Many of the events of this novel are seen through a haze of murky discontent. Joyce poses dissatisfaction as a necessity of the developing artist. Our protagonist’s unhappiness with his setting, his family, and most of all, himself, are fundamental to his eventual transformation from observant child to blooming writer. Until he realizes that his vocation is to become a writer, he feels aimless, alone, and uncertain. However, we get the feeling that he could never arrive at this conclusion without undergoing his period of profound dissatisfaction. It is this lingering sense of malcontent that forces Joyce’s character to confront his personal anxieties and uncertainties in order to get past them.
Stephen’s natural inclination to question and analyze makes it fundamentally impossible for him to ever achieve contentment of any kind.
Stephen’s dissatisfactions have nothing to do with Ireland.