A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: Rejecting Piety.

“Some instinct, waking at these memories, stronger than education or piety, quickened within him at every near approach to that life, an instinct subtle and hostile, and armed him against acquiescence. The chill and order of the life repelled him. He saw himself rising in the cold of the morning and filing down with the others to early mass and trying vainly to struggle with his prayers against the fainting sickness of his stomach. He saw himself sitting at dinner with the community of a college. What, then, had become of that deep-rooted shyness of his which had made him loth to eat or drink under a strange roof? What had come of the pride of his spirit which had always made him conceive himself as a being apart in every order?” (135)

Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. New York: Oxford UP, 2000. Print.

Despite Stephen’s knowledge about hell, both terrifying and detailed, he is repulsed by the idea of joining the holy order. Something must give: he either must forfeit his pursuit of guaranteed salvation, or he must accept the risk of eternal punishment. In this case, given he (at this point) steadfastly believes in God, the rational option is a pursuit of priesthood. However, an “instinct” overrides the prudential option.

Stephen “sees” himself in the future. Will Stephen choose to limit the size of his choice-set as it relates to other paths? Is any decision final given he seems to oscillate between full devotion and convenience? 

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