The opening chapter of Joyce’s novel illustrates the progression of a child’s mind in the beginning stages of life. The development is rapid, and can already be identified on the first page of the novel. For example, it begins with the stereotypical opening of a child’s story, ‘Once upon a time’, then progresses to use language such as ‘cachou’, ‘velvet’ and ‘maroon’, all examples of a more sophisticated vocabulary. The contrast between the beginning and end of the chapter emphasizes the idea of the ageing child.
For example, initially, short, simple phrases are used, such as ‘He was baby tuckoo. ‘ The sentences then progress to a slightly longer, more complicated structure to indicate the expanding intelligence of the child. These changes are subtle yet still noticeable in the text. Within the beginning stages of the chapter there are many points made on the experiences of a child growing up and learning a language. These processes are illustrated through Joyce’s use of language and form. The initial language used suggests the very young age of the child.
A cow is referred to as a ‘moocow’, linking the image of a cow to the sound it makes, the type of association we learn when we are very young. The child’s range of vocabulary at this age is limited, therefore colloquialisms such as ‘a hairy face’, and ‘baby tuckoo’, are used. Within the story a character named ‘Betty Byrne’ is referred to. It is a possibility that this character is actually a real person who has been encountered; suggesting the idea that the young child does not have a clear view on what is actually real-life and what is fantasy.
The memories of the child, although random are intriguing for the reader. For example, he remembers experiencing wetting the bed and describes how ‘at first it is warm then it gets cold. ‘ He also recalls the smells of his childhood; the oil-sheet that had a ‘queer smell’, and his mother who ‘had a nicer smell than his father’. As the chapter progresses we can see the impact of the bigger world on the child. His experiences are widened, effecting the manner and style of the text.