English Per. 7
December 7, 2010
Chapter 2 Response
Chapter two had many new themes and has many that connect to chapter one. One of the themes is Stephen’s desire to be older, and how the chapter illustrates his transition from childhood to adulthood. Stephen’s desire to be older is illustrated when Joyce says, “He was angry of 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 squaldor and insincerity” (69). The beginning of the sentence demonstrates Stephen’s frustration with being young and naïve to the world around him, and how he longs to be more mature and to be taken more seriously as a man, and not just a boy. This is described later in the chapter when he is at a bar with his father and his father’s friends, and they both treat him as if he were a five year old. The end of the sentence about reshaping the world describes Stephen’s knowledge of what he knows is happening in the world which is the fighting between England and Ireland, and how he wants to be involved with the arguments with his family and friends instead of just sitting on the sidelines.
Stephen’s desire to be older becomes even more elaborate as the novel progresses with fatherly authority over him. The fatherly authority makes Stephen feel vulnerable and weak, but he believes that when he grows up and becomes a man there will be no authority figure in his life, except for himself. Joyce says, “…he had heard about him the constant voices of his father and of his masters, urging him to be a gentleman above all things and urging him to be a good catholic above all things. These voices had now come to be hallowsounding in his ears” (88). The beginning of this quote affirms Stephen’s annoyance with his authority figures telling him what to do. It also explains what Stephen’s values are supposed to be according to his father and his masters. The ending of this quote describes how Stephen is now immune to their orders. It also shows how Stephen is beginning to lose respect for his elders as he grows older and begins to gain more respect as a young adult. This can also be developed into Stephen’s becoming independent and self-determining in the novel.
The final step in Stephen’s transition into manhood is when he goes to a prostitute. Stephen believes that going to the prostitute will finally affirm his manhood and gain him respect. When Stephen is at the prostitute he is unable to kiss her until she kisses him. Joyce says, “But his lips would not bend to kiss her” (107). This could prove weakness on Stephen’s part, because first he makes the defiant decision to go to the prostitute, but then he appears to have chickened out. This seems to go the opposite of Stephen’s plan to prove his masculinity when it actually proves his weakness. This is again described by Joyce, “He closed his eyes, surrendering himself to her…” (108). This also confirms Stephen’s weakness when it says ‘surrendering himself’ which may show the reader that Stephen has no power in this situation or that he just simply gave up in his push for masculinity and authority because his plan was not working. This does nothing more than push Stephen back to square one, of being a small innocent school boy being told what to do and to be ordered around constantly. The ending of chapter two is similar to the ending of chapter one, with a triumph in Stephen’s life, but then chapter two began with Stephen’s father tearing down his triumph. I believe this will happen again in chapter three, that Stephen’s encounter with the prostitute will not bring his masculinity up, but tear it down.