Joyce's fictional recreation of himself. Stephen is the hero of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and all events of the book are filtered through his consciousness. He is extremely sensitive and imaginative, and we watch as he develops into a fiercely independent young man. He is the oldest son of Simon and Mary Dedalus, Irish Catholics with ten other children. Because of his intellectual gifts and his position as the oldest child, the family scrapes together enough money to pay for his education. Stephen is an extremely dynamic character. Although he keeps the core traits of imaginativeness and sensitivity throughout his life, Stephen evolves from a shy, almost awkward boy to a brave and brilliant young man. He finally comes to realize that Ireland is a trap for him, and that he must escape the bonds of family, religion, and country if he is to be able to create.
Stephen's father, husband to Mary. Simon, once a medical student, is a financially inept man whose blunders plunge the Dedalus family deeper and deeper into poverty. He is an Irish nationalist. With Simon, one senses constantly that the best days are already behind him. He is deeply nostalgic, and sometimes full of unsolicited cliché advice for his son.
Stephen's mother, wife to Simon. Mary is quite religious, and is deeply concerned when Stephen, during his college days, develops an increasingly hostile attitude toward the Roman Catholic Church. She is burdened with the raising of ten children, with financial circumstances always becoming worse.
No child manages to stick out. They are minor characters in the novel, usually lumped together as a group. They have been denied many of the privileges that Stephen has had.
A young Protestant girl, neighbour to the Dedalus. Stephen and Eileen play together when both are still too young to be in school. When young Stephen says he will marry her when he grows up, Dante is infuriated because Eileen is Protestant.
Stephen's great uncle, lively in Stephen's youth but dead before Stephen is a teenager. Stephen's fondest childhood memories are of long walks with Uncle Charles, who lives with the family.
Governess to the Dedalus children. Dante works for the Dedalus family during the years when the family's financial situation is better. She is deeply religious, and puts the Catholic faith and loyalty to the Church above all else. When Stephen is a young boy, the first Christmas dinner he sits with the adults, Dante becomes involved in a terrible argument with Mr. Casey and Simon Dedalus over the death of Irish nationalist Charles Parnell.
Young boy, student at Clongowes. Bully who pushes Stephen into the cesspool, which leads to Stephen becoming very ill. Stephen earns a little of the other boys' respect when he does not rat on wells.
Monk who works in the Clongowes infirmary. Kindly and gentle, who reassures Stephen and Athy, the other sick boy, and reads to them from the paper. From the article in the paper, Stephen learns of the death of Irish politician Charles Parnell.
Young boy, student at Clongowes. Stephen is sick with Athy in the Clongowes infirmary.
Mr. John Casey
Simon Dedalus's friend and Irish nationalist. When Stephen is a young boy, the first Christmas dinner he sits with the adults, Mr. Casey becomes involved in a terrible argument with Dante over the death of Irish nationalist Charles Parnell.
The rector of Clongowes Wood College, where the child Stephen goes to school. He later helps to arrange Stephen's attendance at Belvedere college.
Prefect at Clongowes. He unjustly punishes Stephen with a smacking from the pandybat. Young Stephen screws up the courage to complain about the incident to Father Conmee.
Latin teacher at Clongowes Wood College. Later, when Stephen is a teenager at Belvedere, Father Arnall delivers three fiery sermons on the tortures of hell. Stephen, who has taken to using prostitutes, is frightened back into faith.
A friend of Simon Dedalus. After the Dedalus family moves to Blackrock, he agrees, at Simon's request, to train Stephen in running.
A neighbouring young boy who becomes Stephen's best friend in Blackrock. They plays at having adventures, leading the other boys of the neighbourhood on imaginary quests.
Stephen's love interest. She makes Stephen ridiculously shy, and usually he is unable to work up the courage to talk to her. Stephen has somewhat superficial ideas about women; for Stephen, Emma is more like a muse than a flesh-and-blood person. Since all characters and events of the book are filtered through Stephen, we knew almost nothing about her. While still a boy, he writes his first poem to her ("To E----- C----- -"); the poem is a failure. Ten years later, he is inspired by her again and writes a poem that is a success.
One of Stephen's best friends at university. Stephen trusts and respects him enough to share all of his fears and feelings with him. Intelligent and sensible, his questions help Stephen to understand himself. In the end, Stephen realizes that Cranly belongs in Ireland in a way that he doesn't; at this point, he realizes that their friendship will inevitably end.
Stephen's friend at university. Davin comes from good Irish peasant stock. He is simple and pleasant. Stephen is frustrated by Davin's unimaginativeness and his thick-skulled Irish patriotism, but something about Davin's nature touches him.
Stephen's friend at university. During a hurling match, Lynch obligingly listens to Stephen's theories about aesthetics.
Stephen's peer at university. McCann is deeply involved in politics and tries to get Stephen to sign a petition.
Stephen's peer at university. Temple is somewhat tiresome, sometimes self-deprecating but often abrasive or pretentious. He admires Stephen.
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Questions and Answers
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