A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce Treatment of Childhood Commonplace

“And she did not like him to play with Eileen because Eileen was a protestant and when she was young she knew children that used to play with protestants and the protestants used to make fun of the litany of the Blessed Virgin. Tower of Ivory, they used to say, House of Gold! How could a woman be a tower of ivory or a house of gold? Who was right then?”

James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, ed. Jeri Johnson (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2000),pg 29.

Within this quote Joyce treats Stephen’s ignorance on religious intolerance as a show of his innocence. It seems as a showcase of how Joyce wishes to frame the mindset of a child like Stephen where these notions of difference are meaningless to children, as if this intolerance of not being friends with someone due to a difference of religion is a learned behavior not an innate one. Thus Stephen understands the reason why Dante does not like Eileen but not the intention of it, which is a interesting way to frame such an understanding of childhood.