A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

“But Mr. Gleeson had round shiny cuffs and clean white wrists and fattish white hands and the nails of them were long and pointed. Perhaps he pared them too like Lady Boyle. But they were terribly long and pointed nails. So long and cruel they were though the white fattish hands were not cruel but gentle. And though he trembled with cold and fright to think of the cruel long nails and of the high whistling sound of the cane and of the chill you felt at the end of your shirt when you undressed yourself yet he felt a feeling of queer quiet pleasure inside him to think of the white fattish hands, clean and strong and gentle.”

James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. p. 38.

The description of these hands transforms through the passage, as cruel but then later distinguished as gentle.

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