Stephen’s fixation on language is what alerts us to his artistic inclinations from the very beginning of the novel. Both Joyce and his protagonist demonstrate a deep fascination with the purely aesthetic elements of language. Sometimes elements like repetition, rhythm, and rhyme take over the narrative completely. This demonstrates the novel’s stance on Communication: it highlights the arbitrary and sometimes meaningless ways in which language works – and doesn’t work. While the goal of language is to clarify and enlighten, it doesn’t always succeed and is often misused. Joyce and many of his Modernist colleagues (especially T.S. Eliot) were very concerned with the failure of language to successfully communicate ideas.
Stephen’s visceral experience of words and language mark his artistic destiny from the beginning of the novel.
Throughout the novel, Stephen is more affected by words (either spoken or written) than by actions.