In the various settings in the novel, each setting helps affect the characters and the plot. The national setting, Ireland, helps show how each person feels about their country. Some of the characters are apathetic while others are nationalists who want to change the way things are. Clongowes and Belvedere are two religious schools that Stephen attends. These two schools effect the way he reacts to religion and to people around him because they were both religious schools that required him to conform to their beliefs. It could not take place in England because of the economic and social circumstances that the characters have to go through.
England is the country oppressing Ireland, which would make it difficult to have it take place there. It would be possible for it to be set in America during the American Revolution because there was a strong sense of patriotism during that time for many people. With a few changes, it is possible to change the setting from Ireland to America. The influences of the government and how they are treated shape the characters in the novel and how they react to specific problems.
Joyce uses religious imagery and language throughout the novel in order to express the religious nature of Ireland and the different people that it effects. Stephen has many doubts of his religious faith because of various events in his life and in the country. Parnell, an Irish nationalist, attempts to help save Ireland, but fails to because of his sins. Father Dolan beats him with a pandybat even though he did not do anything wrong. People judge him constantly because he does not fully support them. All these reasons cause him to doubt his religion and causes him to want to be free of it. He cannot understand how religion causes so many problems when it is idealistically supposed to be good and beneficial to the people. This causes him to have many doubts about religion.
Father Arnall’s three sermons about the torments of hell cause him to become devoutly religious because of his experiences with the prostitute right before the three sermons and Father Arnall makes the sermon sound like it is directed towards him. He feels that his sinful nature was wrong and wants to be free of his sins. He is not satisfied with what he has done in the past and feels that he needs to change his ways in order to be understood and helped by others.
Stephen’s parents affect his character development in many ways. The various changes in schools, financial problems, and their beliefs cause him to have many different experiences and problems in his life. His father symbolizes the apathetic nature of Ireland and Stephen is annoyed with his father’s beliefs and lifestyle. He does not like the fact that his father is very lazy, is a drunkard, and cannot save money for his family. Stephen’s mother is very religious and wants Stephen to also be very religious. She does not have a major role in the book, but she shows that positives of religious faith for Stephen. He in the end cannot tolerate her devout religious nature, but does care for her deeply. Stephen feels that he needs to escape from his family because he cannot understand their views or their actions. He wants to be free of all restraints and his family would create a burden on his artistic nature.
This section of the book is effective in plausibly recreating the thoughts of a very young boy because it is very fragmented and constantly changes. Stephen’s method of writing is like a stream of consciousness and he does not dwell on one thought for very long. Joyce attempts to capture the random thoughts that enter into a young boys’ mind and it is very effective in showing how a child can jump from one thought to another. He goes from hearing his father’s story of the moocow to talking to his peers at Clongowes School. Stephen moves from place to place in the novel and it can change without warning. He spends a short time thinking about a nursery, and then it jumps to the schoolyard at Clongowes, into a classroom, study hall, etc. We follow his steps as he goes through his life as a young child at the school. It ends with him being in the infirmary because Wells pushes him into a cesspool. The first chapter is very random, which is most likely very similar to the thoughts and feelings of a young child.
Art is an appealing escape for Stephen because it does not require him to conform and change his beliefs. He can make it into anything that he wants while religion, family, school, and country force him to change. Everyone around him wants him to support their beliefs, while art is a free form that does not require anything in return for him. Religion forces him to conform to their beliefs and does not allow him to express his true feelings, family causes a burden to his life because of their financial crises and beliefs. They want him to be religious, etc. School forces him to listen and follow their rules. People do not understand his views in his elementary schools or at the university. For example, the rector acts like he understands when Father Dolan beats him with a pandybat, but he really does not and only makes fun of him afterwards. The country requires him to become patriotic and force him into that belief and fight for it.
It is hypocritical because the religious beliefs of the country kill its only hero. While these aspects force him to change, art is a form of freedom and expression for Stephen. Stephen’s aesthetic theory directly relates to his own beliefs and that his art should stand by itself and be independent. He searches for beauty in various forms and his aesthetic theory makes sense in his mind. It is very thought provoking and shows how his mind works.
Stephen is somewhat and outcast throughout the novel and has more contrasting views than he does similar with his friends from childhood and the ones that he meets when he is older. Many of the characters do not understand his aesthetic theory or what he is trying to accomplish. When he is younger and still learning about everything that is going on in the world, he wants to feel more connected with it and he does not want to be an outcast. When he is a child and is pushed into the cesspool by Wells, he wants to respond to Wells’ question correctly in order to fit in with the rest of the boys. He does not know whether it is right or wrong to kiss his mother and would like to know which would be the correct response.
When he is older, he is annoyed with people who are different from he is and wants them to understand his theories and beliefs. Many characters dislike his views and want them to conform to their standards and beliefs. For example, Cranly is annoyed with Stephen because of his refusal to sign a petition. Although many of the characters are different from Stephen, Stephen admires some of his classmates in the university. He admires Davin for his patriotic and loyal nature, and Lynch admires Stephen’s independence. Early in his life he did not like being an outcast, but as he grows more into an artist, he does not mind being a freethinker.
Stephen’s burgeoning sexuality plays a major role on Stephen’s character after his experience with the prostitute. After he loses faith in his family because of the economic problems that Simon Dedalus causes, he feels that he has lost his innocence as a child. His experience with the prostitute jumps him into adulthood and a changed way of thinking. He is very curious about his own sexuality in the middle parts of the novel and it causes him to grow as a character. The prostitute complicates his Catholic morals because it is looked down upon in the Catholic Church. He feels guilty and believes in chapter three that it was a crime and wrong to have this experience. After he hears Father Arnall’s three sermons, he cannot help but feel guilty and immerse himself in his religion.
This experience leads him to many different stages in his life, he becomes deeply religious and is asked to become part of the church, and then he defies everything and learns that it is okay for him to have these feelings. He learns that it is not wrong for him to have these feelings and grows in to the artist. He is attracted to many other girls in the novel that shape his character and he reaches an epiphany that he wants to become an artist when he sees a girl in the water. He writes one poem in the book and that is to Emma Clere. His different experiences with women; from his childhood crush to Eileen Vance to his experience with the prostitute, causes many dramatic changes in his views. The experience with the prostitute and his burgeoning sexuality helps shape his character at the end of the novel and helps him decide to leave the country and become an artist.