This post contains spoilers for A Dark Room.
In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and while still a young boy, the novel’s protagonist, Stephen Dedalus, writes on the flyleaf of his geography book:
Class of Elements
Clongowes Wood College
The Universe (James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Dover, pg. 7-8)
As an exmple of a bildungsroman, a novel about human development, maturation, and growing up, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man uses this moment to emphasize Stephen’s burgeoning awareness of himself and his relationship to and awareness of the world around that self. Indeed, all human deveopment is marked by this exponentially growing sense of the self in relationship to a larger world. We all begin life with a sense only of the immediacy of the self and its own needs, before becoming aware of a small corner of the world around ourselves, before then becoming aware of how that corner fits into a larger and larger universe.