Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Explain Stephen's refusal to become a priest.


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"The director of the school asks Stephen to his office. Having noticed Stephen's piety and his academic talent, the director wants Stephen to consider the priesthood. The director tries to draw Stephen to the calling by describing the incredible responsibility and power of a priest. The idea is not without its appeal for Stephen. But after he leaves the rector's office, he continues to reflect on the life of a priest. He thinks about a long life of pondering obscure questions of Catholic doctrine. Even more vividly, he imagines the stale odour in halls of Clongowes, and of spending his life wandering through corridors such as these; in the end, he realizes that such a life repulses him. The life of a priest would be contrary to Stephen's desire for freedom and independence. On the way home, he sees a tidy shrine to the Virgin; walking in a lane that leads to his home, he notices the faint smell of rotting cabbages coming from the kitchen gardens down by the river. He realizes that his soul belongs to this kind of disorder rather than to the tidiness of the shrine to Mary: he prefers the simple smells and sensations of life and living."