A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
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A restless feeling of guilt would always be present with him: he would confess and repent and be absolved, confess and repent again and be absolved again, fruitlessly. Perhaps that first hasty confession wrung from him by the fear of hell had not been good? Perhaps, concerned only for his imminent doom, he had not had sincere sorrow for his sin? But the surest sign that his confession had been good and that he had had sincere sorrow for his sin was, he knew, the amendment of his life.
– I have amended my life, have I not? he asked himself (4.1.14)
Even at the peak of Stephen’s rigorous religious discipline, he still has doubts that he has done enough. This is typical and unsurprising – after all, even if God himself showed up and said "Hey, Stephen, enough already," he would probably still have doubts. This is the old Stephen we know and love, not the passive, unquestioning dude we’ve seen most of the time in this chapter. His nagging dissatisfaction is what lets us know that Stephen’s destiny doesn’t lie in the religious life.
Disheartened, he raised his eyes towards the slow-drifting clouds, dappled and seaborne. They were voyaging across the deserts of the sky, a host of nomads on the march, voyaging high over Ireland, westward bound. The Europe they had come from lay out there beyond the Irish Sea, Europe of strange tongues and valleyed and woodbegirt and citadelled and of entrenched and marshalled races. (4.3.13)
Stephen’s wanderlust begins to kick in. The seduction of Europe calls to him even before he’s made up his mind to leave. The intimidating description of the continent appeals to Stephen’s combative feelings at this point.
There was a lust of wandering in his feet that burned to set out for the ends of the earth. On! On! his heart seemed to cry. Evening would deepen above the sea, night fall upon the plains, dawn glimmer before the wanderer and show him strange fields and hills and faces. Where? (4.3.21)
Ireland can no longer contain Stephen, and he’s ready to expand his horizons, literally and figuratively.