Youthful Disillusionment

In many ways, Stephen Dedalus reminds me of the young boy in “Araby.” One striking similarity is in how both the boy and Stephen feel a sense of separation from the rest of the world. For the boy in “Araby,” this disillusionment occurs during the days leading up to his excursion to the bazaar. He describes himself as “having hardly any patience with the serious work of life which, now that it stood between me and my desire, seemed to me child’s play, ugly monotonous child’s play,” (24). Going to the bazaar (and consequently winning the love of Mangan’s sister) overcomes him. It holds far more importance than his everyday life; he anticipates and desires something more than school work and street games. The young Stephen Dedalus experiences a similar situation as an adolescent. He notes, “the noise of children at play annoyed him and their silly voices made him feel, even more keenly than he had felt at Clongowes, that he was different from the others,” (59). Of course, as a young artist, Stephen is different from the others. This was evident in his childhood days at Clongowes, where he struggled to fit in with the rest of the boys. Now, as an adolescent, he can more accurately describe the feeling. At the end of this passage, he describes a transformation that he hopes will someday occur, where “weakness and timidity and inexperience would fall from him in that magic moment,” (60). Like the boy in Araby, Stephen anticipates something greater looming in his life to come. The byproduct of this anticipation is a feeling of disillusionment from the here and now.


2 thoughts on “Youthful Disillusionment

  1. amybunselmeyer

    I completely agree. The separation from everyone and everything else in both characters really stood out to me as well. I wonder if Joyce saw this as something common to all maturing boys. Because Portrait of an Artist is so autobiographical I’m sure Joyce felt that same sense of separation, but I wonder if this is something he thought everyone went through, or if he saw it as something that was unique to the mind of an artist. I think you worded it nicely when you said that the boys are both anticipating something greater, but are disillusioned by what they have now. I also wonder if Joyce thought people ever really reach that “something greater” or if they’re always disillusioned with the present.

  2. jsdrouin

    It’s intriguing to note that disillusionment with the present circumstances anticipates a greater life to come, because the other side of that coin is both boys’ deep investment in the illusions of their imaginations. How might “illusionment” figure into this equation?


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