Chapter One: Telemachus
When James Joyce began writing his novel Ulysses, he had in mind a creative project that brought together aspects of his two major works Dubliners and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, while at the same time incorporating aspects of Homer's epic The Odyssey. The novel Ulysses encompasses a total of eighteen chapters, tracing the actions of various Dubliners beginning at 8 am on the day of June 16, 1904.
Chapter One opens with the breakfast of three young men: Haines, a British student who is in Dublin on temporary leave from Oxford; Malachi "Buck" Mulligan, a medical student; and Stephen Dedalus, the protagonist from Portrait and the central character in the first three chapters of Ulysses. The three young men are living in Martello Tower, for which only Stephen pays rent as he is the one who has rented it from the Ministry of War. We immediately discover that there are tense relations between Mulligan and Stephen; particularly, Stephen feels increasingly ostracized, as Mulligan and Haines become closer. Further, Buck spares no sympathy in his constant tormenting of Stephen in regards to the recent death of his mother, Mary Dedalus. Stephen is, in general, the butt of most of Mulligan¹s jokes.
Particularly, Mulligan teases Stephen that he is responsible for his mother's death because upon seeing her on her deathbed, he refused her pleas for him to pray, having distanced himself from organized religion. In this, Mulligan jokes that his aunt has refused to allow him to keep company with Stephen, as his apostasy is made worse by being the murderer of his mother. Further, Stephen feels distanced from Haines; Stephen feels that Haines is somewhat patronizing in his attitude towards Stephen's desire to become a poet. Haines is a British native and both Mulligan and Stephen despise him, though Mulligan masks his true thoughts with hypocrisy and flattery. Haines appears as a spoiled student and a shallow thinker. He argues that British oppression is not the cause of Ireland¹s problems; rather "history" is to blame. Interrupting the young men's conversation about Ireland and its international politics, an old lady arrives to deliver the morning milk and Stephen finds that he is forced to pay the bill. Soon after breakfast, the three men leave the Tower to walk along the beach. After making plans to meet Stephen at a bar called the Ship around noon, Mulligan asks him for his key to the tower. After, forfeiting his key to Mulligan, Stephen departs from his two roommates, feeling that he has been usurped from his position.
Joyce's novel is named after the Greek hero Ulysses (Odysseus, is the original name) who is the central figure in Homer's The Odyssey. The ancient Greek epic chronicles the many years that the royal warrior Ulysses spends wandering in his attempts to return home to his throne Ithaca after victory in the Trojan War. The eighteen chapters of Joyce's Ulysses, though not originally titled, correspond to specific episodes in Homer's epic. Chapter One is named for Telemachus, the son of Ulysses and his wife Penelope. Telemachus, a prince who is entering adulthood, sees his castle being overrun by young suitors who are intent on wooing his mother, and gaining the crown. In this section of The Odyssey, Telemachus, advised by the Greek goddess of wisdom, Athena, decides to head out in search of his father who is rumored to be dead. His decision to leave the castle is the result not only of his desire to find his father, but of the usurped feeling that he feels in his own castle where he is the disrespected son of a forgotten king.
In Joyce's novel, the parallel between the Telemachus passages is central to an understanding of the work. Joyce's central character is Leopold Bloom, who plays the Ulysses figure (though we do not meet him until Chapter Four. It is Stephen Dedalus who is the parallel to Homer's Telemachus. It is important to note though, that it is not Stephen's biological father, Simon Dedalus, who he searches for, but a paternal figure which Bloom will attempt to play towards the end of the novel when the two main characters finally meet. Stephen, like Telemachus, is rather obsessed with ideas of paternity and this establishes a further link to Homer's work and provides the basis for the eventual Bloom-Dedalus relationship.
The extensive variety of the narrative structures that are employed in Ulysses distinguish Joyce from the writers that preceded him, and upon reaching a new chapter we can always expect something new from the author. In Chapter One, the action is narrated largely from the point of view of Stephen Dedalus, whose interior monologue is presented to us. In fact, most of the information that we glean comes not from the dialogue between the characters but from Stephen's revealed preoccupation. Stephen's guilt concerning his mother's death as well as his desperation to become a respected artist are presented through his thoughts. Further, much of the hostility between Dedalus and Mulligan is unspoken and Stephen thinks back to several events that we would not be privy to if we could not read his memory.
Dedalus, an intelligent young graduate, is an artistic, philosophical mind on display and in presenting his thinking patterns to us, Joyce decorates the tracks with what may seem like random references to obscure trivia. Stephen's mind wanders through poetry, though Irish folk songs, Greek philosophy and Roman Catholic liturgy as well as memories of his mother's death scene. All of these references are linked thematically, though, and do bear a direct relationship to the subjects at hand. The consequence of such a literary approach is scene in the multi-layered "collage" effect that is evident in the work. In his effort to replicate the manner in which the mind actually processes information, Joyce connects a series of thoughts or sounds or memories that often times appear as sentence fragments or unfamiliar syntax that are uncomfortable for the reader. Further, because the mind is moving quickly, we are given initial pieces of information, and the details are filled in later. This also becomes a powerful literary tool because characters and ideas that do not bear direct relationship to each other can be brought together by a character thoughts. For example, when the elderly milk lady arrives, Stephen thinks of an old folksong that she reminds him of. Later, he imagines her as a witch on a milking stool, again as Mother Ireland, and finally as the sister of his dead mother, Mary Dedalus. Through Stephen's imagination at work, the themes of maternity and decay are co-developed. This process only becomes more complex as the novel progresses, and at times it is difficult to separate Stephen's hyperactive mental activity from the true narrative action of the novel.
Only a few characters are introduced to us in the first Chapter. Stephen Dedalus, we learn, is a schoolteacher who has recently returned from Paris upon hearing news that his mother was dying. While he lives in Martello, an old sea tower rented cheaply from the Department of War, his father Simon Dedalus and his four younger sisters live in the city. Joyce's depiction of Dedalus, his protagonist from Portrait, is somewhat critical, but tempered with enough compassion to identify Stephen as an awkward young man, who will need to match his ambition with realism and maturity if he is to become a successful poet.
The extroverted Buck Mulligan is a severe contrast to his more introverted roommate, Stephen. Buck seems jovial and self-confident while Stephen is overly self-conscious. While Stephen is sincere in his questioning of his Catholic upbringing, Buck is merely a sacrilegious jokester who regards nothing as sacred. While shaving, Mulligan mocks the exaggerated movements of the priests offering sacrament and upon distributing bread at the breakfast table, Mulligan makes references to the Gospels. His sacrilegious humor continues throughout the novel. Finally, Stephen feels used by Mulligan who does not make equal payments towards their living expenses and in fact, frequently borrows money from Stephen despite the fact that he is significantly wealthier.
Haines, the British Oxonian, is in Dublin to study Ireland and he plans a visit to Dublin's National Library. Through Haines, we receive much of the discourse of Ireland's political situation-a key theme in Joyce's 1922 novel. Haines argues from a conservative British standpoint, that history-not Britain-is to blame for Ireland's problems. When the old milkmaid arrives, Haines speaks to her in Irish, hoping that she will understand; ironically, she does not know Irish but mistakes it for French. Neither Stephen nor Mulligan enjoys the company of Haines, the aristocratic intellectual, and his presence illustrates another difference between Stephen and Mulligan. While Stephen tries to avoid Haines, Buck flatters him and uses the British gentleman to ostracize Stephen and impose control over him.
Throughout the novel, names have important meaning and Chapter One is no different. Stephen Dedalus, feels self-conscious because his Greek name, "Dedalus" is not Irish. Dedalus was the artisan father of Icarus, who fashioned wings for the two of them to escape from a prison tower. This is particularly resonant given Stephen's thoughts of exile and escape from Martello and Ireland. Buck has several nicknames for Stephen, whose birth name means crown. Among Stephen's nickname is the name "Kinch" which means knife; this is often interpreted as a reference to Stephen's quick, sharp mind. The fact that Stephen means crown indicates that, like Telemachus, Stephen has a royal potential that is presently unrealized.
Mulligan's name also bears insight into his character. The nickname "Buck" is accurate for the coarse, brusque joker and Joyce is not sympathetic to Mulligan, despite the fact that Mulligan is a rather popular figure. The fact that he is nicknamed after an animal-as opposed to "Kinch"-is to hint at the fact that despite his comic wit, Mulligan is not as deep and sincere a thinker as Dedalus. Equally important, a parallel is eventually developed between the treatment suffered by Dedalus on account of Mulligan and the treatment that Leopold Bloom suffers on account of Hugh "Blazes" Boylan, the man who sleeps with his wife. Not only do the names share the letter B (Buck, Blazes, Boylan) but there is an alliterative resemblance between Malachi Mulligan and Blazes Boylan. Finally, Malachi is the name of the last book of the Christian Bible's Old Testament, named for its author, a Jewish priest who prophecies Christ the imminent Messiah. This is extremely ironic because in every conversation, Mulligan satirizes the church. In the opening scene of the novel, Malachi Mulligan describes Stephen as a "fearful Jesuit" and imitates the priests reforming holy rituals.
The opening chapter is heavy with foreshadowing and a series of themes are established foreshadowing the appearance of Bloom in Chapter Four. Particularly, the anti-Semitic ideas expressed by Haines and echoed by Mr. Deasy in Chapter Two, bear particular resonance when we discover that Bloom is a Jew. The extensive references to Prince Hamlet and his ghosts begin an extensive discourse on Shakespeare that culminates with the apparition of Mary Dedalus. Finally, the rift between Stephen Dedalus and his friends only grows wider and eventually becomes his most primary concern.
Additionally, several of Joyce's opening themes are developed by the references that he makes to other literary and philosophical works. Dedalus' thoughts consistently refer to the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who developed the idea of a Superman (Ubermensch) and this becomes important in his thoughts later in the day concerning the United Kingdom and Ireland, the overwhelming role of the Catholic Church and the desperation of Dublin's urban poor. At this moment though, Dedalus humorously applies the theory of the Superman to the fact that Mulligan, who is wealthier than he is, is taking his money. While Joyce also makes references to religious texts--both Biblical and liturgical--as well as Greek and Irish literature, the most important literary allusions are the Shakespearean ones. Joyce's Shakespearean references continue throughout every chapter of the novel and bear extreme thematic importance.
One of the most important ideas in Chapter One, is that while Stephen is a modern "Telemachus" figure, he is more accurately a modern "Prince Hamlet." The title prince of the Shakespearean tragedy, suffers after the death of his father who appears as a ghost. The ghost of King Hamlet informs his son that King Claudius (brother of dead King Hamlet) is guilty of fratricide; he has killed Hamlet both to wed his wife Gertrude as well as claim the throne. Having burdened his son with his spectral presence, King Hamlet urges the prince to seize revenge and Hamlet's mission produces the tragic conclusion of the drama. There are of course, parallels between the princes Telemachus and Hamlet, and Joyce seeks to exploit these overlaps. Like Hamlet, Joyce's Telemachus (Stephen) is brooding and overly contemplative. Throughout the one day of the novel's narrative action (June 16, 1904), Stephen continually relives the quandary of Hamlet's famous question "To be or not to be." In his struggle to become a poet, in his lingering loyalties to kin, country and church, in his efforts to remove himself from burdensome disingenuous friends, Stephen, a modern Hamlet, must arrive at some sort of self-definition. When this occurs, towards the end of the novel, it is one of the novel's narrative climaxes.
Joyce's wit is at work in Chapter One and we immediately find marvelous intricate narrative details that link Stephen to the play Hamlet. The early morning seascape of Stephen's tower resembles the early morning action of the Shakespearean drama. While Hamlet paces upon the heights of the royal tower Elsinore thinking upon the vision his father's ghost, Stephen ponders thoughts of his dead mother and explicitly refers to his own tower, Martello, as his Elsinore. The motif of the key and the tower is essential to the stories of Hamlet, The Odyssey and the passage of The Metamorphoses in which Ovid narrates the escape of Icarus and Dedalus.
Another explicit reference is seen in the words of Mulligan who refers to Stephen as a "bard," mockingly minimizing Dedalus' poetic ambitions by comparing him to the lyrical giant Shakespeare. While Stephen suffers the paternity obsessions of Hamlet and Telemachus, much of the imagery surrounding the dead father is applied to Mary Dedalus, despite the fact that Stephen engages upon a "search for paternity" of his very own. Despite the entangling of motifs, it is important to keep these two ideas separate. Indeed, Joyce (through Stephen) later contrasts the ideas of maternity and paternity.
Further parallels between Prince Hamlet and Stephen Dedalus as Telemachus can be seen in other details of their young adulthood. While Hamlet has recently returned home to find his mother wed to the uncle that killed his father, Stephen has also recently returned home to see his mother die. In Stephen Dedalus, we find the confluence of Prince Hamlet and Telemachus. Hamlet embarks upon an academic or psychological journey to find his father (he must determine the authenticity of the ghost and the veracity of its claims) and Telemachus who begins a true journey to find his missing father, rumored to be dead. Stephen's psychological journey touches upon his loyalties an increasing distance to his home while his geographical journey brings him from Paris to Dublin, in contact with the paternal Bloom and into serious considerations of self-exile. To the degree that Ulysses, like Portrait, is loosely autobiographical, Joyce intends to elevate the importance of Stephen's literary ambitions. Far from being just another budding poet, Stephen (as a 22-year old James Joyce) intends to give Ireland its national epic and this is to be the equivalent of the political efforts of Prince Hamlet and Telemachus' efforts to reclaim what has been lost.
The "crowned prince" motif links Stephen to the two princes that he is based on, to the degree that he is willing to accept and successfully negotiate his relationship with Ireland. All three of these young men (Stephen, Hamlet and Telemachus) are defenders of a tower. The most dramatic piece of evidence confirming this is Stephen's final and unspoken word, which is, in fact, the last word of the first chapter: Usurper. A usurper is an individual who successfully lays claim to what rightfully belongs to another. The word "usurper" is a direct lift from Hamlet, where Prince Hamlet repeats the word throughout the play in reference to his uncle Claudius, who unjustly reigns in Hamlet's stead. In The Odyssey, the young suitors of Penelope are usurpers in a fashion similar to Shakespeare's Claudius, shutting out both the dead king and his living son. Stephen regards Mulligan as a usurper for taking the key to Martello Tower; again, Joyce uses a comparatively mundane concern (Stephen's loss of the key) to connect him to literary themes that indicate that something larger is at stake.
As a result of the literary structure of the first chapter and its somber literary allusions, Ulysses opens with a pensive, somewhat gloomy tone. Stephen is brooding and depressed and because his thoughts are the only ones relayed to us, his personal mood wholly determines the mood of the chapter. Stephen's thoughts of struggle, exile and death further shadow the chapter and because it is the opening of the novel and his quest, we sense that there will be myriad difficulties to overcome. Despite the melancholy of Stephen Dedalus, Joyce does manage to slip in a few humorous episodes. Most notably, the old milk lady provides a comic semi-distraction from the chapter's weighty themes. As a comic fool, the milk lady's physical appearance as "Old Mother Grogan" is satirical of typical old women. Her error of mistaking Irish for French is especially laughable, not only because the two sound dissimilar but because of her remark on the subject: "I'm told it's a grand language by them that knows." Even in this detail, Joyce is not simply being comic. The fact that the old Irish woman does not even recognize her language is to be factored into Haines' commentary on the renaissance of Irish nativist language and literature. This is a theme that recurs in Ulysses.
Joyce's somewhat twisted sense of humor occurs again when he uses Stephen's imagination to mix satire and symbolism. The milk lady, having become Old Mother Grogan, a character from an Irish folk song, is envisioned as a Mother Ireland, because of her age and her connection to the folk-all this, despite the fact that she does not recognize her native language. Further, Dedalus' word play hints of Mother Grogan as one of the Gorgon sisters from Greek myth. She is then a witch on a milking stool (as opposed to a toadstool) and then one of the Wyrd sisters from the epic Beowulf. Most important, Joyce establishes the milk lady in a series of women who are to stand as symbols for various ideas. Specifically, Stephen mentally links the old woman to his mother who has died and makes an argument about maternity when he imagines the soured milk of Mother Grogan as the sour green bile that Mary Dedalus coughed up on her deathbed. Having fused the images of the milk (representing birth) and the bile (representing death), Stephen then projects them onto the sea, which he describes as a "bowl of green water." In his association of Mary Dedalus with the old milk lady, Stephen draws the final conclusion that his Mother Ireland is dying and her nourishment for the young is becoming sour.
Because of his extensive use of polarized symbols in marking almost all of his female characters, Joyce's work has suffered some critical displeasure. In severe contrast to several of the characters in his collection Dubliners, all of the women in Ulysses carry a symbolic importance that supercedes their narrative importance, with the possible exception of Bloom's wife, Molly. By the time that the novel concludes in Molly's "Penelope" chapter, old midwives, young virgins, prostitutes and mothers have been lumped together into one female character. Despite the somewhat valid criticism, it is also worth noting that Joyce's female characters in Ulysses greatly foreshadow his later and final work, Finnegan's Wake, in which all of the characters are only symbols; their names and biographical information become interchangeable and eventually unimportant.
Besides this recurring motif, there are a few others that are important because they appear in other chapters. Joyce is notorious for his puns, and he frequently evaluates the contrast between cleanliness and dirtiness. In this chapter there are references to the dirty sea washing clean and clean milk as well as sour. The motif of the key and tower, links Stephen to Bloom, who will forfeit his key as well. The motif of the key and tower also becomes a political argument in terms of the Irish desire for "Home Rule" in place of British occupation. The fact that Ulysses is chiefly the story of two wanderers, Stephen and Bloom, is a narrative parallel to the Homeric epic, but this is only enforceable because neither of the two have their keys with them. They are, in a sense, exiled from home.
A final motif in Chapter One, is the motif of music. Throughout the chapter, Joyce uses fragments of songs to forward the narrative plot and also provide philosophical depth and fuse different images together. All the while, the music is part of the plot itself. In this chapter, we find Buck's mocking of the Eucharistic ceremony, Irish drinking songs, a folk ballad entitled "Mary Ann" and the song that Stephen sang to his dying mother: "Love's bitter mystery." In this chapter, as with several others, the motif of liquid (water or milk) is connected with the music that is sung or referenced.
Finally, Joyce uses these motifs and a few others, to establish the major themes of his novel. He does this early on and by the end of "Telemachus," the reader already has a sense of the four themes of Ulysses, despite the fact that the hero, Leopold Bloom, has not yet appeared. The first theme of the novel, stems from the political climate of Joyce's time. Written in 1922, Ulysses (like many of Joyce's preceding works) evaluates the political struggle for Irish independence. Set in 1904, the Dublin of Ulysses is a city in which the heated discussions of political independence, violence in response to British military occupation and the veneration of fallen heroes, run parallel to the academic "parlor-talk" of the Irish literary renaissance, the rebirth of the Irish language and the rejection of Anglophilic culture.
The concept of "Home Rule," for Joyce, encompasses both the political and cultural questions and while he examines the British critically, the author is equally critical of the Irish patriots, many of whom opt for isolation or nativism. Particularly, Joyce takes offense at the sentimentalists who continually assert that Ireland needs her young people to save her; rather, Joyce argues that the conservative conventions of Ireland are stifling Irish youth. In Stephen's memorable remark to Haines makes this evident: "I am a servant of two masters, an English and an Italian...And a third there is who wants me for odd jobs." Here, Stephen uses a Biblical allusion, arguing that Ireland suffers equally under British and Catholic oppression, all the while trying to enlist young people for a few "odd jobs" of her own.
In his depiction of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, Joyce continues a theme that he embarked upon in Portrait. Again, Joyce develops the theme of faith opposed to dissent, and again, Joyce is mostly critical of the organized church. Stephen Dedalus seeks to sever the ties that bind him to his Roman Catholic upbringing but Joyce develops the argument that Roman Catholicism is an integral part of Ireland. The sea, for example, bears reference to the Eucharist. The sacrilegious Mulligan cannot eat bread without making reference to Christian symbols. Stephen, who is a dissenter, suffers more religious occupations than any other Joycean character. Even as Stephen is able to politically divorce himself from Ireland, he is unable to completely divorce himself from the Church. A final treatment of the religious theme is seen in the concept of the Virgin Mary whose Joycean depiction resembles both Mary Dedalus and Mother Ireland. Joyce's argument is simply that in Ireland, Irish and Catholic are indistinguishable. We will find that despite Bloom's desire to be included, his non-Catholic heritage prevents him from being accepted. Ironically, Stephen cannot escape from Ireland because of Catholicism's fetters.
A third theme that Joyce begins in Chapter One is the idea of the solitary individual. Dedalus suffers the typical artist's melancholy, but his solitude is also constructed to parallel Christ and Hamlet. Both Stephen and especially Bloom feel estranged from their countrymen and the rebukes and discomforts they suffer from their acquaintances testify to a larger alienation.
Finally, Joyce's most central theme is the concept of love. Specifically, Joyce embarks upon a search for its definition and its potentially salvific role in modern life. The musical phrase, "Love's bitter mystery" is repeated throughout the novel and pondered by all of the central characters. Joyce evaluates the love between a mother and son, between a father and son, between a citizen and country, colony and Mother country, between friends and brothers, between God and man, and most important in the novel, between husband and wife. Joyce's discussions of love are always furthered by immediate questions of fidelity. Stephen's love song is challenged by the fact that he denied his mother's dying request. Stephen's Latin invocation of Buck as his friend, is immediately challenged by Mulligan's disloyalty in his preference for Haines. This foreshadows the more serious question of Molly Bloom's infidelity, after which both Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus find themselves heartily investigating the nature of love as chief among human emotions.
Chapter Two: Nestor
About an hour after "Telemachus" ends, we find Stephen teaching ancient history and the classics to a disrespectful class of wealthy boys. Neither Stephen nor the students are particularly interested in the lesson which concerns the martial exploits of the Greek hero, Pyrrhus. Armstrong, the class clown, is disruptive and Talbot, a lazy cheater who is reading the answers out of his book, does not bother to hide his act from Stephen, who tells him to 'turn the page" when he stammers at his final response. Stephen struggles to keep the class in order and it is clear that they disrespect him. Eventually, even Stephen is distant and half-hearted in his participation and he eventually gives up his attempt to quiz the students on their classics lesson.
Later, the young boys ask Stephen to tell them ghost stories and riddles instead of their lesson. Upon recess, one pathetic student named Cyril Sargent asks Stephen for assistance with his multiplication tables and Stephen is reminded of his mother as he considers the fact that only a mother could love as pitiful a creature as what he and Cyril must have been. Stephen considers his roommate Haines to be much like the spoiled students to whom he must cater. Because he feels that his students are incapable of learning, and because he feels that his intellectual talents are being wasted in his current position, Stephen does not care about his job and is already considering leaving his position.
At the end of the chapter, the schoolmaster, Mr. Deasy, gives Stephen his meager pay for the month. and annoys the young teacher with trite advice on lending money, pro-British and anti-Semitic rhetoric. Mr. Deasy continues with an unintelligent attempt at philosophy as well as Shakespearean criticism. At the close of the chapter, Mr. Deasy asks Stephen to examine his letter on a cattle-disease that has caused foreign economic powers to consider an embargo on Irish cattle. Deasy intends for Stephen to use his contacts to get the letter, which is full of misstatements and incorrect assertions, printed in the Evening Telegraph.
In The Odyssey, Nestor is he long-winded elderly man whom Telemachus visits before he sets sail. The young prince is in search of advice and information about his father. Nestor is hospitable and good intentioned but unfortunately he is of little aid, and his interminable commentary is worthless to Telemachus. As Stephen continues his passage, his path crosses Mr. Deasy who, like Nestor, offers worthless advice. Another parallel between Mr. Deasy and Nestor can be seen in the imagery of shells and horses connected to both characters. Not only does Deasy's school offer instruction in Greek military history, but he jokingly refers to intense debate as "breaking a lance," a somewhat ironic parallel to Nestor, who is a veritable war hero despite his foibles. While Homer's Nestor was developed as a parody, Joyce's Deasy goes further. In his commentary on borrowing and lending, Deasy resembles Hamlet's Polonius who spits out empty platitudes. A parallel between Stephen and Nestor could be seen in Stephen's failure in his role as a teacher.
The chapter opens in Stephen's classroom and again, the reader must rely upon Stephen's interior monologue to discover what is happening. While he teaches his students, we get his opinion of them and his half-hearted lecture his mind wanders over various topics. When depicting the conversation between Stephen Dedalus and Mr. Deasy, Joyce writes in an impartial narrative voice to avoid a judgmental tone while satirizing the anti-Semitic and insular schoolmaster. Joyce consciously avoids editorializing and allows Mr. Deasy to condemn himself with his own words.
Despite the fact that Stephen has left Haines and Mulligan, there is no indication that most of his relationships outside of Martello Tower are any more fulfilling. In his description of his students, Stephen suggests that the schoolboys are similar to Haines and Stephen openly resents their wealth. The class consciousness that Stephen feels in his interactions with Mulligan and Haines becomes more explicit in this chapter. At the same though, Stephen is able to forge a bond with Cyril Sargent who figures as a younger Stephen, the same way that Stephen will later figure as a younger Leopold Bloom. Just as this relationship is foreshadowed, Deasy's anti-Semitic comments and Anglophilic sensibilities make him the first in a series of ardent patriots who will cause trouble for our protagonists, Dedalus and Bloom.
In Chapter Two as in others, Joyce makes several Shakespearean references that will prove valuable to the careful reader. Alluding to Hamlet, as well as Macbeth and Julius Caesar, Joyce's Dedalus thinks of scenes of betrayal and guilt while struggling to pay attention to Deasy's lecture about saving and lending. In place of the Irish love songs and Aristotelian theory presented in Chapter One, "Nestor" contains lines from Irish political songs and references Greek military history. In this chapter, which largely focuses on economic and political themes, Joyce's tone is largely satirical. In contrast to the inflated rhetoric of Deasy, who emulates the British pride in saying "I paid my way," we learn that he is the collector of "symbols soiled by greed and misery." As we will see with other citizens later in the novel, Deasy's anti-Semitic humor falls flat, and rather ironically, the end of the chapter is a scene in which sunlight rains down upon Mr. Deasy's "wise shoulders"
A collector of shells, Mr. Deasy himself becomes a similar symbol of the decay and emptiness that Ireland suffers. Deasy regards his shell collection as dearly as his collection of coins and Joyce is clearly making the argument that the economic greed that goads men like Mr. Deasy into "wanting to become British" is destructive to the cause of Irish independence. Despite the fact that Mr. Deasy considers himself to be a patriot, Joyce suggests that Ireland's salvation is not through economic growth. Ironically, Deasy's money-obsessed rhetoric is interspersed with Stephen's thoughts of various Irish patriotic songs whose images jar with Deasy's mania. In one of the more explicit passages of a usually opaque novel, Joyce goes as far as to allude to various figures and parties involved in Irish politics, including Parnell, Sinn Fein and the Fenians. The theme of the citizen's love of Ireland-loosely established in Chapter One-gets more treatment here.
While there are no female characters in "Nestor," the theme of love between a man and a woman is also developed further. In his hasty chronology of human history, Deasy confuses several concepts and conflates several characters before arriving at the misogynistic conclusion that women-or the love of women-inevitably brings the downfall of man. The schoolmaster makes reference to Eve, but interestingly enough, he also refers to Helen of Troy. Mr. Deasy also mentions the woman whose affair with Parnell ended the political leader's movement for Irish independence (while Parnell was disgraced by an affair, Mr. Deasy names the wrong woman). In The Odyssey, Homer constructs a series of females including the Sirens, Calypso and Circe, temptresses who will destroy the hero should his expression of love make him vulnerable. Joyce's treatment of love between the sexes largely follows classical Greek lines. In both the husband/wife and mother/son relationships, the lines between devotion and temptation, protection and destruction are blurred.
Stephen's thoughts on his student Cyril Sargent and their relationships with their mothers form the emotional peak of "Nestor." Of course, Stephen is more inclined to think of Cyril in relationship to his mother, not because he knows Mrs. Sargent or particularly cares about Cyril, but because of the lingering ghost of his dead mother. The theme of the mother/son relationship is developed in the image of Stephen and Cyril as weak sons who are in desperate need of their mother's assistance. Dedalus describes their consistency as that of "weak watery blood;" ironically, it is Dedalus' mother who has suffered a "weak watery" death. The son and mother seem to function in tandem, a relationship in which only one can be strong and the other weak. The devotion that Stephen failed to express at his mother's deathbed is expressed in his riddle that he tells his students of the fox who is burying his grandmother. This important motif recurs throughout Stephen's thoughts in later chapters.
Chapter Three: Proteus
After 11 AM, Stephen Dedalus wanders along Sandymount strand (a beach) to waste time before he is to go to the Ship at 12:30 to meet Mulligan and Haines. Though, in the end, Stephen decides not to go to the Ship to see Mulligan. This occurs immediately after the "Nestor" episode at Mr. Deasy's school and Stephen is still disgruntled by his unpleasant experience with Mr. Deasy and also feels burdened because he has to carry Mr. Deasy¹s inane letter to the Evening Telegraph. Later in the chapter, Stephen sits on a rock and pencils in a few corrections, in an effort to make his upcoming trip to the newspaper office less embarrassing.
After walking for several miles, Stephen considers visiting his mother's family (the Gouldings) but after imagining what his father's objections would be, he decides against it. Stephen imagines a vivid scene of what would transpire if he did decide to visit the Gouldings. He imagines his Uncle Richie Goulding who is laid up in bed as he suffers the consequences of decades of alcoholism. As usually, "nuncle Richie" would be singing Italian opera while cousin Walter ran around the house in search of backache pills for his father. In another room, Mrs. Goulding would no doubt be bathing one of the myriad young children running around the house.
As he walks on the beach, Stephen considers different philosophical questions on what is real and what is only perceived, on the relationship of the symbol versus the symbolized, as well as the human senses and how they interact and overlap. Stephen expresses his feelings of solitude as his mind wanders on the real and imagined figures that surround him on Sandymount and he imagines himself to be in Paris, in the company of his friend, Kevin Egan. Dedalus¹ friend, Egan, was reputed to be a socialist and after exiling himself to Paris, unlike Stephen, he never returned to Ireland.
In Homer's two epics, The Iliad and The Odyssey, we learn of Menelaus, a king who was married to Helen, the beautiful woman who was kidnapped by Paris, a prince in the city of Troy. It was this abduction that caused Menelaus to unite the Greek kings and attack Troy. After the ten years of the Trojan War, Menelaus returned home with his wife Helen and Telemachus visits the king on his passage in search of Ulysses. Menelaus offers hope that Ulysses is still alive on the seas and he tells the prince of Proteus, the sea god. Just as the derivative word "protean" indicates, Proteus was famous for being able to alter his physical form. While there is no narrative parallel between the episode from The Odyssey and the "Proteus" chapter, there is a philosophical one. Just as Proteus, like the sea, continually changed his form, Stephen considers ideas of form in terms of metamorphosis, perception and deception.
Another parallel to the "Proteus" theme can be seen in the literary technique employed in the third chapter's narrative structure. Joyce's technique is called "stream of consciousness," and it is presented as a recording of Stephen's thoughts and ideas without many of the standard grammatical structures to which readers are accustomed. Because of the "stream" of the Stephen's thoughts and how they are presented, it is very difficult to differentiate between the beach scenes that are occurring around him and his own thoughts on various subjects. Often times, one informs the other. One example is Stephen's encounter with a dog named Tatters who is digging in the beach sand. Upon seeing Tatters, Stephen remembers the riddle of the fox that is burying his grandmother and decides that the dog must be doing the same thing. Later on in "Proteus," Stephen passes a man and a woman strolling in the opposite direction and Stephen re-imagines them as a couple that might have passed him on the streets during his time in Paris.
Even after Stephen decides not to visit the Gouldings, he mentally enacts the scene of his arrival and the bedraggled appearance of his bedridden uncle, Richie Goulding. It is only because we hear the shells under Stephen's feet that we know he is still walking on the beach and only imagining the visit. This sort of technique not only considers the interaction of Stephen's different senses but also plays upon the reader's senses. We receive the image of his imagined visit as if it were real. Joyce seeks to present, distort and deceive the reader, just as the sea-god and Stephen's mind are in a constant state of flux. Further more, the third chapter is notorious for Stephen's rather erudite philosophical considerations. The opening phrase of the chapter ("ineluctable modality of the visible") is among the most notorious of Joyce's excesses in obscurity. While subtle references to Aristotelian theory dominates the chapter, there are also references to Dante's Divine Comedy, the writing of the Irish poet W.B. Yeats and John Milton's Paradise Lost. There are also multiple musical references to Irish ballads, French chansons and Italian opera. The simplicity and frankness of Bloom, who appears in the next chapter, will be a sharp contrast to Stephen, who theorizes in several languages during his beach stroll. The fact that Stephen is so lost in thought is an indication of how far removed he is from reality.
Only a few characters are presented in this chapter which is almost exclusively a transcript of Stephen's mental activity. Joyce's ability to create portraits using very few words becomes evident. One minor character who will appear again later in the novel is an elderly woman by the name of Mrs. Florence MacCabe, who Stephen imagines as a midwife. She and her female companion are carrying dark black bags and Stephen concludes that there is some "misbirth" (a miscarriage) cradled inside. The irony of an elderly midwife carrying a dead child is reinforced by the fact that MacCabe is a widow who lives on Bride Street. Later in the novel, Stephen's imagination will re-employ MacCabe to make the argument that females, in opposition to males, are the endpoints on the continuum of life.
As is unsurprising, Stephen's imagined characters reveal more about his own thoughts than the actual lives of the various Dubliners that he passes. The morbidity of Stephen's thoughts of Tatters burying his fictitious grandmother is explained by Stephen's image of his devoted cousin Walter caring for "nuncle Richie" on his deathbed. The tired refrain "Papa's little lump of love," reinforces Stephen's guilt concerning his desertion of his mother when she was on her deathbed. Besides the parallel to his cousin, Walter Goulding, he also gather more information about Stephen to compare him to two of his acquaintances.
In Paris, Stephen met Kevin Egan, a young Irishman in France who lived in self-exile. Stephen's later reflections on him reveal his own hesitation and concomitant urge to leave Ireland again. He notes that while Kevin Egan easily forgot Ireland, Ireland had not forgotten him. While Stephen is eager to be remembered, we find that he is reluctant to forget Ireland. Another parallel can be seen in Stephen's initial fear of the dog Tatters, in contrast to his roommate, Mulligan, who once saved a dog from drowning.
As may be expected, many of Joyce's "portraits" in "Proteus" are humorous despite the weighty subject matter of Stephen's thoughts. Joyce paints a picture of Richie Goulding, whose veneer of middle-class respectability is wearing thin. He is a suffering alcoholic who relies upon backache pills to eliminate the sufferings of his youthful excesses. Goulding's sickbed is described as throne-like and his crown is one of dirty grey hair.
The themes of death and decay that began the novel are continued in "Proteus." The shell motif that was begun in Deasy's school, continues with the metaphors of Irish souls as emptied shells and empty ships, collectibles that are the casualties of foreign conquest. The drowning motif that began with the "drowning" of Mary Dedalus, who choked on her bile, and the drowning of Dedalus' son, is repeated in the bloated carcass that surfaces. Further, Mary's brother Richie refers to his own "lowering" bedside water, a direct parallel to her "bowl of green bile." The musical motif becomes somewhat hyperbolic in the scene where Uncle Richie's recitation from Il Trovatore is juxtaposed with narrative exposition of some of Dublin's poorest and most miserable souls.
The theme of solitude is echoed in the shell motif and is Stephen's most recurring thought. After imagining the scenario of each of the creatures around him, Stephen always returns to the observation that he is alone. This self-realization is most excruciating towards the end of "Proteus" when Stephen leans against the hard rocks and sighs, wishing that there was some person who might give him a soft touch. A ship called the Rosevean ends the chapter on a somber note. The triple mast of the boat is a replication of the hillside crucifixion of Christ, foreshadowing Stephen's inevitable lonely suffering.