin has an earnest attitude and openness that Stephen admires. Davin is a believer in the "sorrowful legend" of Ireland, and he identifies with the nationalist movement.
Davin refers to Stephen as "Stevie," which we find quite cute.
Stephen remembers a story Davin told him about his home village: after a hurling match (FYI- hurling is a traditional Irish sport that’s kind of like full-contact field hockey), Davin stops at a house for a glass of water. The young woman who answers the door tries to get him to stay the night with her, saying that her husband is away. There’s something desperate in the way she asks him. Davin leaves her but sees she is still standing in the doorway as he walks off down the road.
This story brings to mind images of other women Stephen has seen standing in doorways, looking out; he attributes some quality of these images to the Irish "race."
A girl selling flowers interrupts Stephen. She begs him to buy a bunch of blue flowers. Stephen is briefly touched, then irritated by her.
Stephen walks down Grafton Street, Dublin’s main thoroughfare. He notices a slab in the sidewalk in memory of Wolfe Tone (awesome name, right?), an Irish revolutionary of the 18th century. Stephen bitterly remembers attending the dedication of the slab with his father.
Stephen finally arrives at University College, located near Stephen’s Green Park. Once there, he feels oddly disconnected from the Dublin of the outside world.
It’s too late to make it to French class, so Stephen decides to hang out and wait for his next lecture, Physics.
A priest (the dean of studies) is trying to light a fire in the Physics classroom. Stephen, outwardly polite as ever, asks if he can help.
The dean pompously tells Stephen that there’s an art to lighting a fire; he diligently goes about demonstrating said art.
Stephen watches, thinking about how much the priest resembles some ancient servant of the Lord, preparing the temple for a sacrifice. His body and soul have grown old in this servitude, but, as Stephen reflects, have come no closer to divinity.
Stephen and the dean watch the fire catch. Stephen comments that he’s sure he couldn’t light a fire.
The dean asks Stephen if he can define beauty, since he’s an artist. Artist or no artist, what a question!
Stephen responds cleverly with some quotations from St. Thomas Aquinas. The priest commends him and then goes to open the door.
Looking into the dean’s eyes, Stephen sees what he thinks of as the soul of a Jesuit, unenthusiastic and joyless.
Stephen and the dean continue their high falutin’ aesthetic discussion. The dean asks Stephen what he’s been working on; Stephen responds that he has been thinking about Aquinas and Aristotle – their knowledge is the "light" he works by. He makes a passing comment about having to find a new (intellectual) lamp once he’s done reading these authors.
This goes over the dean’s head. He misunderstands and thinks Stephen is talking about an actual lamp. He tries to impress Stephen by bringing in some story about an actual lamp owned by Epictetus (a Greek philosopher).
Stephen is profoundly unimpressed by this overly literal turn in the conversation. He inwardly comments that the priest’s face is itself like an unlit lamp, darkened by a dull and torpid soul.
Stephen tells the dean up front that the lamp he’s talking about isn’t actually a lamp. Oh snap.
The dean tries to cover up his mistake; Stephen rubs it in a little, masking his sardonic attitude with a kind of false politeness.
The priest makes a futile attempt to engage in deep conversation with Stephen – this is kind of an embarrassing moment for everyone involved. He starts talking about the proper care of a lamp, including pouring fresh oil into it through a funnel.
Stephen gets caught up on the word "funnel" – he thinks of this object as a "tundish," a word that the priest is not familiar with. It’s actually a word we’re not familiar with, either, so we can’t really blame the dean, here.
The appearance of "tundish" sparks a whole other mini-crisis in Stephen. He looks closely at the dean, an English import living in Ireland, and wonders what brought him to the priesthood.
Stephen is sick of the conversation. He makes a stinging comment that attempts to return to the question of aesthetic; on the inside, he’s still hung up on the whole tundish thing. He is disheartened by the fact that the language they’re speaking belongs to the priest, an Englishman, and not to him. He has a heightened awareness of his other-ness. (Interesting fact: before the Irish people were colonized by the jolly chaps, they spoke another language, Gaelic.)
The dean returns to the topic of aesthetics, but both parties have lost their enthusiasm for this particular conversation. The rest of Stephen’s classmates start to filter in. The dean ends by encouraging Stephen to continue his artistic pursuits.
Stephen feels pity for the priest and for the whole brotherhood of monks… how could he ever have entertained the notion of such a futile existence?
The professor enters, and Physics class begins. Roll call is first; Cranly is absent.
We meet Stephen’s neighbor in the lecture hall, Moynihan. He’s a rambunctious guy, and seems to be one of Stephen’s buddies. As much as a loner like Stephen has buddies at all, that is.
The professor lectures dryly and attempts unsuccessfully to lighten things up a little with a quote from the comic opera The Mikado. The quote is about playing pool with elliptical billiard balls, and Moynihan makes an obvious joke about having ellipsoidal balls. Oh, the subtlety of his wit just astounds us. It is kind of nice to see that Stephen has some peers that aren’t deadly serious, though.
The professor drones on. Stephen and Moynihan exchange snarky remarks. We can recall some scenes like this from our own university careers…
A somewhat brownnosing student from Northern Ireland named McAlister asks a question about an upcoming exam. Moynihan makes a characteristically rude remark; Stephen has similarly resentful thoughts but tries to restrain them.
The lecture ends, and the students emerge into the hall, where MacCann (the guy who called Stephen anti-social) is encouraging them to sign a petition of some sort.
Stephen meets up with Cranly and asks him if he’s signed the petition. Cranly responds in Latin, saying that he has. The petition, apparently, is for universal peace (pretty optimistic, if you ask us).
Cranly has signed, but he doesn’t seem too enthused. The two bicker like an old married couple in a blend of Latin and English (Latglish? Engtin?).
Moynihan approaches to share his enthusiasm for MacCann’s petition with Stephen. Cranly expresses his dislike for Moynihan. Apparently, they used to be friends, but now Cranly calls the other guy "a flaming bloody sugar." Wow, Cranly, that’s quite an… interesting insult.
Stephen wonders if Cranly will ever talk about him the same way. To him, Cranly’s language has none of the quaintness of Davin’s countrified speech; Cranly speaks the language of Dublin.
MacCann comes up and asks Stephen to sign the petition. Stephen’s so not into it. He and MacCann get all up in each other’s faces, and the other students gather round to see what will happen.
A dark, "gipsylike" student, Temple, tries to get involved but is generally ignored.
Stephen and MacCann’s argument escalates, and Cranly plays the peacemaker. Stephen disengages from the conversation.
Temple clearly is a great admirer of Stephen – we’re not guessing this, since he actually comes right out and says it ("I admire you, sir").
As the three of them leave the crowd, Stephen tries to be polite to MacCann, saying that his signature is unimportant. MacCann responds by basically saying that Stephen’s a good guy, but that he needs to think more about other people (which, actually, is probably true).
MacAlister, the Northern Ireland student Stephen and Moynihan talked about in lecture, pipes up as they walk away, basically just saying good riddance.
Temple, trying to get in with Stephen, comments that MacAlister is just jealous. He’s sure Cranly didn’t notice this, but he (Temple) did. We’re starting to get the feeling that Stephen is kind of a rock star among some of the students.
Temple makes another snide little comment, this time about one of the prefects of the college, who apparently was married and had kids before he joined the priesthood. He cackles sketchily.
This is the last straw for Cranly. He’s already sick of Temple, and now he grabs and shakes the annoying little bugger. His favorite curse word, "flaming," makes many appearances here.
Temple just keeps giggling away as Cranly attacks him; Stephen doesn’t do anything.
The three come upon some students playing a ball game; Davin is among them. Temple keeps harassing Stephen, this time asking him what he thinks about Rousseau.
Temple is too ridiculous. Seriously. Stephen just laughs at him, and Cranly, who has had it up to here with this hanger-on, half-jokingly threatens him with a stick. Then, he whips out one of our all-time favorite phrases in this book: "You might as well be talking, do you know, to a flaming chamberpot as talking to Temple." AWESOME.
Before he slinks away, Temple asserts that he is only interested in Stephen, not Cranly, because only Stephen has an independent mind.
Another student, Lynch, makes himself known at this point. Lynch and Cranly wrestle halfheartedly, then break apart.
Stephen ignores them and talks to Davin. Davin admits that he signed the petition.
Stephen makes fun of Davin and asks if his support of universal peace means that he’ll get rid of the Irish revolutionary training manual he has.
Davin tells "Stevie" that he’s "a born sneerer." Which he is.
Stephen sneers at Davin’s nationalist ideas some more. Davin demands to know if Stephen is even Irish at heart, with his lack of dedication to the country’s cause and his crazy name.
Davin asks why Stephen dropped out of their Irish language course (reviving spoken Gaelic was a big part of the Irish nationalist movement of the early 20th century, and it continues today). He suggests that it might be because a girl Stephen likes was talking to a priest a little too intimately.
That last remark hits home. Stephen asks Davin if he’s really as innocent as he seems.
Davin refers to an earlier conversation in which Stephen presumably told him about all of his earlier sins. The conversation upset Davin, but Stephen asserts that he is just what his country and his life have made him.
Davin asks a futile question: why can’t Stephen just be like the rest of them?
Stephen’s real issues with Irish nationalism emerge here. He accuses Davin and his party of destroying good men who believed in their ideals. Dare we say some of his issues with Daddy Dedalus are reemerging here...?
Davin tries to convince Stephen that Ireland should come first and poetry second. Stephen still doesn’t buy it. He vehemently derides Ireland as a pig that eats its own piglets.
Davin gives up and argues with Cranly about the ball game. Stephen is left with Lynch; the two go off together, and Lynch pokes fun at Cranly.
Like Cranly, Lynch has a trademark diss word: yellow. Stephen gets a real kick out of it.
Stephen launches into an explanation of his theory of aesthetics. Lynch complains halfheartedly; he was out getting trashed the night before and is too hungover for theories.
Stephen continues anyway. He’s discussing Aristotle’s definition of tragedy, which must evoke both pity and terror. Stephen is interested in the separate components of pity and terror.
The ideas Stephen puts forth are theoretically interesting but very dry. He argues that "proper" art should not excite physical desire.
Lynch challenges this point, citing a comical incident in which he wrote his name on the backside of a famous statue of Venus to somehow express physical desire.
Stephen attempts to explain this as a simple "reaction of the nerves." It sounds to us a little like he’s flying by the seat of his pants.
Lynch asks Stephen about the definition of beauty, upon which Stephen obligingly pontificates (sounds like his wordiness may be starting to rub off on us…).
Stephen focuses on the "static" nature of beauty. According to him, true beauty has an arresting affect, and it somehow halts and suspends the mind of the observer.
Lynch is unconvinced. Stephen tries to explain himself further by bringing in a discussion of female beauty. His ultimate explanation is that the experience of beauty is a personal one; we can’t generalize about a thing being definitely beautiful or definitely un-beautiful, since people react to it differently. However, it is their reactions to what they perceive to be beautiful that share certain qualities.
Lynch pokes fun at Stephen for his fondness for St. Thomas Aquinas.
The two friends run into a profoundly dull fellow student, Donovan, who insists on talking to them. Stephen and Lynch tolerate him (barely), but both obviously look down upon him and his inferior intellect.
Donovan has heard through the grapevine that Stephen is attempting to write about aesthetics. Stephen denies it, even though we (and Lynch, and probably poor Donovan himself) know perfectly well that he is.
Donovan leaves, and Stephen continues by relating Aquinas’ theory that wholeness, harmony, and radiance (integritas, consonantia, claritas) are the necessary ingredients for beauty. Stephen has his own spin one each of these elements, which he explains at great length.
Next, Stephen, who apparently just never tires, moves to the topic of art. He claims that there are three types of art: lyrical, epical (is that even a word?), and dramatic. He’s been thinking a lot about these different categories. Obviously, to Stephen, this is Very Serious Business.
Lynch laughs. It’s uncertain whether anything is serious to him.
The two companions arrive at the university library. Cranly is there, as well as the girl Stephen is in love with.
Stephen watches the girl, remembering the last time he saw her, when he was sure she was flirting with a priest.
The sight of the girl knocks out all of his ambitious theories, and all of his courage, as well. He kind of spaces out and distracts himself by listening to a dull conversation going on next to him.
The girl gets ready to leave with her friends. Stephen’s feelings are all in a jumble. He’s not sure what he feels and wonders if he judged her "simple and wilful" heart too harshly before.
Before dawn that morning, Stephen awakens, filled with poetic inspiration. His state of ecstasy is described in hyperbolic terms.
Stephen’s dream/vision/whatever combined elements of religious imagery of the Virgin Mary with real memories of his object of affection. Stephen is seized by a poetic paroxysm; we see him in the act of creation. He hurries to write down the verses that come to him before he forgets them.
We actually get to see Stephen’s work for the first time. Eh, it’s okay. It’s a villanelle (a convoluted, medieval verse form with lots of rhyming), and it seems a little stiff because of its adherence to formal rules. But after all, Stephen is still young. We’re meant to see the poem’s flaws but also the genuine feeling that lies behind it.
Stephen relives some of his moments with his beloved. He remembers a few isolated moments: he played and sang songs for her, danced with her at a ball, saw her talking with Father Moran at Irish class. This last image confuses and angers Stephen. Negative encounters with women flood his mind, and he focuses his attention on the figure of the priest, his so-called rival. Stephen pictures himself as a priest in the cult of art.
This thought brings him back to the poem. He finishes writing it down and is exhausted as the morning light fills the room.
Stephen reveals that these are the first verses he’s written for this girl in ten years, ever since they stood together waiting for a tram. That finally allows us to identify her as Emma, the E.C. of his first love poem back in Chapter Two.
He wonders if he should send the poem to her. He’s embarrassed at the thought that her family might see it, so he decides against it.
Stephen feels as though he may have wronged Emma by thinking of her so badly, and he ponders her innocence.
Stephen has the titillating thought that Emma might mystically have known he was thinking of her. This arouses him – the first time we’ve seen him show any sexual desire for a while! Surely this means that he has made some personal progress. Stephen has a steamy mental image of the woman in his poem (part Emma, part seductress).
We see the entire villanelle, in which Stephen rhymes "ardent ways" with "enchanted days." Oh, brother.
Next, Stephen is in the city, observing some birds. He thinks of his mother as he watches them wheel around above, and their cries drown out the memory of her crying. He sees her face in the patterns the flying birds weave in the sky.
Stephen wonders if there’s any truth or use to the ancient art of augury (basically, trying to guess what things will happen by looking at pattern of flying birds).
We find out that Stephen is actually going to leave Ireland (which is probably why his mother was crying and reproaching him). He wonders if the birds are a symbol of departure or of loneliness.
Stephen finds Cranly in the library, talking chess with a mild-mannered medical student, Dixon. A priest complains that they are being too loud, and the three of them leave.
On their way out, they encounter a dwarf, whom they refer to only as "the captain." He has a fondness for the novels of Sir Walter Scott, and Cranly chats with him about his reading.
Stephen wonders if a rumor that the captain is the son of an incestuous aristocratic couple (brother and sister) is true. He imagines the scene of seduction and is disturbed when the hand of the brother in his mental image belongs to Davin.
Dixon and Stephen continue across the hall, leaving Cranly behind. Another student urges them to come over; Temple is making a scene again.
This time he’s harping on about genealogy – why, we don’t know. Cranly, a couple of other students, and Temple all spar verbally. Temple admits that he’s a "ballocks" and doesn’t know anything – and says that Cranly is the same but just won’t admit it.
Stephen wonders if Cranly is blushing because of Temple’s insult. He wonders if the insult is true, and, if so, whether it explains the way his friend shuts him down sometimes.
While he waits for Cranly to talk, Stephen is distracted by his desires, particularly his highly physical desire for Emma.
A louse bites Stephen on the neck, bringing him back to reality. Irritated, he squishes it and imagines other lice falling from him.
He angrily thinks that Emma could love someone else instead of him – perhaps some hairy-chested jock.
Cranly is eating dried figs and hanging out with the other students we saw earlier (such as Temple).
Another student, Glynn, comes up and gets into a religious argument with Temple. The others are all annoyed by Temple once again. Cranly actually gets up and chases Temple.
Temple gets away, as usual, and Cranly returns in a foul temper. Stephen reminds him that they’ve got to talk; they walk away.
Stephen reveals that he has been in a fight with his mom. She wants him to go to church for Easter, but he refuses to serve a God he now doubts. He neither believes nor "disbelieves" in the symbols and services of the Catholic Church.
Stephen admits that he used to believe in the Church, but he was a different person then.
Cranly demands to know whether or not Stephen loves his mother, and more generally, if he has ever loved another person before.
Stephen says he tried to love God; he doesn’t give a straight answer to Cranly’s earnest question.
Cranly says that he should just do whatever will please his mother, who has had a hard life, since it wouldn’t require much effort from Stephen.
Cranly calls Stephen out on the inconsistency of his views; Stephen is shocked when Cranly says something heretical about Jesus, even though he claims to not believe in the Catholic Church anymore anyway. He’s not free enough from the Church’s rules to hear heresy spoken without flinching.
Stephen admits that he is still afraid that Catholic doctrine may be true, even if he doesn’t necessarily believe that it is.
As they walk, the two boys hear a woman singing a love song. It soothes them for a moment, and Stephen imagines a woman singing in church.
The singing ends, and Cranly repeats the refrain of the song. He asks Stephen if he knows what the song means – what to love and be loved means.
Stephen knows it is time for him to leave. He feels his friendship with Cranly coming to an end.
He tells Cranly that he must go away. Cranly wants to know what Stephen will do to achieve his goal of becoming an artist and a free individual.
Cranly asks Stephen if he’s worried about being alone. Stephen isn’t, but Cranly presses the issue, asking if he’s sure he will be all right without even one friend, and without the companionship of someone who is more than a friend (Mother? Father? Lover? God?). We’re not sure whom Cranly is talking about, and neither is Stephen. He asks, but Cranly doesn’t answer.
The section that follows, the last in the book, is where the narrative voice changes from third person to first person. Suddenly we are given direct access to Stephen’s thoughts, as written in his journal.
The first entry relates the conversation we just witnessed with Cranly. Stephen wonders what Cranly’s family is like, and he concludes that Cranly’s mother must be an old woman.
The next morning, he has an odd revelation; Cranly is like John the Baptist. Stephen also refers to Cranly in the past tense, as though their relationship has already ended. He thinks of Cranly’s face as a death mask.
Later that day (the date is given: March 21), Stephen writes that he is "soul free and fancy free." We’re not entirely sure we believe him, but the general sentiment is that he is disentangled from everyone who was holding him back. His makes curious statement, "Let the dead bury the dead. Ay. And let the dead marry the dead," which implies that the rest of the people around him are the dead (historical context alert: Joyce’s first book, a collection of short stories called Dubliners, featured a story called "The Dead").
With Lynch, Stephen follows a plump hospital nurse home. Sooooo sketchy (don’t worry, it was Lynch’s idea). It makes Stephen feel like a predator.
Stephen notes that he hasn’t seen Emma since the night outside the library.
Stephen and his mother get into an argument about the B.V.M (a rather comical acronym for the Blessed Virgin Mary). Stephen’s mother seems to think that he must – and will – come back to religion once his mind is not so "restless."
Stephen goes to University College, talks with an Italian acquaintance, and, oddly, gets a risotto recipe.
He walks through St. Stephen’s Green, his park, and reflects on the fact that the religion to which Ireland is devoted was not even invented by the Irish.
Stephen goes to the library and tries to do some reading, but he’s distracted by the thought of Emma, who he still hasn’t seen.
Stephen has "a troubled night of dreams," which he relates here. First, he describes a curved room filled with stone statues of kings (probably reflecting a diorama mentioned briefly just before, which depicted famous men). They look on, weary and watching. Next, there’s a weirder image of short, indistinct figures with creepy phosphorescent faces.
Outside the library, Stephen sees Cranly lecturing Dixon and Emma’s brother, talking again about mothers and children. Stephen’s tone towards Cranly is resentful.
A couple of days pass. Stephen finally sees Emma out and about. To add insult to injury, Cranly has been invited to join her and her brother. Stephen bitterly wonders if Cranly is the new rock star philosopher at the University. He angrily comments that he "discovered" Cranly.
Stephen runs into Davin, who asks if he’s really going away. Stephen comments that "the fastest way to Tara is viâ Holyhead, which basically means that the best way to achieve Irishness is to leave Ireland (Holyhead is a Welsh port town that harbors ferries from Ireland).
Mr. Dedalus comes up and makes small talk to Davin, who has to leave for a meeting. Stephen’s father likes Davin immediately. We see that he has some very ordinary, optimistic goals for Stephen, like joining a rowing club and studying law. He must not really know his son very well if he thinks these things could possibly happen.
It’s springtime in Dublin, and Stephen is in unusually high spirits, which in this case means thinking about blushing girls.
Emma must remember the past – Stephen believes this because Lynch says all women do (the way Stephen talks about women like they were a different species never ceases to infuriate and amuse). Stephen makes a rather pompous comment about how she must remember her childhood, and his – if he ever was a child. Sigh. Same old melodramatic Stephen.
Stephen mentions Michael Robartes, a character in several Yeats poems (see "Shout Outs"), who longs to hold in his arms a beauty that has passed. Stephen comments rather presumptuously that he wants to press in his arms the beauty that has yet to come into the world.
Stephen writes a kind of prose poem (April 10 entry); he wonders if Emma would like it. He concludes that she would, and thus that he should, too.
The tundish from the first section of Chapter Five is still on Stephen’s mind. He looks it up in the dictionary and discovers that it’s plain old English. He’s upset that the dean of studies didn’t know to acknowledge this, and he wonders what the point is of the English coming to educate the Irish if they don’t even know their own language.
A guy named Mulrennan returns from travels in western Ireland. He met an old man there in a remote mountain cabin, whose isolation frightens and angers Stephen.
Stephen and Emma run into each other in town. They have an awkward discussion; she asks him a bunch of questions. He responds somewhat rudely, realizes it, and attempts to do better. He tries to make up for it by telling her about his plans and future travels, and in his excitement, he makes an embarrassing gesture. They part politely.
For the first time, we see the Emma-Stephen relationship as an actual interaction between two people. Hurrah!
He admits that he liked her today – Emma for herself, not what he "thought [he] thought" or "felt [he] felt" before. This is too much to cope with though, and he decides to go to bed.
Stephen is getting ready to go. He feels the call of the road and the sea.
Stephen’s mother seems resigned to his departure; she is packing his "new secondhand clothes" for him. She hopes that he will learn what the heart really is when he’s away.
Stephen is ecstatic in these last few lines. He welcomes life and all it has to offer, saying that he will go and "forge" the conscience of his people through his writing.
Finally, the novel ends as Stephen invokes Daedalus one last time. He refers to the craftsman as "old father, old artificer," and asks him to keep watch over his namesake.