“Where was his boyhood now? Where was the soul that had hung back from her destiny, to brood alone upon the shame of her wounds and in her house of squalor and subterfuge to queen it in faded cerements and wreaths that withered at the touch? Or where was he?” (144)
I think that it is very interesting that Stephen attributes female characteristics to his soul, calling it at various times a ‘she.’ In this passage, there is an allusion to her power, a ‘queen,’ but that power has gone away and become ‘faded.’ This may refer to him growing out of childhood and the permanent condition of his soul in an impure state as an adult.
“In a college like this, he said at length, there is one boy or perhaps two or three boys whom God calls to the religious life. Such a boy is marked off from his companions by his piety, by the good example he shows to others. He is looked up to by them; he is chosen perhaps as perfect by his fellow sodalists. And you, Stephen, have been such a boy in this college, prefect of Our Blessed Lady’s sodality. Perhaps you are the boy in this college whom God designs to call to Himself”.
James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008)
Stephen feels proud of himself for receiving this honor and there is amazing imagery in this part of the novel that depicts what is going on in his mind and his idea of being a priest of God.
“His destiny was to be elusive of social or religious orders. The wisdom of the priest’s appeal did not touch him to the quick. He was destined to learn his own wisdom apart from others or to learn the wisdom of others himself wondering the snares of the world.
The snares of the world were its ways of sin.”
James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), pg. 136
I believe this is the moment where Stephen realizes he wants to be an artist.