A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
The Home Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
…the figure of the woman in the story stood forth reflected in other figures of the peasant women whom he had seen standing in the doorways at Clane as the college cars drove by, as a type of her race and of his own, a bat-like soul waking to the consciousness of itself in darkness and secrecy and loneliness and, through the eyes and voice and gesture of a woman without guile, calling the stranger to her bed. (5.1.25)
Stephen struggles to identify the spirit of "her race and his own" – the Irish people. This concern with the soul or conscience of his race will reappear throughout this chapter.
– The soul is born, [Stephen] said vaguely, first in those moments I told you of. It has a slow and dark birth, more mysterious than the birth of the body. When the soul of a man is born in this country there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets. (5.1.117)
Stephen explains the risks he sees as inherent in Ireland to Davin, the nationalist. Instead of seeing the Irish revolutionary movement as a potential for artistic inspiration like many of his countrymen do (a good example is W.B. Yeats), he views the condition of Irish life as a pitfall.
– Do you know what Ireland is? asked Stephen with cold violence. Ireland is the old sow that eats her farrow. (5.1.118)
Stephen takes his sentiment from the last quote and steps it up a notch in brutality. He claims that Ireland metaphorically devours its own children (a fate he plans to avoid). In short, Ireland’s thwarted sense of nationhood destroys Irishmen.