Friday, January 30, 2015


Of all the characters that Stephen interacts with in Portrait, Cranly is the most interesting. He also ends up having an importance influence on Stephen towards the end of the novel.

The first time we meet Cranly (other than the roll-call in the classroom), he is almost ironically acting the comic character, questioning and answering Stephen in Latin. Cranly never seemed to be the bubbling, bouncy, smiling character even when he had his funny moments (and is described as "brooding", "sour", "bitter", "watchful", etc. to give us this impression). Later we see that Cranly acts the complete opposite--when he overemphasizes his annoyance by shouting/screaming/shoving (Temple on multiple occasions and then the portly kid who farts on the steps). I don't think Cranly is actually that angry (his "victims" always seem to be in good humor, maybe he acts like that a lot and they know he isn't really all that angry). Which again, makes him an almost comical character.

The main impression I got from Cranly is that he was the most mature student at the college. He sort of has this attitude like "Cmon guys, seriously?" over a lot of things that he finds petty. For example when Maccan and Stephen are sparring over the Tsar's peace petition paper, Cranly is sort of like "Are you guys serious? Can't get go play handball? etc.". Later when Cranly and Stephen are talking, Cranly acts as the voice of maturity and reason when he calls Stephen out on his babyish behavior regarding Stephen serving in church service. Stephen doesn't want to out of principle or whatever, and Cranly again has that "C'mon, seriously?" vibe going on. "Just do it dude, it's a small act... it wont kill you, it will make your mom happy" etc.

In class it was briefly mentioned that Cranly served the purpose of trying to bring out a little humanity in Stephen, and I think that adding this element to his character really gives him a lot more depth.

"Have you ever loved anyone?"

"I ask if you even felt love towards anyone or anything".

"Your mother must have gone through a good deal of suffering. Would you not try to save her from suffering more even if... or would you?"

"Do as she wishes you to do. What is it for you?"

Cranley asks Stephen.

These sort of questions only act to reaffirm Cranly's maturity.


  1. I agree with this assessment--and it's great that you noted Cranly's sense of humor, the "role" he plays as the guy who's always getting riled up by the immaturity of everyone around him (kind of a parodic mirror of some of Stephen's own private posturings).

    But there's also an important aspect in which Stephen, at least, thinks of Cranly as a "confessor," an almost priestlike figure to whom he can reveal his private thoughts and feelings. It's important for us to remember that Stephen talks with Cranly about stuff he doesn't talk about with anyone else. He may be hesitant to go all the way and commit to a "friendship" with Cranly, it's clear he does confide in him, and this aspect of their relationship is crucial to Stephen. (Thus he waits patiently for Cranly to speak with him, away from all the other boys.)

    In terms of the novel, though, he's there to "talk back" to Stephen, to give us an outside, critical perspective on his "revolt." Ironically, in Stephen's journal it seems like the relationship is still pretty one-sided: Stephen likes to unload on Cranly, but he doesn't seem to take to heart what his "confessor" actually says to him.

  2. This is an interesting perspective on Cranly. I always felt Cranly was around to add another dimension to Stephen and give him another conversationalist. It's hard to get a really clear judgement on him because he appears relatively late in an already short book. Really I feel that the book was too short to develop a lot of the characters, especially the girls, although that's probably more because of the description style used.