“The world for all its solid substance and complexity no longer existed for his soul save as a theorem of divine power and love and universality. So entire and unquestionable was this sense of the divine meaning in all nature granted to his soul that he could scarcely understand why is anyway necessary that he should continue to live. Yet that was part of the divine purpose and he dared not to question its use, he above all others who had sinned so deeply and so foully against the divine purpose.”
James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (150)
In the last chapter, Stephen is troubled with guilt and resentment, facing nightmares and fears not based on reality. In Chapter 4, Stephen turns to God and prayer to atone for his sins that he deeply resents. This quote represents the tone shift of existentialism into the passage as Stephen’s devotion emerges. The text references a “divine” power that harbors love and meaning, a concept related to God. Stephen is shown questioning the divine and his purpose in living. However, Stephen halts his existential thought after being reminded of his sin and returns to the importance of the divine purpose.
“The snares of the world were its way of sin. He would fall. He had not yet fallen but he would fall silently, in an instant. Not to fall was too hard, too hard; and he felt the silent lapse of his soul, as it would be at some instant to come, falling, falling but not yet fallen, still unfilled, but about to fall.”
-James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man, (pg. 175)
This passage was the split for me in the story’s tone with how his once very structured and formal speech reverted back to repeating phrases/words, dramatically long sentences, and how one thought took up a whole a paragraph. From this paragraph on the story reads in a very similar way to chapters 1 and 2 versus how it read during chapter 3 and the beginning of chapter 4 (older and more religious influenced Stephen).
“-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
“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?