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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

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Language and Communication Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Section.Paragraph). Within each chapter you will find unnumbered sections. These sections are separated by asterisks; in our citations, we’ve numbered these sections for simplicity’s sake.

Quote #1

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.
Dante said:
– 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,

Apologise. (1.1.9)

Stephen is a poet, and at this point, he doesn’t even know it. As a small child, he already demonstrates a keen ear and a fascination with language that reveals his artistic sensitivity from an early age.

Quote #2

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. (1.1.16)

Throughout the book, Stephen is arrested by certain words; he is unusually hung up on understanding the true meanings of words. Language, to him, possesses a certain quality of foreignness or mystery.

Quote #3

How beautiful and sad that was! How beautiful the words were where they said Bury me in the old churchyard! A tremor passed over his body. How sad and how beautiful! He wanted to cry quietly but not for himself: for the words, so beautiful and sad, like music. The bell! The bell! Farewell! O farewell! (1.2.82)

Stephen has strong emotional reactions to the aesthetic qualities of language, and though he can’t explain it, this "beautiful and sad" line acts powerfully upon him. The repetition of "beautiful and sad," "sad and beautiful" shows us that he just doesn’t have the vocabulary to express his complex response to this moment.

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