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There's this fascinating thing about Ulysses. Hordes of people think it's a brilliant book, maybe the best book ever written, except for one thing…they can't make it to the end. There has always been a big disparity between the praise that people shower on Ulysses and the real experience of reading and trying to understand it. There are good reasons not to like it. As you push through it, there might be periods of frustration and boredom. You might even wonder: "Who does Joyce think he is?"
Well, here's an answer: he thinks he's a genius. The tradition of writing great literature could be traced back to Homer and the Greeks, but then it moved through Chaucer and Shakespeare and Milton and Dickens. So before Joyce, literature was English, not Irish. For most Irishmen, literature was something that did not belong to them. It was written in a language by which they had been humiliated: it was the language of the garrison, the language of the eviction notice. And now imagine Joyce, from this small country that had been brutalized by the English for centuries, saying: "With all due respect your majesty, I'm going to write the greatest novel in the English language." Follow the rest of this thread below.
In A Nutshell
James Joyce's Ulysses (1922) is, arguably, the single most influential novel of the 20th century. Written in a wide variety of styles, chock-full of an encyclopedia's worth of allusions, rife with enough puns and jokes to fill a comedian's career, the novel focuses on one day – June 16, 1904 – in the life of Mr. Leopold Bloom, a middle-aged Jewish man living in Dublin, Ireland. The groundbreaking stream-of-consciousness style allows the reader not only to trace the actions of Bloom's day, but also to follow the movement of his thoughts, to hear the inner timbre of his needs and desires, his joy and his despair. In doing so, the novel nearly breaks the back of realism (literature with a goal of portraying people and events as they exist in the real world). Ulysses is so saturated in Dublin life and in the particularities of its characters that, at times, it strains coherence. In other words, it is (as you may have heard) hard.
Ulysses is Joyce's third book. His first book, Dubliners (1914), was a remarkable collection of short stories which set out to depict the sense of paralysis that one could get from living in Dublin at the turn of the 19th century. Joyce then set out to write a semi-autobiographical novel about his youth in Dublin. It began as a book called Stephen Hero, but Joyce was so dissatisfied with his first attempt that he threw the manuscript in the fire. (Many thanks to his wife, Nora Barnacle, for fishing it out.) Joyce then re-worked Stephen Hero into the much more experimental and ambitious A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916). After Ulysses, Joyce wrote one final novel, Finnegan's Wake (1939). That one took him seventeen years to write and was based on puns in a number of different languages. Finnegan's Wake is recognized not only as a masterpiece, but also as one of the most difficult books ever written. In other words, if you see it on someone's bookshelf, check to see whether or not the binding is broken.
There is a noticeable progression in the body of Joyce's work, and you can see him begin in Portrait to toy with a number of the techniques that he would flesh out and master in Ulysses. Namely, we're talking about stream-of-conscious writing and other radical ways of depicting a character's internal life in relation to the world around him. Similarly, some of the more radical techniques in Ulysses are extended even further in Finnegan's Wake. Ulysses itself was originally going to be a short story in Dubliners about an erudite young teacher who has a run-in with an English constable and is rescued by a middle-aged Jewish man (this story was itself based on an actual experience of Joyce's). But then it grew. And grew. And grew…
Joyce wrote Ulysses between the years 1914 and 1921. The book was first published in Paris on February 2, 1922 by Sylvia Beach of Shakespeare and Company. Before being published as a whole, however, the book was serialized in the American journal The Little Review beginning in 1918. When the journal published the episode in the book called "Nausicaa," which depicts the main character masturbating, the publication was prosecuted for obscenity and the book was censored until 1933. In that year, Judge M. Woolsey declared that the book was neither pornographic nor obscene. The scandal in the U.S. was only one of many around the world, and ironically, it was Ireland, Joyce's home country, that was the last to lift the ban on Ulysses (source: Ellman, James Joyce, 3).
So what's the big deal? As T.S. Eliot's poem The Wasteland (1922) did for poetry, Ulysses changed people's ideas about what a novel is and what it can do. Joyce, more than any author before him, realized that how you write about something determines what you can write about. In other words, form is inseparable from content, and content from form. While other writers realized this and just lamented the fact, Joyce strove to master a wide variety of styles instead of becoming imprisoned by them. He wanted to give his language the power to say anything.
Ulysses is best known for its stream-of-consciousness style, where Joyce forces readers to become intimately familiar with his characters' thoughts no matter how fragmentary and disoriented they may be. But style is also extremely flexible in the novel, giving Joyce the power to alter his form to fit his content. Hence, a chapter set in a newspaper office is broken up with newspaper headlines; a chapter set in a maternity ward is written in styles ranging from Old English verse to contemporary Dublin vernacular, as if language itself were going through a gestation period and being prepared for delivery; a chapter set almost entirely in Leopold's Blooms fantasies and nightmares is written out as a play script.
Famously, Ulysses is structured on Homer's Odyssey, with each of the eighteen episodes in Joyce's book corresponding to a given episode in Homer's work. Joyce makes his hero, Leopold Bloom, a sort of modern-day Ulysses (called Odysseus by Homer). He casts Bloom's wife, Molly, as Penelope, and casts the aspiring artist Stephen Dedalus (first encountered in Portrait) as Telemachus. What is Joyce doing? Here, he might be trying to modernize the ancient epic, to strive to (in the words of Ezra Pound) "Make it New."
Ulysses moves the epic journey from the realm of external adventures to the realm of the mind, and in doing so Joyce dares to make a heroic figure of an ordinary urban man of no apparent distinction. For all its difficulty and obscurity, what Ulysses can do is to reveal the ordinary as extraordinary.
Why Should I Care?
There's this fascinating thing about Ulysses. Hordes of people think it's a brilliant book, maybe the best book ever written, except for one thing…they can't make it to the end.
There has always been a big disparity between the praise that people shower on Ulysses and the real experience of reading and trying to understand it. Just consider the book's reception in Ireland. Dublin today can seem like a city-size monument to the novel: there are tiles in the sidewalk quoting sections of the book; Davy Byrne's is filled with tourists who only know the pub because of Joyce; there's a life-size statue of Joyce himself off O'Connell Street; and June 16th, the day the book takes place, is now a holiday called "Bloomsday." But here's the thing. Joyce's book was banned in Ireland for years. In fact, Ireland was the last – the last! – country to lift the ban on the novel.
Now today, knowing the reputation the book has, you might feel like you "have to" like Ulysses. That's nonsense. When you get right down to it, Ulysses is an extremely difficult book. There are good reasons not to like it. As you push through it, there might be periods of frustration and boredom. You might even wonder: "Who does Joyce think he is?"
Well, here's an answer: he thinks he's a genius. The tradition of writing great literature could be traced back to Homer and the Greeks, but then it moved through Chaucer and Shakespeare and Milton and Dickens. So before Joyce, literature was English, not Irish. For most Irishmen, literature was something that did not belong to them. It was written in a language by which they had been humiliated: it was the language of the garrison, the language of the eviction notice. And now imagine Joyce, from this small country that had been brutalized by the English for centuries, saying: "With all due respect your majesty, I'm going to write the greatest novel in the English language."
But what about the novel itself is so great? Since we're giving Joyce the benefit of the doubt and assuming that he's a genius, let's talk about something that Joyce struggled with: jealousy.
Joyce was passionately in love with his wife, Nora Barnacle, but early on their relationship hit a major bump. In 1909, a friend of Joyce's informed him that, when Joyce had only just become involved with Nora, she had also been seeing this "friend." Unlikely as the story was, Joyce went mad with jealousy. He wrote letters to Nora that first were harsh and accusatory, but gradually became more and more honest and revealed just how vulnerable he felt. Joyce simply could not conceive of the woman he loved most being involved with another man.
We hear a lot about Ulysses as this extraordinary encyclopedic book that makes language go everywhere and do everything, but at the heart of it is ordinary human fear: fear of being betrayed by the person you love, made to look a fool. For all his genius, Joyce still couldn't figure out ordinary human problems like how to deal with love and pride and jealousy. And he gives us a hero like ourselves – a hero that's lost amidst these problems.
How It All Goes Down
Although Ulysses takes place in the course of one day, a whole lot happens (hence its 783 pages). We've divided up our summary based on the eighteen episodes in the book.
Part 1: The Telemachiad
Episode 1: Telemachus
Ulysses opens at Martello Tower, several miles southeast of Dublin, at 8am on June 16, 1904. Stephen Dedalus (of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man fame) is renting the Tower with his friend (of sorts) Buck Mulligan. An Englishman named Haines is staying there with them. He is very interested in Stephen and his different thoughts and sayings about the Irish, and constantly tries to make conversation with him. Stephen, however, distrusts Haines and acts aloof.
Buck Mulligan is a jovial, irreverent man who constantly mocks Catholic tradition, and treats Stephen deferentially. Stephen, for his part, mopes around the Tower, and can't keep from thinking back to his mother's death, when his mother asked that he pray over her and he refused. At the end of the episode, Buck Mulligan goes swimming in the sea, and Stephen leaves him and Haines there with the final thought that Buck Mulligan is a "usurper."
Episode 2: Nestor
We then move to the school at Dalkey at 10am, where Stephen is teaching some disinterested students. He makes jokes in front of his class that only he gets, and then helps a young boy with some math problems despite thinking that the kid has little chance of learning them for himself.
While the students play hockey, Stephen meets with the headmaster, Mr. Deasy. They settle Stephen's payment, and Deasy asks him to deliver to the press two letters relating to foot and mouth disease.
Deasy tries lecturing Stephen a bit and reveals himself to be a pompous English sympathizer and an anti-Semite. Stephen is not insubordinate outright, but he offers up several quips, the most famous being, "History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake" (1.157). As they part, Deasy thinks that Stephen will not remain long at his job, and then chases him outside to tell one last anti-Semitic joke.
Episode 3: Proteus
Stephen has taken public transportation up to Dublin. He kills time waiting for his 12:30 meeting with Buck Mulligan. Mulligan and Haines wander up and down along Sandymount strand. As he does, he lets his mind roam free and he free-associates across a great deal of classical philosophy, Church doctrine, and Dublin folklore.
Stephen is particularly taken with his own role in the human race and its continuity across vast stretches of time. He imagines an umbilical cord that runs from Eden to the present. His mind eventually turns to Paris and the bohemian life that he led there, and he self-deprecatingly thinks of his youthful ambition and pretension.
Toward the end of the scene, Stephen jots down a poem, but then realizes it isn't about anyone and no one is there to read it. He feels lonely as he watches a ship come into the bay.
Part 2: The Wanderings of Ulysses
Episode 4: Calypso
We now move back to 8am, but we are at 7 Eccles Street, the home of Mr. and Mrs. Leopold Bloom. Leopold is preparing breakfast-in-bed for his wife, and in the midst of it he takes a break and goes to the butcher's to get a kidney.
When he returns home, he finds a letter from his daughter, Milly, and a rather suspicious looking letter to his wife from her singing partner, Blazes Boylan. Bloom takes the letter up to his wife, and then brings her breakfast. They discuss the meaning of the word "metempsychosis," which Molly has found in a book that she is reading. Molly didn't like the book much because she prefers smutty literature, and she thought it was too clean (think Harlequin romance novels).
Bloom realizes that he has burned the kidney and rushes back downstairs. He eats alone in the kitchen and reads the letter from his daughter Milly. He thinks about whether or not his daughter is doing well in the photo business, the death of his son Rudy, and the fact that he cannot prevent what will happen between his wife and Blazes. Upon hearing his tummy rumble, Bloom grabs a penny-weekly (small local newspaper) and goes back to the outhouse in his garden to go to the bathroom.
Episode 5: Lotus-Eaters
It's now 10am. Bloom has traveled a little over a mile from his house and is by sir John Rogerson's quay (a dock along the major river in Dublin, the Liffey river). He first goes to the post office to pick up a card from Martha Clifford, a woman with whom he exchanges something of an illicit correspondence.
When Bloom is about to open the card from Martha, he bumps into M'Coy who wants to talk about Dignam's funeral and their wives' singing careers. Bloom is intensely bored by M'Coy, and as soon as he leaves, Bloom reads the letter from Martha. It is addressed to Henry Flower, Bloom's alias, and it ends with Martha asking what kind of perfume Flower's wife wears, which Bloom finds bizarre.
He then wanders over to All Hollows Church where he listens to the end of the service, and thinks about what he considers to be the bizarre aspects of the Catholic religion. Bloom cuts out before they gather donations, and goes to the chemist to pick up some lotion for his wife, Molly. He realizes that he has not brought a bottle and so he'll have to come back later after they complete it. As he leaves, he foresees himself washing in the public baths, and imagines his penis as a "languid floating flower" on the water (5.142).
Episode 6: Hades
At 11am Bloom climbs into a carriage with Marty Cunningham, Simon Dedalus (Stephen's father), and Mr. Power. Dignam's funeral procession begins by his house in Sandymount and gradually makes its way to Prospect Cemetery. On the way, Bloom sees Stephen, and when he points him out to Simon, Simon starts talking about what a scoundrel Stephen's friend Buck Mulligan is.
Bloom begins to feel more and more like an outsider. The other men laugh at a Jewish man in the street, salute Blazes Boylan when they see him, and at one point Mr. Power talks about the disgrace of suicide (not realizing that Bloom's father committed suicide). Of the men, Cunningham is the most sympathetic to Bloom.
Throughout the ride, Bloom's thoughts drift back to his dead son and his dead father. Later, during the ceremony and the burial, Bloom's mind wanders. He thinks how strange it is that people make such a fuss over the dead. His imagination touches on different ways of burying people as well as what happens to bodies after they die. At the close of the episode, Bloom bumps into John Henry Menton, with whom he once fought over a game of bowls. He points out that Menton has a dent in his hat, and Menton responds by snubbing him.
Episode 7: Aeolus
It's noon and Bloom is at the office of the Freeman's Journal and the Evening Telegraph trying to renew an ad for Alexander Keyes. Bloom speaks with the foreman, Nannetti, but then has to run across the street to track down Keyes.
Just after Bloom leaves, Stephen Dedalus comes in to drop off Deasy's article on foot and mouth disease. Myles Crawford wants to recruit Stephen for the paper, and professor MacHugh asks him whether he accosted the mystic poet George William Russell in the street to ask about planes of consciousness. The men sit around and recall particularly fine pieces of oratory that they have heard over the years. MacHugh re-enacts a speech by John F. Taylor arguing for the revival of the Irish tongue and everyone listens on admiringly.
Stephen suggests that they all go out for a drink, and as they make their way out he tells MacHugh and Crawford a parable about two old virgins climbing to the top of Nelson's pillar to look down on Dublin, "The Parable of the Plums." The women take food and drink and sit there eating plums and spitting the seeds through the railings of the tower. Toward the end of the episode, Bloom returns and tries to secure the Keyes renewal with Crawford, but Crawford blows him off and tells him that Keyes can "kiss his arse."
Episode 8: Lestrygonians
At 1pm Bloom is moving south across the Liffey in the direction of Davy Byrne's pub. He's idle, without much to do, and all of his thoughts are dominated by hunger. Bloom runs into an old flame, Josie Breen, and makes small talk with her about how her husband's mind is slipping. After they part, Bloom wanders into Burton's restaurant, but is disgusted by the men eating there like pigs at a trough. Instead, he opts for a vegetarian lunch at Davy Byrne's. Bloom's mind rushes back to a time that he and Molly made love at Howth's Head, and he is struck by the sad contrast between his life then and his life now. He tries to keep himself from thinking of Molly.
After Bloom leaves, the other men make small talk about him. They think that overall he is a decent guy, but also circulate a number of unfounded rumors, such as the notion that Bloom is a freemason. Bloom heads toward the National Library to check out the statues there. When he's almost there, he sees Blazes Boylan. Bloom panics and ducks into the library quickly to hide from him.
Episode 9: Scylla and Charybdis
By 2pm Stephen is in the National Library presenting his theory of Hamlet to John Eglinton (respected librarian) and George William Russell (renowned literary figure in Dublin). Russell thinks that prying into Shakespeare's biography is irrelevant, and that the only important thing about a work of art is its formless spiritual essence. Eglinton is also skeptical of Stephen, but hears him out to the end. At great length, Stephen argues that Shakespeare corresponds more closely to King Hamlet than to the Prince. He re-works some Catholic beliefs about the trinity so as to be applied to art.
In the course of the discussion, Russell gets up to leave. Stephen feels snubbed when Russell and Eglinton discuss a literary event they will be attending that evening without inviting him. Toward the end of Stephen's argument, Mulligan appears and chides him for missing their 12:30 meeting. He tells him that he saw Bloom peeking up the skirts of the statue of Aphrodite in the lounge. When Stephen finishes, Eglinton asks him if he believes his theory and Stephen says he does not. Mulligan and Stephen leave to go get a drink, and as they pass out, they see Bloom. Mulligan kids Stephen that Bloom is gay and that Stephen must be on his guard.
Episode 10:The Wandering Rocks
Beginning at 3pm we follow the paths of over a dozen different characters as they wander the streets of Dublin. The episode consists of nineteen vignettes that overlap in time and often character involved. In the course of the episode, we see that the Dedalus sisters are living in desperate conditions, relying on food donations to get by. When one of the daughters asks their father, Simon, for money he reluctantly gives her two shillings. Stephen runs into one of his sisters in the street and is torn by a desire to free her from the family situation and the fear that he could suffer the same fate.
Meanwhile, Boylan flirts with a secretary as he prepares a fruit basket for someone. He has a plan to meet Lenehan at the Ormond Hotel at 4pm. Bloom buys Sweets of Sin from a bookcart for Molly. Patrick Dignam's son buys porksteaks and thinks about his father's death. A viceregal cavalcade (celebratory procession) moves through the streets of Dublin toward the Mirius Charity Bazaar saluting everyone that it passes.
Episode 11: Sirens
It's 4pm in the Concert Room at the Ormond Hotel. Two barmaids watch the procession pass by and joke amongst themselves. Simon Dedalus enters and flirts with one of them. Bloom sees Boylan in the street and decides to follow him to the hotel. Boylan only stops in briefly to have a drink with Lenehan before making his way to the Bloom's house at 7 Eccles Street to meet Molly. Bloom, however, has run into Richie Goulding and has agreed to have dinner with him. He nearly chokes with anxiety as Boylan leaves.
Meanwhile, Simon Ben Dollard, and Father Bob Cowley gather around the piano and begin singing songs. Simon signs a bit from the opera Martha to great acclaim. Bloom jots out a letter to Martha Clifford, telling Goulding that he is writing in for an ad. Dollard then sings "The Croppy Boy" and everyone in the bar becomes sentimental. Bloom cuts out before the end. He waits for a tram to pass and then lets out all the gas that has built up in his stomach during the meal.
Episode 12: Cyclops
At 5pm an anonymous narrator runs into Joe Hynes in the street and they decide to go to Barney Kiernan's pub to see the citizen. Throughout this "Cyclops" episode, there are 33 parodies of different writing styles mixed into the prose. They generally pick up on something that comes up in the course of the scene, and then greatly exaggerate it. The parodies are in no way set off from the rest of the prose, but in our detailed line-by-line summary, you'll find that we mark each of them.
"The citizen" is a grumpy old man sitting at the bar with his dog. He never misses an opportunity to talk about the greatness of Ireland and the injustices that the country has suffered. Alf Bergan, John Wyse Nolan, and Lenehan all come in to have a few drinks and join in the discussion.
Bloom arrives looking for Martin Cunningham regarding some insurance business related to the death of Dignam. He inserts himself awkwardly into the conversation; often he is far too literal about matters the men are only joking about. Bloom pushes for moderation in their discussion. Instead, he says, "Force, hatred, history, all that. That's not life for men and women, insult and hatred. And everybody knows that it's the very opposite of that that is really life" (12.423). Alf asks what he is referring to, and he says, "Love" (12.425).
Bloom steps out for a moment, and the opinion of the group turns solidly against him. Led by the citizen, the other men make fun of his Jewishness and his lack of masculinity. Cunningham arrives, and when Bloom comes back he quickly ushers him out to avoid a conflict. The citizen starts yelling anti-Semitic remarks at Bloom, and Bloom yells back. When Bloom tells the citizen that Christ was a Jew, the citizen becomes furious. He throws a tin after Bloom as Cunningham's carriage pulls away, but the tin falls short.
Episode 13: Nausicaa
We now jump to 8pm. A group of women sits on the rocks down by Sandymount Strand: Edy Boardman with her baby, Cissy Caffrey with her little brothers Tommy and Jacky, and Gerty MacDowell. A religious retreat takes place in Mary, Star of the Sea Chapel nearby.
The first half of the scene is told by a narrator in extremely sentimental prose, in the style of young girls romantic novels. Cissy and Edy play with the kids while Gerty sits and daydreams about finding romance and one day being married. She has recently been spurned by a crush (Reggy Wylie), and she pines for him.
Gerty notices a dark man (who, we later learn, is Bloom) a bit further down the beach. The man stares at her intensely, and she makes a point of showing him her hair and revealing her stockings to him. She wonders who he is, and imagines a relationship between them. Fireworks for the Mirus charity bazaar go up nearby, and everyone rushes to see them except Gerty and Bloom.
As a Roman Candle explodes, we realize Bloom has been masturbating and has just had an orgasm. Gerty stands up to walk away, and Bloom sees that she is lame in one foot. He feels guilty. As he recomposes himself, he thinks about Molly and Milly, and all the mysterious ways of women. Bloom's watch stopped at 4:30 (roughly the time Molly and Boylan slept together as we will see later in this episode), and after a while he decides to drift off for a short nap. As he does so, a cuckoo clock sounds from the priest's house up by the chapel.
Episode 14: Oxen of the Sun
It is 10pm at the National Maternity Hospital on Holles Street, where Mina Purefoy is on the verge of giving birth. Mimicking the gestation period, the chapter is written in a variety of styles, progressing from literal translations of early Latinate prose through Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse, Renaissance chronicles, 19th century realist novels, and finally into the broken slang and dialect of modern day Dublin.
Bloom comes to the hospital and is led to a room where a number of doctors, medical students, and men about town are drinking and having a raucous good time. Stephen is there and is extremely drunk. While most of the men joke about different matters related to giving birth, Stephen pontificates on matters of religion and philosophy. Like Bloom, he is outcast, and when a strike of thunder is heard he is scared that it was caused by his blasphemy.
Mulligan arrives with Alec Bannon, who is dating Bloom's daughter Milly. Mulligan's jokes are greatly appreciated by the men, though they tend to be at Stephen's expense. When Mina Purefoy gives birth, the men become even more rowdy. They eventually proceed to Burke's Pub nearby, but Bloom stays late a moment to tell the Nurse to pass his good wishes on to Mina Purefoy. At the bar, Stephen drinks absinthe (very strong liquor). As they leave, Stephen convinces his friend Lynch to go with him to Nighttown (the red light district). Bloom decides to keep an eye on him and follows at a safe distance.
Episode 15: Circe
It's midnight in Nighttown. The episode is rendered in play dialogue with stage directions, and much of the episode takes place in the minds of Bloom and Stephen. Reality and imagination often merge seamlessly and at times it can be difficult to distinguish the two.
Stephen and Lynch have wandered into Nighttown in search of Bella Cohen's brothel. Bloom follows behind. In the street, he imagines encountering his father, and then imagines an elaborate court sequence in which he is tried for being a lewd man. A number of characters from the novel appear to testify for or against Bloom.
Bloom then imagines that he has been crowned the king of the new Bloomusalem, and people call out to him adoringly. Eventually, however, they begin to denounce him. Bloom wanders into Bella Cohen's where he finds Stephen drunk at the piano, and Lynch flirting with a prostitute. When he meets Bella, Bloom has a long masochistic fantasy in which he and Bella change sexes and she abuses him and turns him into a prostitute.
Meanwhile, Stephen is being free with his money. Bloom offers to guard it for him. Stephen begins dancing with the prostitutes, but then is disturbed by a vision of his mother rising from the grave and urging him to repent. He goes pale and knocks the chandelier with his cane as he runs out, shouting "Non Serviam!" (In English, "I will not serve!")
Bloom follows him into the street where Stephen has become engaged in a verbal argument with the English constable Private Carr. Bloom tries to arbitrate, but Stephen mouths off and Carr hits him in the face. Two Irish policeman arrive on the scene and want to take Stephen's name, but Bloom convinces them that Stephen is not a problem. As Bloom helps Stephen up, he has a vision of his dead son Rudy. Bloom calls out to him, but his son does not respond.
Part 3: The Homecoming
Episode 16: Eumaeus
At 1am, Bloom helps Stephen up and walks him to the cabmen's shelter under Loop Line Bridge to get him some food. Under the bridge, Stephen sees a friend of his father and ducks behind a pillar to avoid him. A moment later, he runs into an acquaintance named Corley who hits him up for a half-crown (British coin). Bloom thinks Stephen is too generous.
Inside the shelter, Bloom tells Stephen the rumor that its keeper is Skin-the-Goat Fitzharris, the get-a-way driver from the Phoenix Park murders. A sailor named W.B. Murphy comes over and tells them about his world travels, though Bloom thinks that they are mostly made up.
Bloom tries to make small talk with Stephen. Stephen gets irritated when Bloom shares his communal vision for Ireland where everyone works and gets their fair share. To Stephen, it seems as if Bloom is condescending to the literary occupation.
The keeper and the men in the bar begin to discuss Charles Stewart Parnell and Katherine O'Shea, and Bloom sympathizes with Parnell instead of O'Shea's cuckolded husband (married man who has an adulterous wife). Bloom invites Stephen back to his house for cocoa, and the two of them begin discussing music in the street. Stephen sings a few lines, and Bloom is blown away by his voice. They walk along arm in arm into the night.
Episode 17: Ithaca
At 2am, Bloom and Stephen approach Bloom's house at 7 Eccles Street. The episode is rendered in the style of a catechism (religious book of beliefs to be memorized), and thus everything is narrated through a series of 309 questions and responses.
At his door, Bloom realizes he has forgotten his key and thus climbs over his fence to the lower door of his townhouse. He comes through and lets Stephen in and the two of them proceed to the kitchen. Bloom makes cocoa, and as he does he reflects on all the different qualities of water that attract him to it.
Stephen and Bloom discuss their different backgrounds and Stephen shows Bloom how to write Gaelic, while Bloom shows Stephen how to write Hebrew. At Bloom's request, Stephen sings an anti-Semitic song. Bloom is not too upset about the fact that it is anti-Semitic, but the song involves a man's relationship with his daughter, which makes Bloom glum as his thoughts turn to his own daughter, Milly.
Bloom invites Stephen to spend the night, but he politely declines. The two of them go out through the backyard and pee together in the garden as they observe a shooting star. Bloom reflects on the vastness of the universe and the infinite divisibility of small particles (evolution and involution). As the two of them walk to the rear door, Bloom is full of plans for the future, but Stephen seems indifferent.
Once Stephen leaves, Bloom goes back inside and bumps into some of the furniture that Molly and Boylan moved during their romp around the house. He sits at his desk and thinks of his father. Upstairs, Bloom undresses and climbs into bed beside Molly. They sleep head to foot, and he notes Boylan's imprint as he crawls into bed. Molly asks him about his day and he tells her, though with notable omissions (Martha Clifford, Gerty MacDowell). Molly thinks that they have not had sex in over ten years, and Bloom nods off to sleep with a nursery rhyme in his head.
Episode 18: Penelope
It's now the middle of the night, sometime after 4am. Joyce didn't list a time in the schema for the final episode because he claims that Molly doesn't live her life by the clock. In eight sprawling breathless sentences, we get Molly's wandering thoughts as she lies awake in bed next to Bloom.
Molly remembers her affair with Boylan in explicit sexual detail and reflects back on other lovers she has had over the years. Molly suspects that Bloom is cheating on her. She knows he keeps pornography in the house and that he has some sort of illicit correspondence going on, but she's not sure how she'll catch him.
Molly's period starts and she goes to the chamberpot to clean herself. As she returns to bed, her thoughts go back to her time in Gibraltar as a young girl and then come to focus on Stephen. She thinks that she'll study so he won't think her a fool if he returns, and briefly fantasizes about a romantic relationship with him.
Molly's last thought before she goes to sleep is the memory of Bloom proposing to her on Howth's head. She didn't answer him at first, just looked out over the sea and thought back to all the other men she'd known, but then she asked him to ask her again. And her answer: "yes I said yes I will Yes" (18.783).
Ulysses Episode 1: Telemachus Summary
• At the top of Martello Tower, we find "Stately, plump Buck Mulligan" wandering about in his bathrobe shaving (1.1).
• He begins to mockingly imitate the Roman mass, using his shaving bowl as a chalice, and then calls down to Stephen Dedalus (the same Stephen Dedalus from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man).
• Dedalus listens to Mulligan mock the mass, and Mulligan notes the absurdity of Dedalus's last name, which comes from the Ancient Greek. (Note: according to Greek mythology, Daedalus was the engineer who built the Labyrinth and then built wax wings to allow him and his son, Icarus, to escape from the island of Crete. He warned Icarus not to fly too close to the sun or to the sea, but Icarus in his exuberance, flew too close to the sun, melted his wax wings and perished in the sea.)
• Mulligan descends toward Stephen and notes the origin of his nickname, Malachi Mulligan, and says that the two of them should go to Athens if he can get his aunt to fork over twenty quid (slang for British currency, one quid is equivalent to one pound).
• Stephen asks how long Haines (an Englishman) is going to stay in Martello Tower with them.
• Mulligan notes that Haines is dreadful, and complains that Haines does not think Stephen is a gentleman. We get a first glimpse into Mulligan's ability to play people off against one another.
• We learn Haines was up all night raving in a dream about a black panther. Stephen says that he was frightened by it. He says either Haines goes or he will.
• Shaving all the while, Mulligan frowns in response to this, and then borrows Stephen's handkerchief to wipe his razor.
• Mulligan says, "The bard's noserag. A new art colour for our Irish poets: snotgreen. You can almost taste it, can't you?" (1.35).
• Looking out on the Dublin Bay, Mulligan admires the "snot green sea" and intones it in Greek. He tells Stephen to come look at it and Stephen joins him (warily).
• After calling the sea "our mighty mother," Mulligan tells Stephen that his aunt (Mulligan's) thinks that Stephen killed his mother.
• We learn that Stephen refused to kneel down at his mother's deathbed and pray even when she begged him to. Mulligan thinks there is something sinister in Stephen.
• Mulligan returns to shaving and admits that, either way, Stephen is a lovely mummer (masked comedic actor; basically Mulligan is giving a nod to Stephen's literary genius).
• Stephen rests his elbow on the top of Martello Tower. He thinks of a repeated dream he's been having where his mother came up out of her coffin to haunt him.
• Mulligan says that he must give him a shirt and a few noserags, and asks how his second-hand trousers are doing. Mulligan mentions another pair of trousers he has, which are grey, but Stephen says he won't wear grey (he's wearing black because he's in mourning – we will later find that Leopold Bloom is also wearing black).
• So let's get this straight, Mulligan says. Stephen refused to pray over his dying mother but insists that he won't wear grey trousers.
• Buck Mulligan says that a fellow he was with the night before suggested that Stephen might have general paralysis of the insane. Mulligan admires himself in the mirror and continues to tease Stephen.
• At this point, we have what is perhaps one of the most important stylistic turning point in Ulysses (making it one of the most important stylistic turning points in the history of literature).
• Without any forewarning, we dive straight into Stephen's inner thoughts. His thoughts are un-bracketed, and the style aims to capture the twists and turns of his mind. In other words, let the stream-of-consciousness begin (1.60).
• Stephen thinks about how people can't choose the faces they are given. He wonders how Mulligan and others see him (You might think for a moment about the fact that this is the first "inner thought" of Stephen's to which we are exposed).
• Mulligan says that he stole the mirror he's currently using from a servant's room. He laughs at how his mother (Mulligan's) keeps plain looking servants so as not to tempt him.
• Upon seeing Stephen's gloomy expression, Mulligan quotes Wilde about "the rage of Caliban at not seeing his face in a mirror" (1.63). Note that Wilde was playing with Caliban's rage at seeing his face in the mirror in Shakespeare's The Tempest. The point is that there's a big disconnect between how we imagine our faces and how they actually look to other people.
• Stephen retorts that the mirror "is a symbol of Irish art. The cracked lookingglass of a servant" (1.65).
• Mulligan links arms with Stephen and begins walking him around the top of the tower. He apologizes for teasing Stephen, and Stephen thinks that Mulligan is afraid of what he might say about him in his writing later (ironic since Joyce is mocking a real friend of his through the character of Mulligan).
• Mulligan says that he must tell Haines Stephen's quote. He thinks that he and Stephen could do something for Ireland, "Hellenise it" (1.69). In other words, the two of them need to make Ireland more Greek and more educated.
• Mulligan worries that Stephen has some problem with him, and says that if it has something to do with Haines he has no problem mocking him as if he were a pathetic schoolboy.
• Stephen thinks of how all of the Englishman made vicious fun of a schoolboy named Clive and tried to 'pants' him.
• A shout from the open window jerks Stephen's thoughts back to the present, and he sees a deaf gardener staring out at the wind-swept grass.
• Stephen thinks that there might be a "new paganism," "omphalos" (Greek word for umbilical cord) (1.74).
• Stephen says that Mulligan should let Haines stay, that he has no problem with him except at night.
• Mulligan presses Stephen to tell him what's bothering him. Looking out at the sea, Stephen unlinks his arm from Mulligan's without saying anything.
• Mulligan again presses him, and Stephen asks him if he remembers the time that Stephen came to Mulligan's house after Stephen's mother had died.
• Mulligan does not remember it clearly, and so Stephen reminds him. He describes the scene in great detail to show how clearly he remembers it.
• Mulligan and Mulligan's mother were together, and when Stephen entered the room, Mulligan said, "O, it's only Dedalus whose mother is beastly dead" (1.87).
• Mulligan blushes, but then begins to rationalize what he said.
• He claims that Stephen has only had one brush encounter with death whereas he sees it everyday at the hospital where he works, and that it truly is beastly. He then points out the hypocrisy of Stephen not kneeling at his mother's bed, and yet harping on Mulligan for disrespecting her.
• Stephen thinks that Mulligan has spoken himself into boldness, and then says that it was not the offence to his mother that concerned him. It is the offence to him.
• Mulligan scoffs, spins round, and calls Stephen an impossible person.
• Mulligan walks off, and Stephen steams.
• Haines calls up for Mulligan, who answers that he is coming. Mulligan tells Stephen to look at the sea and ponder on how insignificant Mulligan's offence was. He then tells him to come down into the tower with him.
• As Mulligan descends the stairs, he begins singing some lines of the poet W.B. Yeats. Stephen looks out at the sea, and as a cloud comes over it, his memory again goes back to his mother. He was in the other room singing the lines of Yeats, and she wanted to hear them, and he entered to find her crying in her bed.
• He wonders where she is now, and then recalls one after another the tiny secret details of her life, culminating in "Her shapely fingernails reddened by the blood of squashed lice from the children's shirts" (1.110).
• Stephen again recalls the ghost of his mother coming to haunt him and curse him, and silently prays for her to "Let me be and let me live" (1.115).
• Buck Mulligan calls up to Stephen, and says that Haines is trying to apologize for keeping them up all night. Buck Mulligan says that he told Haines about Stephen's symbol of Irish art (the cracked looking-glass of the servant). Haines thought it was clever, and Mulligan suggests Stephen try to get a guinea (British currency) out of Haines.
• Stephen tells Mulligan that he gets paid this morning, and Buck Mulligan asks if he can lend him and Haines a quid (again, British slang for currency). Stephen agrees, and Mulligan becomes merry at the thought of "four shining sovereigns" (1.125).
• Buck Mulligan has left his bowl of shaving lather up on the parapet (wall-like barrier running around the roof) of the Tower, and it makes Stephen think of how he used to carry the bowl of incense when he was a schoolboy at Clongowes.
• Mulligan moves about downstairs. He is frying something, and as the stench fills the tower, he is worried that they will all be choked. He asks Haines to open the door.
• Haines gets up out of his hammock, and asks Stephen for the key. Stephen tells him it's in the lock.
• Haines open the door and stands in the doorway. Buck Mulligan tells them to get to the table, and begins to serve them tea.
• Mulligan is bummed out that there's no milk, and curses the milk woman. Stephen says they can drink it black. He gets a lemon out of the locker they all share.
• Buck Mulligan pokes fun at how Stephen has picked up Paris fads, and claims that he wants milk from Sandycove.
• Haines, still in the doorway, announces that the woman is coming up the hill with the milk. Mulligan is ecstatic, and tells them to help themselves to breakfast as he prepares to meet the milk woman, again intoning lines from the Catholic mass.
• Haines sits down to pour the tea, and Mulligan jokes about how strong he has made the tea in an old woman's voice.
• Buck Mulligan serves Haines and Stephen bread, and claims that the old woman's voice (Mrs. Cahill) is an example of Irish folk that Haines can use for a book that he is putting together.
• Buck Mulligan asks Stephen about mother Grogan's tea (old woman who recurs in Irish literature). Stephen demonstrates his knowledge of the tales where she appears, and Buck Mulligan is delighted.
• Buck Mulligan begins singing a bawdy old Irish song to his loaf of bread.
• The milk woman enters.
• Mulligan greets her, and subtly mocks her in high language when she says "Glory be to God" (1.167).
• Stephen asks for a quart, and as she pours it into their milk jug, he thinks of her as an old woman, perhaps nursing a cow, at once an example of womankind and of the provincial Irish woman (Interesting question here: is Stephen sympathizing with this woman or just idealizing her?).
• Buck Mulligan tastes the milk.
• He praises it and says it would uplift their country if they could have food like that.
• The woman (noticing his fancy vocabulary) asks if he is a medical student, and Buck Mulligan acknowledges that he is.
• Stephen listens in scornful silence. He is scornful because the woman does not notice how Buck Mulligan pokes fun at her, but he is also scornful because she seems to respect Buck Mulligan and Haines while she ignores him (Stephen).
• Haines says something in Irish, and the woman thinks that he is speaking in French. Buck Mulligan tells her that it is Gaelic, and asks if she speaks any.
• She asks Haines if he is from the west of Ireland, and he says that he is an Englishman. Buck Mulligan laughs at the fact that Haines is an Englishman but that Haines thinks they should speak Irish in Ireland.
• The woman agrees with Haines, and says she is ashamed that she doesn't speak it herself. Both she and Buck Mulligan wonder at what a great language Irish is, and Buck Mulligan offers her a cup of tea.
• She says "no thank you sir" and begins to leave.
• Haines asks if she has the bill, and she counts out how much it would be aloud. Mulligan digs in his pockets, and gives her a florin (Irish two-shilling coin). They arrange to pay the rest on credit, and the woman assures them that there is time enough.
• As the milk woman leaves, Buck Mulligan intones a few lines from Swinburne's "The Oblation." He then turns quickly to Stephen and tells him to get to school and bring them back some money so they can go on a drinking binge.
• Haines is reminded that he has to visit the national library today, but Mulligan says they must go for their swim first. He jokes that Stephen only washes once a month, and calls him "the unclean bard" (1.217).
• Stephen, pouring honey over his toast, says that all Ireland is washed by the gulf-stream.
• Haines tells Stephen that he would like to make a collection of his sayings, and Stephen thinks of his own personal remorse (still about his mother). Haines says he particularly admires the one saying about the lookingglass.
• Buck Mulligan kicks Stephen under the table, and tells Haines that he should hear Stephen's theory of Hamlet.
• Haines says that he is serious, and Stephen asks if he could make money by it. Haines laughs, and says he probably would.
• As Haines heads out the door, Buck Mulligan scolds Stephen for being impolite to Haines. Stephen calmly says that they're trying to get money so why not ask for it.
• Buck Mulligan says that he is doing all the work, and Stephen is always acting like a gloomy Jesuit.
• Then Buck Mulligan begins to agree with Stephen (perhaps just to please him) and wonders what Englishmen are good for. He just wants to Stephen to play along with them as he does.
• Buck Mulligan stands up and disrobes.
• He empties his pockets on the table, and returns Stephen's snotrag.
• Stephen thinks while Mulligan talks to all the clothes that he takes out of his trunk. He tosses Stephen his Latin Quarter hat, and Stephen puts it on.
• Haines calls to see if they're coming. Stephen places the key in his pocket as they head out the door (Keep an eye on this key. It's going to become a matter of contention between Stephen and Buck Mulligan.).
• Mulligan asks if Stephen has the key, and Stephen says that he does.
• Haines asks if Mulligan pays the rent for the Tower, and Mulligan tells him how much it is.
• Stephen notes that they pay it to the secretary of state for war.
• Haines surveys the Tower, and says that it must be bleak in winter. Mulligan tells him a bit about its history, and says that for them it is "omphalos," the navel of the world (1.262).
• Haines asks about Stephen's idea of Hamlet, but Mulligan stops him. He says that he can't keep up with Stephen until he has a few pints in him (We're beginning to get an image of Buck Mulligan as one who "picks Stephen's brains." He makes fun of him and yet he's constantly competing with him).
• Mulligan asks Stephen if he could manage to deliver the theory under a couple of pints. Stephen says that since he's waited so long to tell it, he can always waits longer.
• Haines says his curiosity is piqued, and wonders if it has to do with a paradox. Mulligan pooh poohs the idea, and says that they have moved far beyond Oscar Wilde and his simple paradoxes. He claims that Stephen can prove "by algebra that Hamlet's grandson is Shakespeare's grandfather and that he himself is the ghost of his own father" (1.268). Note that Mulligan is having a joke at Haines's expense.
• Haines is confused, and thinks that Buck Mulligan is referring to Stephen himself being the ghost of his father (As we'll see later, this confusion actually plays a part in Stephen's theory).
• Buck Mulligan slings his towel over his shoulder. He gets a big kick out of the misunderstanding, and thinks of Stephen as the youngest son of Noah, Japhet, looking for his father.
• Stephen tells Haines that they're always tired in the morning, and that the tale takes a long time to tell.
• Buck Mulligan raises his hands like a priest and says that only the sacred pint can unbind the tongue of Dedalus.
• Haines says that the Tower and hills remind him of the court in Shakespeare's Hamlet, Elsinore.
• Buck Mulligan turns to Stephen, but Stephen sees an image of himself mourning instead.
• Haines says that it is a wonderful tale.
• Stephen looks out on the sea and thinks while Haines says that he read a theological interpretation of Hamlet somewhere that involved the Son trying to be atoned by the Father.
• Mulligan smiles broadly, and looking up at them, begins to sing a bawdy song he has made up called "The Ballad of the Joking Jesus."
• Buck Mulligan tugs at Stephen's ashplant as he heads toward a cliff hanging over the sea. A showboat always, he flutters his hands, and as he reaches the end of his Ballad, he dives into the sea. Stephen thinks of the Greek messenger, Mercury.
• Haines laughs guardedly, and says to Stephen that they probably shouldn't laugh since Mulligan is so blasphemous. He says that somehow Mulligan's cheerfulness takes all the harm out of it.
• Stephen tells him that he has heard Buck Mulligan's song many times before.
• Haines asks if Stephen is a believer in the narrow sense of the word.
• Stephen gives the terse reply, "There's only one sense of the word, it seems to me" (1.290).
• Haines offers Stephen a cigarette and he takes it.
• Haines agrees with Stephen. He says that he could never go in for a personal God, and wonders if Stephen feels the same way.
• Stephen says, "You behold in me a horrible example of free thought" (1.295).
• Stephen walks on and waits for Haines to say something. He thinks of how they try to treat him familiarly, but also abuse him. He guesses that Haines wants to get the key to Martello Tower from him even though it is Stephen who pays the rent.
• Haines begins to say something, and Stephen turns. As he looks at Haines's, he realizes that his gaze is not unkind.
• Haines supposes that Stephen should be able to free himself since he is his own master.
• Stephen replies that he is the servant of two masters: the English and the Italian.
• Haines doesn't get it so Stephen spells it out for him, and notes that there is a third master, who calls on him for odd jobs. He says that he is servant of the imperial British state as well as the holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church.
• Haines says he can understand how Stephen feels this way. He says that British people think they've treated the Irish rather unfairly, but that, in the end, "history is to blame" (1.307).
• (We'll get into this later in the analysis, but note that this is a way of ducking responsibility for the effects of English colonization.)
• Stephen thinks to himself that Haines's comment is religious heresy, and recalls a number of famous heresiarchs (those who committed heresy against the church) throughout Church history.
• Haines goes on talking and says that their main national problem is that they feel their country is falling into the hands of German Jews (The first spark of anti-Semitism in the story; we'll see many more).
• A business-man and a boatman stand on the verge of a cliff and watch Haines and Stephen.
• The business-man notes a boat making for Bullock harbour, and the boatman says that it will get swept up that way when the tide comes in. He says it's nine days since a man was drowned.
• Stephen thinks of a man that was drowned, and imagines the body surfacing.
• They follow the path to a creek where Buck Mulligan is standing on a stone in shirtsleeves with his tie over his shoulder. There is a young man in the water nearby who asks how Buck Mulligan's brother is doing.
• Buck Mulligan says that he's down staying with the Bannons. They discus how one of the Bannons has gotten together with a young photo girl. (We'll come find that the girl is Milly Bloom.)
• Buck Mulligan begins to unlace his boots, and an elderly man appears coming up the rock face.
• Mulligan crosses himself as the man scrambles past. He acts as if the old man reminds him of Jesus.
• The young man says that someone named Seymour is back in town. He says that Seymour has given up medicine and is going in for the army.
• Buck Mulligan doesn't believe it, and the man confirms it, saying that Seymour has gotten together with a girl named Lily, whose father is very wealthy. Buck Mulligan asks if Lily is pregnant, and the young man says he should ask Seymour. Buck Mulligan still can't believe Seymour's going into the army.
• As he takes off his trousers, he notes that redheaded women like goats.
• Buck Mulligan feels his side, and jokes that his twelfth rib is gone (like Adam from the Bible), and concludes that he and Stephen are like Nietzsche's supermen. (Note: Nietzsche imagines that the supermen are the few great men at the end of history that will advance humanity while the rest of us will remain average dopes.)
• Buck Mulligan gets out of his shirt and throws it behind him where his clothes are.
• The young man asks if he is getting in, and Buck Mulligan tells him to make room. Buck Mulligan asks if Haines and Stephen are coming in. Haines says maybe later, and Stephen says that he's leaving.
• Buck Mulligan asks if he can have the key (like Stephen knew he would), and claims it would be to keep his shirt flat.
• Stephen gives him the key, and then Buck Mulligan asks for money for a pint, which Stephen also gives him. (The image of Buck Mulligan as a user is becoming abundantly clear.)
• Buck Mulligan again intones Nietzsche and jokingly intones the lines "He who stealeth from the poor lendeth to the Lord" (1.347).
• He plunges into the water.
• Haines says that they'll see him again, and Stephen thinks of an old proverb that tells him to beware of Englishmen.
• Mulligan cries that they will meet at "half twelve" (or 12:30) at the Ship (bar in Dublin), and Stephen says that sounds good.
• Stephen walks up the upward curving path, and thinks of some Latin lines from the mass, as he did earlier.
• Stephen thinks that he will not sleep at Martello tonight, but he also cannot go home.
• He hears Haines calling to him, and looks at him waving. Stephen then looks farther out where he sees the sleek brown head of a seal, and he thinks to himself, "Usurper" (1.356).
Ulysses Telemachus Analysis Summary
You know the kid in middle school who thinks that he wants to be the President of the United States? Do you remember how irritating this kid was, how confident and self-sure he was? Well, many who want to be novelists can have the same kind of demeanor. We know a lot of smart people who had a lot of trouble with Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man not because it's hard (which it is), but because Stephen Dedalus comes across as an overly confident boy. Toward the close of the book, when he decides that he will go to Paris and pursue the life of the artist, he offers two famous lines.
The first line is: "Non serviam." In Latin, this means "I will not serve," and echoes Lucifer's statement to God in John Milton's Paradise Lost that it would be better to be a ruler in hell than to be a servant in heaven. The second is: "I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race." Both of these lines come back to bite Stephen at the start of Ulysses. What is so refreshing about the start of the book is that – moody as he is – Stephen has learned a lot of humility and he has begun to mature (though he still has a long way to go).
The key thing that happens between the close of Portrait in late 1902 and the opening of Ulysses on the morning of June 16, 1904 is the death of Stephen's mother. Presumably, Stephen lived a bohemian lifestyle while he was in Paris, but he has failed to produce art, and thus has returned to Ireland as something of a failure. The most pressing reason for his return was that his mother was sick, and at her deathbed her last wish was for Stephen to pray over her. Stephen, who has cast off the Church and the end of Portrait, refuses to pray. And his mother dies with her son refusing to pray over her. Unsurprisingly, this leaves Stephen just a little moody at the start of Ulysses, and not too open to Buck Mulligan's joking about how he killed his mother.
Now there are two big thematic aspects of "Telemachus" that you want to be tuned into right from the start.
The first one is the notion of Irish-ness, and what it means to be Irish in 1904. In 1904, Ireland is still under English rule though there is a strong nationalist movement within the country. At one point Buck Mulligan begins singing some lines from W.B. Yeats's "Who Goes with Fergus?" and Stephen remembers singing these lines to his mother before she died. Yeats was the leading figure of the Irish Literary Revival, which strove for cultural independence from England whether or not they could also obtain political independence. Joyce himself had a somewhat complex relationship with Yeats, and refused to align himself with the movement. When Stephen tells Haines that he is not only a servant to the imperial British state and to the holy Roman Catholic and apostolic church, but also to "a third there is who wants me for odd jobs," he is referring to Ireland (1.303). Stephen feels the pressure of being under British rule, and is well acquainted with the crushing influence of the Catholic Church in Ireland (over 90% of Dublin would have been Catholic), but he also is wary of the dangers of insular nationalist thinking.
There are two perverse views of Irish-ness that come up in the chapter. The first is the milk woman, whom Stephen imagines as a classic Irish maid. Yet even in his imagination he can't help but think of her as barren, and the fact that she does not understand Haines when he speaks Gaelic to her further undermines the ideal image. The second is Haines's "British" view. Haines isn't all bad – he's sympathetic to the Irish, but his is the sympathy of idle curiosity. He's interested in Irish culture as if it's quaint, and responds to Stephen's seething resentment (with a dainty cigarette between his fingers) by calmly saying, "We feel in England that we have treated you rather unfairly. It seems history is to blame" (1.307). Similarly, he wants to put Stephen's line, "It is a symbol of Irish art. The cracked lookingglass of a servant," into his book of sayings, but can't imagine the pain of being Irish and feeling this to be true (1.65).
The second big thematic aspect is that of the "usurper," which invites correlations between Dedalus and Telemachus in the Odyssey, and between Dedalus and Hamlet. The Martello Tower brings to mind the court of Elsinore in Hamlet, which Haines himself observes, and the fact that Stephen insists on dressing in black after his mother's death recalls Hamlet's same insistence after the death of his father.
Martello Tower might also recall Ithaca, and Haines and Buck Mulligan slinking around the house and taking advantage of Stephen brings to mind Antinous and Eurymachos, who attempt to take over Odysseus's court while he is gone at sea. Stephen sees Buck Mulligan, in particular, as a "usurper," and he resents him. Though Stephen has broken with the Church and seeks to be a free and independent thinker, he is well aware of the constraints upon him, and is still tormented by religious and spiritual (as well as personal) questions. He can't go in for Buck Mulligan's light-hearted mockery of everything, which essentially undermines all that Stephen stands and strives for. Stephen is like Telemachus living amongst enemies that are trying to undermine him.
A fun point to end on. At one point, when Buck Mulligan is trying to buddy up to Stephen, Stephen observes that, "He fears the lancet of my art as I fear that of his" (1.68). To put this in plain English: Stephen thinks that Buck Mulligan is afraid of how he will be portrayed in Stephen's artistic work. That's interesting because Joyce based Buck Mulligan on a real-life character named Oliver St. John Gogarty. Gogarty indeed suffered from the "lancet" of Joyce's art since he was immortalized (in an unfavorable light) as Buck Mulligan.
Ulysses Episode 2: Nestor Summary
• We open this chapter at about 10am at a classroom in Dalkey, a little village southeast of Dublin, where Stephen is questioning the students of his class about the campaigns of the Tarentine general Pyrrhus against the Romans.
• When a student can't remember where a battle was, Stephen begins thinking about memory and the prophecies of William Blake.
• The student admits that he forgets the place, and Stephen corrects him (but not before checking it in his own book).
• Stephen remembers the famous line of Pyrrhus's. Exhausted after the battle, he said, "Another victory like that and we are done for" (2.10).
• Stephen calls on Armstrong (a student in his class) to ask about the end of Pyrrhus, but then asks him progressively easier questions until it becomes apparent that Armstrong doesn't know who Pyrrhus is. When he guesses it has something to do with "pier" the other students crack up.
• Stephen looks out at the laughing faces of his students and has mixed emotions, envy foremost among them. (Question: Why is he envious? Perhaps because they are happier than he is?)
• Stephen picks up on Armstrong's pier, and calls Kingstown pier "a disappointed bridge" (2.22). He's joking about the fact that Ireland wanted to be connected to continental Europe but ended up being extremely isolated.
• The students don't get it, and Stephen thinks that he will tell it to Haines later on. He thinks of how Haines treats him like a jester.
• Stephen begins to think about how possibility relates to history in Aristotelian metaphysics.
• The students want to hear a story (always trying to get the teacher off track, as usual), but Stephen has a student named Talbot begin reading from Milton's Lycidas instead.
• As the boy reads, Stephen's memory again returns to metaphysics. He is particularly taken with Aristotle's idea that thought is the prime mover and thinks, "Thought is the thought of thought" (2.35).
• Talbot continues reading, and Stephen thinks of Christ –one might say that he is present right there in the room.
• Talbot begins packing up and informs Stephen that they have hockey at ten. Stephen offers to tell them a riddle.
• They're all excited, and Stephen tells them the riddle, but they don't get it.
• Though he doesn't admit it, it's a sort of riddle on riddles because it's impossible to come up with the answer unless you know it beforehand. The answer is, "The fox burying his grandmother under a hollybush" (1.56).
• The students all clamor outside for hockey. A student named Sargent approaches Stephen; he is carrying his notebook. Sargent made a bunch of errors doing math and the principal, Mr. Deasy, told him to copy them all again and have Stephen sign off on it.
• Stephen asks if Sargent understands the sums enough to do them himself, and Sargent admits that he does not.
• Stephen thinks of how pathetic Sargent is, but then thinks with sympathy of how much his mother must have loved him in order to keep him alive. Stephen thinks of his own mother, her death, and wonders if love is the only true thing in life.
• Stephen solves the problem for Sargent, and thinks of some pre-Bruno philosophers and plays with some biblical passages in his head.
• Stephen asks Sargent if he understands how to do the math problems, and Sargent says that he does.
• Sargent copies out the data, and Stephen thinks of the Latin phrase "Amor matris," and how it is ambiguous between the love of the mother for the child and the love of the child for the mother.
• Stephen thinks of how he was like Sargent when he was young – thinking of the secrets in his own heart, he imagines that they might be called tyrants.
• Stephen tells Sargent the math is very simple, and Sargent rea
I need answer
gradesaver's "About Ulysses" should be of great help in formulating your answer. I have provided the link below.