James Joyce A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

“It pained him that he did not know well what politics meant and that he did not know where the universe ended. He felt small and weak. When would he be like the fellows in poetry and rhetoric? They had big voices and big boots and they studied trigonometry” (Joyce 14).

Joyce, James. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Penguin Classics, 2003, pg. 14.

I think this passage is very telling of the mind of a child. The reader can relate to Stephen because everyone has had similar thoughts to his growing up. He feels small and out of place, but does not understand that knowledge can be powerful, but it can also be burdensome. All kids want to do is grow up, and all adults wish they could go back to a time that was simple and they were ignorant to the complications that came with things such as politics and trigonometry.