2018-2019 Senior Honors Theses

Permanent URI for this collectionhttps://hdl.handle.net/10657/4111

This collection contains theses produced by Class of 2019 Honors students


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    Ironic Narrative in Nikolai Medtner’s Second Piano Concerto
    (2019) Bellah, Eric M.
    "No one tells such tales as Kolya [Medtner]" proclaimed Rachmaninoff after hearing his friend–Nikolai Medtner–present his Op 51 Skazki[Fairytales] at a private party. Medtner was, along with his contemporaries Rachmaninoff and Scriabin, one of the great pianist/composers of the Russian Silver Age; in fact, the three together are sometimes referred to as the Triumvirate of the Silver Age. Unlike the other two pianists, however, Medtner only concertized for financial reasons, preferring to spend his time composing. One of Medtner’s unique qualities as a composer was his interest and ability in storytelling through music. While a lot of music illustrates a narrative (whether on purpose or not), Medtner usually set out to convey some sort of story in his pieces. This is evidenced throughout his oeuvre, but is most clearly seen in two sources. First, in his own writing when he expounds on his beliefs in The Muse and the Fashion that music, through melody and theme, should strive to convey an idea, tell a story, or capture an emotion. Second, in his Skazki, thirty-eight short character pieces for solo piano, most of which contain programmatic instructions of some variety. Op. 35, no. 4, for example, is inscribed with a quote from King Lear. These sources help to confirm that narrative is an important feature of Medtner’s compositional style. None of this interest with storytelling is surprising given Medtner's education and childhood interests. As a boy, his parents read all sorts of stories to him and his siblings. Some of Medtner’s favorites became Russian Fairy Tales, plays by Shakespeare, and the works of Pushkin and Goethe. Medtner’s interest in these texts manifested later in life, when he wrote over one hundred songs for soprano and piano, with twenty-nine being settings of Goethe poems, and thirty settings of Pushkin poems. Beyond literature, Medtner also loved Schumann's Märchenbilder, and sought to emulate it later in life with his own Skazki. This love of literature, poetry, and storytelling carried through his entire compositional life. Despite the admiration of his fellow musicians, and a comfortable income from composing, teaching, and performing, Medtner's music never received wide acclaim outside of Russia and (to a lesser extent) England. In an interview in 1970, Vladimir Horowitz said, "Why nobody plays Medtner? He is [a] wonderful composer. Piano composer-in some ways deeper than Rachmaninoff...There are special colors-perfumes-complex rhythmic counterpoint." Medtner, like Rachmaninoff and Scriabin, was also one of the mostly highly regarded pianist/composers of the early twentieth century, concertizing all over the world and writing music from his teens until close to his death in 1951. However, outside of the piano world and Russia, he never received much attention for his compositions. Medtner’s lack of widespread popularity as a composer is possibly due to his somewhat conservative nature, which showed itself in both his demeanor and his music. He disagreed so strongly with the "new music" being created by composers like Schoenberg that he wrote his own treatise explaining and defending his aesthetic ideals. Geoffrey Tozer comments in his biography on Medtner: "Faced with three decades of shifting style, compositional vogues, and musical fads, Medtner remained faithful to the standard of clarity of purpose he learned from a lifetime of classical performance. Above all, he considered himself Beethoven's student. Reflecting his approach 'in defense of the fundamentals of musical art,' the composer later wrote (in Muse and Fashion) of the essence of theme, melody, form and rhythm, and of the 'principal meanings' and 'unwritten laws that are the foundation of musical Language.' In later years, Alexander Glazunov called Nikolai Medtner 'an artist guarding the eternal laws of art.' " Medtner, regardless of what other composers were doing, consistently followed his own artistic beliefs. Although Medtner's music has enjoyed somewhat of a resurgence in the last twenty-five years, it is still not widely known. Unpacking Medtner's compositional techniques can add a great deal to our understanding of how far classical forms can be stretched and, most important to Medtner, how to tell a story through music. The primary goal of this thesis will be to demonstrate how Medtner, through the manipulation and subversion of normative Concerto form, outlines an ironic narrative in the first movement of his second piano concerto.
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    Associations Between Intrinsic Vs Extrinsic Religiosity and Hope
    (2019-05) Garza, Micheal
    Extensive research has provided evidence that different levels of religiosity and hope positively correlate with people's life satisfaction, happiness, and well-being. Conversely, hopelessness or low levels of hope have been shown to predict maladaptive health behaviors such as anxiety, depression, and suicide. The aim of this study is to test whether people's religious orientation (extrinsic vs. intrinsic) is associated with degrees of hope above and beyond personality, demographics, and socio-economic traits. In a sample of 417 US adults, a regression analysis was used to test the incremental validity of an individual's religious orientation scale in predicting levels of hope. We controlled for personality traits using the big five inventory as well for demographics and parental socio-economic status. Contrary to my hypothesis, results evidenced that individuals with higher levels of extrinsic religiosity (vs. intrinsic) religiosity had higher levels of hope, above and beyond demographics and personality traits.
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    (2019-05) Degetau, Gabriela
    In Una Urrea en Los Andes, Pablo Perez explains the curious condition where the "intended rectangular tabula rasa" contrasts the dominant and imprecise geography of the city. Mountains, volcanoes, rivers, and gullies define Quito's landscape, and topographical difficulties have traditionally been a central obstacle to urbanization in many Latin American countries. Spanish colonizers were the first to remap the territory as an even, mathematical space, ignoring existing pre-colonial conditions in an attempt to recreate the order of cities they understood. The development of a static grid as a utopian manifestation has become as Colin Rowe describes an "object to contemplation" or an "image to be adored," rather than a "directly applicable instrument to seriously alleviate social order." Looking closely at the urban structure of Quito, the artificial grid has traces of the pre-existing topography in the slight bends of the otherwise ideal colonial structure. However, utopian desires for predefining space do not reflect, nor can they contain a cities complex topography, and culture in flux. This thesis highlights the conflict between the European grid and the geographical agents in Quito's historic city center. It proposes flexible ecological urbanism, where an adaptable grid integrates Quito's natural and built environments, viewing architecture (culture) through a lens of nature. An Ecology center and research park are the catalysts to redefining the interaction between an organism and its constructed environment.
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    Macroeconomic Effects of Consumption versus Income Taxes
    (2018-12) Crawford, Jackson
    This paper adds to the empirical literature on the effects of tax structure on investment with a panel data analysis of up to 120 countries from 1980 to 2015. Specifically, this paper uses the relative percentage between individual income tax receipts and goods and services tax receipts as the primary explanatory variable of interest. The results, which are robust across different dynamic models, suggest that most countries are too close to the lower bound of this relative percentage to be able to spur meaningful increases in investment by shifting taxation from income to consumption. However, outlier countries heavily dependent on income taxation, like the United States, may be able to achieve as much as a 10% increase in investment by making this shift.
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    Characterizing Agent Behavior Under Meta Reinforcement Learning With Gridworld
    (2018-12) Shah, Nolan
    The capabilities of meta reinforcement learning agents tend to be heavily depend on the complexity and scope of the meta task over which they perform requiring different models, learning algorithms, and strategies to perform well. In this thesis, we show the fragility of agent design and limitations of agents across Gridworld-based meta tasks of increasing complexity. We begin by building a characterization of the complexity of meta tasks within a domain generalization context. We run experiments that demonstrate the ability of agents to perform effectively on meta tasks parameterized with different environmental states, but similar underlying rules. Next, we perform experiments that expose the limitations of those same agents over tasks with different underlying rules, but similar observational spaces. These experiments show that generalization-based strategies succeed with meta tasks that sample from a small scope of base tasks with similar underlying rules, but break beyond that complexity. We also infer from observed agent behaviors that the limitations of agents are attributable to the nature of the model architecture and the meta task design. Furthermore, we run experiments that identify the sensitivity of agent behavior to physical features by augmenting the agent observation size. These experiments show a resilience to limited environmental information, but a lack of spatial awareness to abundant environmental information. Overall, this work provides a baseline for meta reinforcement learning with the Gridworld task and exposes the necessary considerations of agent and environmental design.
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    (2018-12) Chuor, Baongan
    Contemporary political scientists have found that Asians do not follow the traditional socioeconomic model that is often used to predict an individual's likelihood to participate in the United States political process. As such, they have begun to explore the barriers to political participation but only focus on the internal roadblocks. Therefore, this paper contributes to the nascent literature on this subject by studying external barriers, such as social invisibility and political alienation, by implementing an original survey at the University of Houston.
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    The Air We Share
    (2019-05) Mousa, Lydia
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    Air Fuel Ratio Control of a Spark Ignition Engine
    (2019-05) Yazji, Jalal
    Lean-burn operation in spark-ignition engines has shown promise in improving fuel economy and reducing harmful emissions in comparison with traditional stoichiometric operation. Close reference-tracking of the set air-fuel ratio profile is very crucial to healthy engine operation. What makes air-fuel ratio control challenging is the presence of a large variable time delay in the system's closed-loop, resulting mainly from the large distance traveled by the air-fuel mixture between the injection point and the exhaust. This thesis proposes modifications to an IMC-Smith predictor design employed to control the air-fuel ratio in a lean-burn engine. Matlab's Simulink provides a convenient platform to build dynamic models and simulate controllers, and for that reason, it is chosen to validate the proposed controller design and compare its performance to that of a PI controller and that of an IMC-Smith controller. Simulation results reveal the inadequacy of a basic PI controller in providing good reference tracking to a lean-burn profile. The proposed design shows very similar performance to a basic IMC-Smith controller in terms of overshoot and disturbance. However, its reduced settling time in comparison with the IMC-Smith controller (difference of up to 1.5s) renders it a more effective design at providing the desired level of reference-tracking.
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    Using Competition Assays to Assess Dormancy: Effects of Gene Knockouts on Growth in Micrococcus luteus
    (2018-12) Zimmerer, Rene
    Dormancy is a survival growth state some bacteria enter under stressful environmental conditions, such as nutrient deprivation. Dormancy is characterized by a severe decrease in metabolic activity where bacteria become viable but not culturable (VBNC), which is measurable by plating and counting colony forming units (CFU). This decrease in metabolic activity also reduces the effectiveness of antibiotics as they are less able to enter cells. For this reason, understanding the mechanism of initiating, sustaining, and resuscitating bacterial dormancy is critical for improving treatment of bacterial pathogens utilizing dormancy to evade antibiotic treatment. Competition experiments can measure the relative fitness of bacterial populations by co culturing the two (or more) populations and allowing them to compete for the same resources. My goal was to use a simple competition assay to measure the relative fitness of wild-type Micrococcus luteus to gene knockout strains of genes suspected in the mechanism of dormancy, such as the uspA616 gene. First I demonstrated that the pigment synthesis gene, crtE, in M. luteus is a neutral site in both nutrient rich and nutrient poor media. Knockout of the crtE gene ([delta] crtE::kan) produced white bacterial colonies, as opposed to yellow colonies in wild-type M. luteus. The [delta] crtE::kan bacterial strain was found to have similar fitness to wild-type and was therefore used as an easily identifiable wild-type substitute in all other competition experiments. With the white [delta] crtE::kan M. luteus strain I then show that the UspA616 gene knockout ([delta] uspA616::kan) strain has similar fitness to wild-type M. luteus in nutrient rich media, but is significantly less fit in nutrient poor media.
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    [IN]FORMAL: Fascism + Everyday in the Merkato
    (2019-05) Westry, Tyler
    "By contrast, the idea of accumulating everything, of establishing a sort of general archive, the will to enclose in one place all times, all epochs, all forms, all tastes, the idea of constituting a place of all times that is itself outside of time and inaccessible to its ravages, the project of organizing in this way a sort of perpetual and indefinite accumulation of time in an immobile place, this whole idea belongs to our modernity." -Michel Foucault Foucault argues that the accumulation of historical archives creates a "heterotopia," removed from itself, existing outside of time, a space contradictory and incompatible to its surroundings. These elements create a distinctly Ethiopian culture, specifically in Addis Ababa; a space removed from its time, in the past, in the present, a combination of cultural and temporal experience. The Italian conquest of Ethiopia sought to apply a rationalist organization to Addis Ababa, grounded in a focus on new history making, ignoring the existing historical implications and conditions of the heterotopic context. The resulting modernist structures and planning abandoned in the city exist out of place in the sprawling, organic figure ground of Addis Ababa yet are absorbed seamlessly into everyday life. This thesis revisits the fascist plan of the Mercato neighborhood of Addis Ababa, proposing the resulting informal reality of the formal plan creates a heterotopia that is uniquely Ethiopian. Tensions between Christianity and Islam created a substantial population of traveling merchants while the Italian conquest of Ethiopia sought to apply a rationalist organization to Addis Ababa, ignoring existing historical implications. These foreign influences in Ethiopia created a heterotopic landscape in Merkato -- the open-air market of Addis Ababa -- that ignores the intent of the fascist plan it inhabits. Today, Chinese investors influencing the Ethiopian government to increase development and regulation in this regional market hub are met with heavy resistance by its residents as proposed developments continually ignore Merkato's history. Foreign investors should rather develop projects that implement new technologies to evolve the traditions of making and self-sufficiency to remain relevant as the national economy shifts away from its reliance on coffee exports toward production of manufactured goods. The expertise of China as a global leader in manufacturing and fabrication instead can provide a positive example for the future of Merkato.
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    From the Mind of
    (2019-05) Ward, Aubrey
    A collection of poems from Aubrey Ward's undergraduate college career, this senior honors thesis represents the best of Aubrey's creative endeavors at the time of his graduation from the University of Houston in May 2019.
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    (2018-12) Truong, Justin
    Within the past two decades, technological advances and a growing public policy priority to reduce human casualty in the battlefield have pushed militaries around the world to develop increasingly automated capabilities that are characterized by a gradual decline in human involvement. Autonomous weapon systems (AWSs), which include Legal autonomous weapons (LAWs), are considered the next transformational stage in military technology, yet public understanding of the far-reaching implications of using these war-fighting machines remains limited, especially its material impact on interstate dynamics. Land-based, seaborne and airborne unmanned vehicles, colloquially known as drones, represent the machine-learning military technology that is closest to AWSs and serve as the basis for which AWSs will derive their development from. While true AWSs have not yet been developed and deployed, this thesis seeks to understand the public's current perception of military drones and how it affects approval for the use of drones in combat and blame attribution in scenarios of errors, such as unintended collateral damage. This is achieved by a combination of examining evolving scholarly debates on public opinion and the legal accountability of employing armed drones and a survey procedure to examine how the public views drones within the context of machine autonomy versus human control, how approving it is of using drones in war and finally how it attributes blame when presented with an erroneous outcome. Analysis of both the existing literature and the survey data suggests the public still struggles to comprehend the capabilities of drones along a wide spectrum of autonomy. Furthermore, the study's findings underpin the current scholarly position that considerable support for drone usage exists when the subject is framed in a vacuum, without including contextual information that truly characterizes the reality of that usage. However, when presented with that contextual information, the option of deploying a human combatant remains preferable to the public due to an aversion to collateral damage even when there is high military utility. Finally, the public tends to find the human element at blame when it is asked to assess a collateral damage, regardless of the level of automation or autonomy involved. These findings are all emblematic of a degree of distrust in AWSs and incoherent, underdeveloped legal thinking within the public on the subject of accountability, which promise to complicate not just the rules of war and international legal regimes but also the interstate dynamics among AWS-wielding nations when fully autonomous warfighting platforms become a full-fledged reality.
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    Effect of Word Origin in Romance Bilinguals
    (2019-05) Vasquez, Melany
    English is a Germanic language which has, over time, been influenced by Latin and Ancient Greek and borrowing from other European languages, including French, Dutch, and German. Words in the English language which originate from Latin are usually of technical or academic register and acquired at later ages in development. This type of vocabulary is usually used by scholars. The English language also contains a word from the Anglo-Saxon/Germanic background. This words usually are of lower academic register and are learned at an earlier age. The purpose of this study was to see if speaking a romance language could be advantageous for bilinguals, especially in continuing higher levels of education. We used a lexical decision task where participants were presented with Latin origin words and non-words and Anglo-Saxon/Germanic origin words and non-words. The task consisted of deciding if the stimuli presented was a word or non-word. The hypothesis for the current study was that non-romance language speakers would be more accurate at identifying Anglo-Saxon root words, and romance language speakers would be more accurate at identifying Latin root words. Also, romance language speakers should be better at recognizing that presented pseudowords are in fact non-words due to their background in romance languages influenced by Latin. On the other hand, non-romance language speakers should have a harder time recognizing that presented Latin pseudowords are in fact nonwords. Results: overall romance language speaker participants scored higher on accuracy when presented with Latin origin stimuli but took longer at identifying the stimuli. Interesting enough romance language speakers also scored higher in accuracy when presented with Anglo-Saxon/Germanic origin stimuli. On the other hand, non-romance language speakers scored higher in accuracy at recognizing Latin origin non-words.
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    An Ab Initio Investigation of Structure-Function Relationships in Solid-State Electrolytes
    (2019-05) Wang, Audrey
    Solid-state electrolytes (SSEs), or superionic conductors, are a promising method of energy storage and a safer alternative to conventional Li-ion batteries. However, the ionic conductivities of most known SSEs, a characteristic integral to battery performance, are not yet commercially competitive. Ionic conductivity in SSEs is often achieved through the interstitial hopping of the mobile cation, so understanding the energetics of the crystal structure is important. The objective of this thesis is to use density function theory (DFT) to investigate the relationships between crystal structure and ionic conductivity of SSEs. Activation energies were calculated using DFT and nudged elastic band theory for sulfide and oxide frameworks with either lithium or sodium cations. The energy pathways generated in this study were consistent with previous findings that materials with BCC structures have the lowest energy barriers and thus have the highest ionic conductivities due to their homogenous tetrahedral sites.
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    Ha Noi Impermanence: Reinterpreting Collective Housing
    (2019-05) Tonthat, Benjamin
    The former citadel of Hanoi represents a landscape that has been continuously manipulated by both foreign entities and the current administration. Despite its initial purpose of being a symbol for fortification and monumentality, Hanoi's ruling sector has expressed an adaptability to the numerous violations imposed upon it over time. Hanoians, in particular, when compared to the rest of Vietnamese society express a notable sense of cultural fluidity that draws from their repeated conflicts with outsiders and allows them to remain flexible with their identity. The perimeter of the original, highly-formal citadel is the most important location to the capital city's sacred history and current growth, so further intervention along these avenues underscores the inherent complications of the past. This thesis proposes to study the implications of impermanence within the original citadel area through the reinterpretation of collective housing along the imprint of the sacred wall. While the numerous elements of Hanoi's history have been seemingly erased by successive regimes, the existing networks have actually seen a layering of imposed changes rather than a complete eradication. These layers express a fluidity that characterizes Hanoi's governing center and, in turn, reflects the flexibility of the Vietnamese identity.
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    Estimating the Impact of Preparatory Teaching Experience on Teacher Retention
    (2019-05) Tran, Michelle
    About 21 percent of Texas teachers leave the profession within the first three years of teaching. Taking advantage of variation in required preparatory teaching experience -- called student teaching -- hours across educator preparation programs (EPPs), this study uses pooled Texas administrative data to adapt Boyd et al.'s (2006) conceptual model of the effects of EPP characteristics on teacher retention. A logistic regression with year and program fixed effects estimates substantial gains from increasing the number of hours required for student teaching. In fact, increasing the number of hours required for student teaching from one semester (0-300 hours) to two semesters (301-600 hours) can increase the odds of retaining a teacher for one year by 54.4 percent. An increase from one to four semesters of student teaching is correlated with a 70.9 percent increase the odds two-year teacher retention. A state mandate for two semesters of student teaching would raise the state's one-year teacher retention rate to 74.6 percent and a mandate for four semesters of student teaching would raise the state's two-year retention rate to 63.4 percent. However, there are decreasing marginal returns to additional hours of student teaching in terms of retention. The number of required hours for student teaching represents an important yet singular aspect of teacher preparation and state policies should expand their focus on teacher preparation beyond student teaching requirements.
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    Skeptical Theism and the Scope of our Moral Horizons
    (2019-05) Brandt, Jeremy
    Reconciling the existence of an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent God with the evil that exists in our world is one of the most enduring problems for the Judeo-Christian tradition. Skeptical theists attempt to defend their theism against this problem of evil by appealing to the limits of human wisdom. On this view, our inability to understand goods, evils, and long-term consequences causes a failure in the inference from appearance of unjustified evil to reality of unjustified evil. One prominent objection to skeptical theism, the moral skepticism objection, argues that this view of human moral knowledge undermines our ordinary moral practices. In this paper, I will reject the most popular theistic reply to the moral skepticism objection that we can depend on likely consequences, given the available evidence, for our moral practices. This expected utility reply causes skeptical theists to face a dilemma about how to delineate which consequences are relevant to us, given our epistemic limits. I will argue that neither horn of the dilemma can save the skeptical theist from moral skepticism.
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    Experimental Study of Flow Patterns and Pressure Drop in Cocurrent Gas-liquid Down Flow in a Packed Column
    (2019-05) Stroh, Christine
    Packed bed columns are widely used throughout many chemical processes to carry out reactions between gas and liquid reactants requiring a solid catalyst. Flow patterns and their associated pressure drops are two important parameters that can optimize the operation of these reactors. However, the analysis of these parameters is usually above the understanding of the operators who control the reactors. This thesis evaluates these parameters in a laboratory scale packed column, compares the results to literature values, and analyzes the data in a simpler way using parameters easily found with equipment in a chemical plant. The experimental data reasonably fit the well-known Tosun flow map and a modified Lockhart-Martinelli correlation. New analysis showed that when plotted as a pressure trace standard deviation normalized by its average versus its gas flow rate, the data had a visual change in slope whenever the flow pattern transitioned, giving operators a simpler way to identify transitioning flows.
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    Tricks of the Trade: Selected Li-ion Battery Modeling Techniques
    (2018-12) Theriot, Dwight
    Li-ion cells are used in countless applications today, and their use will only increase in the future. It is crucial for researchers to be able to model Li-ion behavior in order to protect consumers, manufacturers, and equipment from the potentially catastrophic effects of thermal runaway, while delivering a high-performance energy storage solution. This paper presents the most widely used methods for modeling Li-ion cells in an easy-to-read fashion, in order to provide a "one-stop-shop" for researchers developing and refining new models. Models are categorized into empirical and analytical models, and seminal studies for each are laid out in detail, as well as modifications that enhance their utility and/or efficiency. Thermal runaway models are presented in detail, including various triggering mechanisms. Summary tables presented here will allow researchers to quickly review existing literature in order to identify knowledge gaps and models which can be used for a variety of applications.
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    (2018-12) Strickland, Ashlie
    The dynamics of early- to mid-twentieth- century Irish Catholicism that run across Joyce's and McGahern's early semi-autobiographical narratives, thwarted expectations of family, trauma, and shame, work together in The Dark and have a paralyzing effect on Young Mahoney, who spends the novel striving to be a person who is the opposite of his father. Whereas Joyce's most famous alter ego. Stephen Dedalus, ultimately (if temporarily) escapes Catholic Ireland at the end of Portrait, McGahern's Young Mahoney is held back by constant, emotionally crippling reminders of his father that pervade every space he enters, whether it is domestic, religious, or community.