I first read this novel years ago as an undergrad, and I realize now all the finer points I missed. What interest me most is Steven Dedalus development towards being the artist he will become in the end of the novel.

What I have noticed that interest me and that I would like to explore more in the future is a recurring mirror/glasses motif. As existentialist like Sartre tells us or psychologist like Lacan inform us, a subjective self can only emerge through encountering the other.

I would be interested in seeing how Lacan’s mirror stage can be applied here since Lacan says that this identifying with the other doesn’t necessarily have to be an other person but can be any object. This conception of an emerging consciousness through the other, by way of this mirror/glasses motif, is seen at the very beginning of the novel, “…his father looked at him through a glass” (20). It is here that Steven first begins to identify with something outside himself– a story, “He was a baby tuckoo.”

Again, when Steven goes home the first time for Christmas break, Stephen’s father is looking at himself in a mirror, and once at the table, Mr. Dedalus, “put up his eyeglass” (39). This is the first time Stephen is eating at “the grown up table” so again there are references to glasses or a mirror at an important moment in Stephen’s life.

Within the first two sections, this culminates when Stephen breaks his glasses. With his glasses broken, Stephen gets unjustly punished for not doing his work, but it is because of this moment that Stephen shows his first real sign of breaking away from his families beliefs and becoming his own person. The contrast here is sharply felt. This comes soon after the scene in which Dante tells Casey and Mr. Dedalus that the Holy Roman Church and its priest should be followed above all else, with blind faith. Stephen at this point sympathizes with Dante wondering why his uncle would be against a priest, “But why was he then against the priest? Because Dante must be right then” (44). But Stephen now challenges the authority of the priest by going to the rector and telling the rector how Father Dolan had been wrong.

I believe this moment is the beginning of Stephen’s cynicism towards his faith. This is, not the first time in the novel stephen questions his religious belief, but the first time he actually verbally articulates it, “The prefect of studies was a priest but that was cruel and unfair” (59). As is seen, so cruel and unfair that Stephen goes and informs the rector.