Episode 1: “Telemachus” ~pp 1-24

Important Themes of Episode 1

  • The Artist’s Isolation: Stephen divorced himself from Church and State. He has already expatriated from Ireland returning only when notified of his mother’s was dying. Rejecting both British imperialism and Irish patriotism, he refers to Yeats’ elitist theme “The Celtic Twilight” as the cultic toilette. Stephen abandoned religion before his mother’s death. A recurring source of pain is that he refused to kneel and pray at his mother’s bedside as she asked. Stephen has chosen a life without any of the traditional supports of society. This novel is his search for a spiritual, artistic, and humanistic father to fill the emptiness. [Note- Joyce’s brother Stannie tells that biographically their uncle told Joyce to kneel and pray at May Joyce’s bedside. Joyce ignored the request (Ellmann)]. While Stephen continues to have relationships with his siblings, his mother is dead and he is alienated from his father. He has never known a healthy sexual relationship. Finally, he is even shut off from the economic life of the community, soon jobless and without prospects.
  • A Unique Rejection of Church and State: Although he abandons Catholicism and Ireland, in his exile, Joyce was the most Catholic and the most Irish of creatures. He roundly rejects the hierarchical clergy, even denies a vocation to the clergy and invitation to join the Jesuit order. However, he embraces the logic and even the theologies of Thomas Aquinas and others. This rejection tortures Joyce because as Frank Budgen says, ” He has a theologian’s logic and a churchman’s conscience.” Joyce is so devoted to the place of his upbringing that he vows to describe Dublin in such detail that were it destroyed, it could be rebuilt using his book.
  • Stephen’s Credo:  “I will not serve” (explicated in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man). Stephen’s strategy is found in his succinct motto-“silence, exile, cunning.” Stuart Gilbert describes the Stephen of the first three chapters of the book as soft-spoken and deferential. You might also think passive-aggressive. Mulligan’s name for Dedalus is “Toothless Kinch,” a defenseless child. This is Stephen’s cunning at work. He is still deferential but has begun his rebellion against Mulligan.

2 thoughts on “Episode 1: “Telemachus” ~pp 1-24

  1. How will you celebrate Bloomsday? A pork kidney? Instant chocolate with a loved one? A 4:30 pm interlude? Listen to Don Giovanni? Walk the streets wearing a sandwich board? Please share your plan. I’ll collect and publish them. ~Don


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