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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

by James Joyce

Identity Quotes Page 3

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #7

How often had he seen himself as a priest wielding calmly and humbly the awful power of which angels and saints stood in reverence! His soul had loved to muse in secret on this desire. He had seen himself, a young and silent-mannered priest, entering a confessional swiftly, ascending the altarsteps, incensing, genuflecting, accomplishing the vague acts of the priesthood which pleased him by reason of their semblance of reality and of their distance from it. In that dim life which he had lived through in his musings he had assumed the voices and gestures which he had noted with various priests. (4.2.15)

Stephen toys with the idea of being a priest the same way a little boy might fantasize about being Batman – he imagines himself in the costume and creates situations in which he might act. We know very well, however, that this fairy tale doesn’t have anything to do with the reality of the choice Stephen faces here.

Quote #8

He was destined to learn his own wisdom apart from others or to learn the wisdom of others himself wandering among the snares of the world. (4.2.22)

Stephen, en route to his epiphany, reaffirms his otherness. The use of the word "destined" emphasizes the idea that Stephen feels that he is meant for greatness – how much of this attitude are we supposed to take at face value, and how much is Joyce’s irony?

Quote #9

Now, at the name of the fabulous artificer, he seemed to hear the noise of dim waves and to see a winged form flying above the waves and slowly climbing the air. What did it mean? Was it a quaint device opening a page of some medieval book of prophecies and symbols, a hawk-like man flying sunward above the sea, a prophecy of the end he had been born to serve and had been following through the mists of childhood and boyhood, a symbol of the artist forging anew in his workshop out of the sluggish matter of the earth a new soaring impalpable imperishable being? (4.3.16)

The invocation of Daedalus signals a change in Stephen’s life. The imagery he uses underscores again the fact that he is destined for a different life. Here, the implication is that the name "Dedalus" has marked Stephen from the beginning – but then why isn’t the rest of his family also marked for something different? Does he think his family exists just to produce him?

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