Guilt and Amendment

“A restless feeling of guilt would always be present with him: he would confess and repent and be absolved, confess and repent and be absolved again, fruitlessly……But the surest sign that his confession had been good and that he had sincere sorrow for his sin was, he known the amendment of his life.

—I have amended my life, have I not? He asked himself” (Joyce, 166).

Throughout Chapter 4 Stephen is constantly trying to justify himself through devoting his life to being a good Catholic, down to the weekday. His tone changes however, when he becomes angry and ashamed that his past temptations come back for him and he has to repent again. Though he says “The very frequency and violence of temptations showed him at last the truth of what he had heard about the trials of the saints” (165) he finds the cycle of penance and “sin” to be constant humiliation and pointless. He changes his tone again when he comes to the realization that his life has changed for the better and he’s saved himself from an eternity of misery. Stephen lets his guilt consume him and keep him secured to his Catholic faith.

Creative Mind

“His evenings were his own; and he pored over a ragged translation of The Count of Monte Cristo. The figure of the dark avenger stood forth in his mind for whatever he had heard or divined in childhood of the strange and terrible. At night he built up on the parlour table an image of the wonderful island cave out of transfers and paper flowers and coloured tissue paper and strips of the silver and golden paper in which chocolate is wrapped. When he had broken up this scenery, weary of its tinsel, there would come to his mind the bright picture of Marseilles, of sunny trellises and of Mercedes.”
-James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man, (pg. 68)

This passage was interesting to me, because this brought to mind the discussion from our previous class about how Stephen displays signs of having a highly creative mind. This passage displays his ability to use common objects (usually considered trash) to create something, in this case a scene from a book he likes.

How Stephen conceptualizes the world

“A vague dissatisfaction grew up within him as he looked on the quays and on the river and on the lowering skies and yet he continued to wander up and down day after day as if he really sought someone that eluded him.”

James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Pg. 55)

Stephen is beginning to grow into a young man, and with that growth it is leading him to discover more about his expanding feelings about life and his relationship with other people. As Stephen is growing he has become more of an observer, rather than just escaping into his own imagination. The scene above describes him taking in, with restless wonder, the streets of his new home. I thought it intriguing how he still resides to find meaning in his imagination. Here Stephen imagines what it would be like to really be searching for someone of his affection. One that could reciprocate his new found feelings of desire and want. He urges him forward, even with his growing discontent with his new feelings.


“The light spread upwards from the glass roof making the theatre a festive ark, anchored among the hulks of houses, her frail cables of lanterns looping her to her moorings.”

–  James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Pg.  78)

The theater, in this context, is regarded to as a woman, with pronouns such as “her” used to describe it. This is interesting as this occurs after Stephen comes face with a beautiful woman, and perhaps the narration shows how he is thinking of her even while describing architecture.

Commonplacing Joyce 9/17/23

“-God help us! he said piously, to think of the men of those times, Stephen, Hely Hutchinson and Flood and Henry Grattan and Charles Kendal Bushe, and the noble-men we have now, leaders of the Irish people at home and abroad. Why, by God, they wouldn’t be seen dead in a tenacre field with them.” -James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

No Sympathy for Stephen

“-I told them all at dinner about it and Father Dolan and I and all of us we had a hearty laugh together over it. Ha! Ha! Ha!” (Joyce 76).

Joyce, J., & Deane, S. (2003). A portrait of the artist as a young man. Penguin Books, pp 76

I find it interesting to see the provincials’ words being spoken by Mr. Dedalus as it seems to separate Stephen from the authority figures in his life. Seeing this moment through Stephens’s point of view emphasizes his isolation as he witnesses the adults around him making light of a painful memory.


Social Education

“And it was the din of all these hollowsounding voices that made him halt irresolutely in the pursuit of phantoms. He gave them ear only for a time but he was happy only when he was far from them, beyond their call, alone or in the company of phantasmal comrades.” Joyce, pp. 70

As a growing boy, Stephen faces socialization from many different sources, all attempting to educate him to act the way they want. He appears reticent to listen to them, but who does he want to be in his society and culture?

Maturity Unveils Stephan’s Childhood Ignorance

“For some time he had felt slight changes in his house; and these changes in what he had deemed unchangeable were so many slight shocks to his boyish conception of the world. The ambition which he felt astir at times in the darkness of his soul sought no outlet.”

Joyce, James Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Oxford World’s Classics, pp.53

As Stephan matures, he becomes more perceptive to the state of his surroundings. This can mark artistic development along with maturity as Stephan relates his newfound perspectives with deep reflection and inquisitiveness.


“His tormentors set off towards Jone’s Road, laughing and jeering at him while he, torn and flushed and panting, stumbled after them half blinded with tears, clenching his fist madly and sobbing” (Joyce 69).

Through the first chapter our perception of Stephen dealing with his emotions or expressing it was rather passive. Contrary to chapter one, this chapter shows anger, anxiety and guilt.

Stephen Matures

“Words which he did not understand he said over and over to himself till he had learned them by heart: and through them he had glimpses of the read world about him.”

Joyce, “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” 52.

In chapter one of “Portrait,” we saw Stephen’s developing mind make sense of the world around him through the investigation of words (ex. when Stephen analyzes the different uses for the word “belt,” or when he meditates on the sound of the word “suck”) (Joyce 7, 8). In chapter two, as Stephen matures, we don’t receive the same associative childlike thinking as before, but can still recognize from the content that we are privy to the workings of Stephen’s mind.

saddening behaviors

“She too wants me to catch hold of her, he thought. that’s why she came with me to the tram. I could easily catch hold of her when  she comes up to my step: nobody is looking. I could hold her and kiss her”

James Joyce, “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”, Oxford World’s Classics, New York  2000, pp.58

Are these thoughts truly the thoughts of Stephen, or are they something he was was lead to assume do to the societal influences surrounding him?



Nothing Stirred

“Nothing stirred within his soul but a cold and cruel and loveless lust. His childhood was dead or lost and with it his soul capable of simple joys, and he was drifting amid life like the barren shell of the moon.”
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce, Chapter 2, p.97
His growing up, his adolescent years has led him to a dark recking of his father’s choices, drunkenness and poverty for his family. He is embarrassed by his father’s behavior as they tour his old college and haunts.
Valeri Drach Weidmann/ September 15, 2023/ Judgements on his life especially his father, James Joyce, disillusionment

Ebbing Time

“The tears filled his mild eyes; something precious had passed away. This was the pang that had been sharpest during the last few years- the sense of ebbing time, of shrinking opportunity; and now he felt not so much that his last chance was going as that it was gone indeed. He had done all that he should ever do, and yet he had not done what he wanted”

James, Henry. “The Middle Years” (337)

This passage shows how the main character, Decombe, is going through an end-of-life crisis. He is realizing that his time living is finite, and that time is running out for him, he’s approaching death.

the consequences of infatuation

“‘You chose to let a fortune go?’ ‘I chose to accept, whatever they might be, the consequences of my infatuation,’ smiled Doctor Hugh.” 

James, Henry. “The Middle Years,” (354).

It is interesting how the “good or bad” of a consequence is only measured in how much value you place on what you become enthralled with. Doctor Hugh does not describe the consequences of his infatuation as bad, more matter of fact that he had such adoration and love for Dencombe’s writing, that choosing the literature, over the fortune, was well worth any perceived negative outcome. To him the choice was easy. It is interesting to consider how, although in reality the Countess’s fortune may have more societal value, Doctor Hugh’s personal value shifted with his infatuation. And in the end he smiles when he tells Dencombe he chose him over the fortune.

The details of doubts

“He had been rash, been stupid, had gone out too soon, stayed out too long. He oughtn’t to have exposed himself to strangers, he ought to have taken his servant. He felt as if he had fallen into a hole too deep to descry any little patch of heaven.”
James, Henry. “The Middle Years.” (pg. 345).

James’s description of how Decombe feels about his illness brings insight to how defeated the main character is. The continuous drawl of self scolding for simply going out details how much Decombe has fallen from the peak of his career.

strange abyss

It was the abyss of human illusion that was the real, the tideless deep.

James, “The Middle Years” 355

Human illusion can allude to many things. Is it rooted in deceit and consciousness or is it a more natural state of being? And is the relation this refers to between people or unto them as a whole?

Framing of Setting

“Then his companions, going a little further, waited for him to come up, poking their parasols into the beach, looking around them at the sea and sky and clearly sensible of the beauty of the day.”

James, “The Middle Years,” p. 336

The description of the two ladies as “poking their parasols into the beach” reminds me of the description of Mrs. Dalloway plunging “at Bourton into the open air” from the passage from “Mrs. Dalloway” that we read in class. The writing for both of these segments seems to frame the characters as ‘breaking into’ their settings rather than just framing the settings as backdrops for the character to exist in. And rather than expositing the natural features of the setting, James describes how the two characters are experiencing their time and place, and how they appreciate the natural beauty surrounding them.

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (London: Hogarth, 1925), 3.

The World Is NOT His Oyster

“Oh, the pearl!” poor Decombe uneasily sighed. A smile as cold as a winter sunset flickered on his drawn lips as he added: “The pearl is the unwritten–the pearl is the unalloyed, the rest, the lost!”

James, “The Middle Years,” 353.

Decombe has a contentious relationship with his art; idea of missed opportunities, interpretations, last chances. Presence of art is less valuable than the absence? What value does art have on Decombe vs Doctor Hugh?

Reviving an Art

“He grew vivid, in the balmy air, to his companion, for whose deep refreshment he seemed to have been sent; and was particularly ingenuous in describing how recently he had become acquainted, and how instantly infatuated, with the only man who had put flesh between the ribs of an art that was starving on superstitions.”

James, The Middle Years, 342

Doctor Hugh, a young man, holds great admiration for Dencombe’s work as a revitalization of the art form.  Does this imply that the newer generation of readers were longing for a flight from tradition with new and exciting prose?

the art of observance

“This act, and something in the movement in either party, instantly characterized the performers…for Dencombe’s recreation…What, moreover, was the use of being an approved novelist if one couldn’t establish a relation between such figures”

– Henry James, “The Middle Years“, page 336

The character Dencombe observes the actions of three individuals, a young man, and 2 ladies, and their relations to each other. While his observations may be untrue, the imagination of the character fascinates me, as he could define a narrative in realtime.