(U) Episode 1: “Telemachus” ~pp 1-24.

Important Symbols of Episode 1

Appended materials are italicized. Text copyright pending@ don ward 2021

  • “The cracked looking glass of a servant”: …expands the narrative in three ways. The Irish as slaves of the English are deprived of their natural culture (language, education, religion, and political self-determinism). The mirror reflects not a true image but one distorted and dictated by overlords. Secondly, that the mirror has been stolen from the slavey (some servants were called slaveys) shows the predatory ways of imperialism. Thirdly, art requires scrupulous self-examination by the artist. Joyce’s hero Ibsen said: “To be a poet is to preside over oneself as a judge.” Joyce does that somewhat harshly in Portrait. In Ulysses, he abandons some of his juvenile egotism, but his self-image is still flawed. Isn’t that true of us all? The image of the cracked looking glass originates in Oscar Wilde’s prelude to Picture of Dorian Gray (Gifford and Seidman 8 8:31) Appended, 6 Dec 2021
  • Mabinogion or Upanishad: The Mabinogion is a Welsh text for the training of Celtic Druids. The Upanishad is a Sanskrit text that predates Hinduism. The Celts are believed to have hereditary connections to the Vedic peoples who authored The Upanishad. Celtic and Vedic polytheism reveal some shocking parallels. The Celtic god Cernunnos bears a surprising resemblance to Shiva as “Lord of Beasts.” If not due to a shared history, Carl Jung may provide an answer. Thousands of miles distant and separated by millennia, mankind gravitates to shared images. The coupling of disparate texts, Mabinogion and Upanishad, is not a coincidence. It’s inspired by the Humanism that is essential to the novel. http://cernunnos god https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ancientbead.com%2FEarly_Indus_valley_beads.html&psig=AOvVaw3pEhszkvGPFzusiP-hkW8u&ust=1583418200458000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CAIQjRxqFwoTCNCLx9mCgegCFQAAAAAdAAAAABAK
  • “He proves by algebra…that he himself is the ghost of his own father.”: Mocking Mulligan ridicules Stephen’s theory of Shakespeare not as Hamlet the son but as the dead king. Betrayed by his wife, the ghost roams in search of his son. The search of father and son for the absent “other” is a theme common to The Odyssey, Ulysses, and Hamlet (Popeye the Sailor too but I won’t wander there). Stephen searches for a spiritual father and Poldy a son to replace the biological son who died just after birth. Poldy’s father was lost to him through suicide. Stephen’s father is also lost through spiritual decay.
  • One of several keys: Despite payment of the rent by Stephen, Mulligan takes back the key (and two pennies more), evicting him. Keys are significant on several levels in the novel’s plot. Symbolically, the key indicates belonging. Stephen does not belong at the Martello Tower. Frank Budgen in The Making of Ulysses calls Mulligan “a blightingly negative force,” a cynic mocking a country paralyzed by Church and a British master.
  • A Panther: This symbol is a reference to a Roman officer named Pantera said to be the father of Jesus ( Joseph Campbell) and plays with Mulligan’s blasphemous “Ballad of Joking Jesus” with lyrics including “My father’s a bird,” (The Holy Ghost). The panther is dreamed of by the Englishman Haines whose name in French means “hate.” The resulting gunfire is emblematic of British imperialism. 
  • Agenbite of Inwit: This is a medieval text on the hierarchy of sins. The literal translation of the title is “remorse of conscience.” This concept is of particular interest to Stephen who chose between his vow to refuse service to the Church and his obligation to comfort his dying mother.
  • Messengers: Mulligan is an unwitting messenger for the coming of Stephen as a true artist. Given-named Malachi from the Old Testament meaning “messenger,” he is also referred to as “mercurial.” He is not just changeable without warning, but Mercury (or Hermes to the Greeks), messenger of the gods. His Anglophile middle name St. John suggests the Baptist, who heralded the coming of Jesus.

    In The Odyssey, Athena volunteers to send Telemachus on a journey to discover his father’s fate and to make his own exploits. She says:

    “I’ll send him to the mainland then, to Sparta/

    by the sand beach of Pylos; let him find/ 

    news of his dear father where he may/ 

    and win his own renown about the world.”/ (Homer ll96-100)

    On Stephen’s Ireland, the island goddess is now Cathleen ni Houlihan, the symbol of Erin’s decline. She is withered, unable to speak her own language, cheated of the two pennies due her by “her conqueror and her gay betrayer” (Englishman Haines and betrayer Mulligan). She becomes Stephen’s “messenger from the secret morning,” sending him out to find a father and make his name across the sea. 

    The reference to Fergus’ Song (“For Fergus rules the brazen cars”) that Stephen plays and sings for his dying mother is related. The poem by Yeats also appears in his play The Countess Cathleen. Cathleen ni Houlihan traded her soul that Ireland might be free. Stephen will also give up his soul and expatriate to gain freedom. Appended, 6 Dec 2021.

  • Malachi, biblical priest and prophet: He foretold the coming of Elijah. In the novel, Malachi Mulligan will point out the coming of the new Elijah to Stephen. Saint Malachi was said to have made predictions about future popes. In fact, the predictions were invented to encourage the election of a particular Italian cardinal as pope. Saint Malachi’s false prophesies again appear in Joyce’s literature in his story “Grace.” For more about Malachi see https://jamesjoycereadingcircle.com/2021/11/18/about-grace-a-comparison-of-the-working-of-grace-by-james-joyce-and-flannery-oconnor/ Appended, 6 Dec 2021.

  • Buck: Mulligan’s nickname is as MALevolent as his given name. The Dublin Bucks was a club (social and cudgel) of the city’s Protestant rowdies. Joyce’s story “Two Gallants” takes Lenehan past the Kildare Club descended from the Hell Fire and Daly Clubs. There the most arrogant of the Dublin Bucks ( Bucks Whaley, Lawless, English, et al.) collected. Rutland Square was the typical haunt of the elder Whaley, a priest hunter, called ‘Burnchapel.'” I’m happy to be acquainted with a descendant of Burnchapel Whaley, who is mostly reformed. https://jamesjoycereadingcircle.com/2021/07/24/d-about-two-gallants-august-month-of-the-donnybrook-fair/ Appended, 6 Dec 2021.

  • The Razor and the Knifeblade: In the episode’s opening scene, Mulligan wields a razor. His sarcasm cuts as it intends. His blade becomes the tool of another insult, like the rent and the key. He takes Stephen’s handkerchief, despoils it, then discards it. Ellmann tells us that “kinch” is the sound of a knife blade. You’ll find more satisfying explanations. “Kinch the Knifeblade” is intended as a double-edged insult. Kinch refers to Stephen as a skinny (as a blade’s edge), toothless (impotent) child, according to Tindall (139 n5). But the knife is a more formidable and less stealthy weapon than a razor. Mulligan fears intellectual competition with Stephen, although Dedalus also is wary of Buck’s barbs. Appended, 6 Dec 2021.

Works Cited

Adams, Robert Martin. Surface and Symbol. Oxford University Press, 1967.

Burgess, Anthony. Rejoyce. W.W. Norton & CO, 1965.  

Campbell, Joseph. Mythic Worlds, Modern Words. New World Library,1993.

Ellmann, Richard. James Joyce, Oxford University Press, 1983.

Gifford, Don, and Robert J. Seidman. Notes for Joyce; an Annotation of Gifford, with Robert J. Seidman. Dutton, 1974. 

Gilbert, Stuart. James Joyce’s Ulysses, Vintage Press, 1955.

Homer. “A Goddess Intervenes.” The Odyssey, translated by Robert Fitzgerald, Doubleday & Company, 1961, pp. 11–26. 

Tindall, William York. “Ulysses,” A Reader’s Guide to James Joyce, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1959, p.139 n5.


One thought on “(U) Episode 1: “Telemachus” ~pp 1-24.

  1. Original Comment posted on August 9, 2021
    Q ( from Vardhan Le Zuz) Hi…. did anywhere in your writings or would u like to comment regarding the question – why did steven really got insulted Mulligan’s remark. obviously its not just his mother or his act of not kneeling at her side & more Steven refused to bend to any1…. what (& if there is a connetion to Heins behaviour & staying – the other triger of him leaving the martelo not to return
    My Reply: Stephen specifies that it’s not the insult to his mother who Mulligan says is “beastly dead” but the insult to Stephen himself that prompts the break. Stephen has broken with the Church and will soon break with Ireland. He is about to declare himself bound only to his art. Mulligan the Mocker ridicules any conviction. Buck Mulligan’s decisions seem to be only driven by situational ethics, nihilistic. Haines’ presence is an affront against Ireland. As the master, he presumes to look at the culture under a microscope as a butterfly collector might pin his prey. His treatment of the milk maid, who is a representation of Ireland, is insulting. There is also the suggestion of an insult to the Church by Haines. His dream causing him to shoot at the black panther suggests an interference with Irish Religion by England. Pantera was the Roman Legionaire sometimes said to have fathered Christ.

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