A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
How we cite our quotes:
Trudging along the road or standing in some grimy wayside public house his elders spoke constantly of the subjects nearer their hearts, of Irish politics, of Munster and of the legends of their own family, to all of which Stephen lent an avid ear. Words which he did not understand he said over and over to himself till he had learnt them by heart: and through them he had glimpses of the real world about them. The hour when he too would take part in the life of that world seemed drawing near and in secret he began to make ready for the great part which he felt awaited him the nature of which he only dimly apprehended. (2.1.6)
In the company of his father and Uncle Charles, Stephen feels his own youth and lack of understanding acutely. He struggles to follow their conversations, learn their vocabulary, and absorb the "real world" they discuss, waiting for the moment of his own adulthood, but as far as we can tell, he has no understanding of what that grown-up life entails. Also, we notice that Stephen already has a sense of some "great part" that he’ll play in the world – do we think this tendency towards grandiosity is just part of his nature?
The causes of his embitterment were many, remote and near. He was angry with himself for being young and the prey of restless foolish impulses, angry also with the change of fortune which was reshaping the world about him into a vision of squalor and insincerity. Yet his anger lent nothing to the vision. He chronicled with patience what he saw, detaching himself from it and tasting its mortifying flavour in secret. (2.2.4)
Here, the powerlessness of youth angers Stephen, even though, of course, there’s nothing he can do about it. There is nothing exciting about childhood here; in this new setting (Dublin), Stephen has lost the carefree spirit we saw at times in Blackrock.
Another nature seemed to have been lent him: the infection of the excitement and youth about him entered into and transformed his moody mistrustfulness. For one rare moment he seemed to be clothed in the real apparel of boyhood… (2.3.45)
For once, Stephen actually feels young again (this sounds awfully curmudgeonly, especially when said about a teenage boy, but hey, that’s Stephen for you). We wonder what he would be like if he could sustain this feeling of youthful camaraderie.