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The soul is born, he 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.—Stephen Dedalus, actually James Joyce.
A mostly autobiographical novel by James Joyce, written in stream-of-consciousness style. It deals with Stephen Dedalus' struggle to express himself. The story takes us from his early life as a boy to his struggles with the Church, and Irish society in general, as a young adult. The crux of the plot is Dedalus' struggle with his autonomy against the wishes of the Roman Catholic Church.
The novel was published in serialized form from 1914 to 1915. Then collected in book form in 1916. The story started life as a rewrite of the novel "Stephen Hero", which Joyce was working on from 1904 to 1906. Joyce was not satisfied with the earlier work. Though Stephen Hero itself was published in 1944, following the author's death.
Tropes Used In The Novel Include:
- Author Avatar: Stephen Dedalus is James Joyce if he hadn't become famous.
- Break the Cutie: Stephen gets a taste of this during the Father Dolan episode.
- Coming of Age Story
- A Date with Rosie Palms: It was either this or visiting a prostitute.
- The Determinator
- Evil Smells Bad: When Stephen goes to a sermon, the priest gives a sermon/rant about the horrors of hell, such as the eternal smell of decaying corpses.
- Everything's Better with Cows: In the first line, no less.
Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo....
- Fear of Thunder
- Fire and Brimstone Hell: Stephen regains his religion after hearing a firey sermon about this very topic.
- Gosh Dang It to Heck: Stephen's friend Cranley says "sugar" when he means something else. Lynch says "yellow." Stephen tells him "It was a great day for European culture, when you made up your mind to swear in yellow."
- Have a Gay Old Time: Early on in the first chapter, the narrator describes a washbasin with "cocks with printing on it", which is "queer".
- Ho Yay: Stephen/Cranly. Consider the following
Cranly seized his arm and steered him round so as to head back...he laughed almost slily and pressed Stephen's arm with an elder's affection.--And you made me confess to you, Stephen said, thrilled by his touch, as I have confessed to you so many other things, have I not?
--Cunning indeed! he said. Is it you? You poor poet, you!
—Yes, my child, Cranly said, still gaily.
- And a bit later:
Cranly, grave now, slowed his pace and said:
--Alone...you know what that word means? Not only to be separate...but to have not even one friend.
--I will take the risk, said Stephen.
-- And not to have any one person, Cranly said, who would be more than a friend, more even than the noblest and truest friend a man ever had.
His words seemed to have struck some deep chord in his own nature. Had he spoken of himself, of himself as he was or wished to be? Stephen watched his face for some moments in silence. A cold sadness was there. He had spoken of himself, of his own loneliness which he feared.
--Of whom are you speaking? Stephen asked at length.
Cranly did not answer.
- Very early in the story, the boys at Stephen's school discuss classmates who have run away after being 'caught', and are to be brought back and punished. What were they doing? Speculation runs rampant until one fellow shuts them up grimly: "Smugging. And that's why." (Irish for snogging). It's also implied that the teacher who will cane the miscreants will not flog them very hard because he too is gay -- but this incident also sets off a shitstorm of preventative maintenance by obsessed cleric Father Dolan, who may be sublimating Pedophile Priest desires. (For more discussion of HoYay in Portrait, click here.)
- In Dublin's Fair City
- Intelligence Equals Isolation
- Irish Political System: The Irish Parliamentary Party and Charles Stuart Parnell (and his divorce crisis and death) figure prominently in the first few episodes of the story.
- Multiple Narrative Modes: The book is almost entirely told in the third person, but lapses into first-person diary entries at the very end.
- Once Upon a Time: See the entry for Everything's Better with Cows.
- Professional Sex Ed: Practically forced on him.
- Sadist Teacher
- Stream of Consciousness