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Would you have guessed that the episode would end with a talking seal?

Professor Gifford is kind enough to remind us that in the Odyssey, seals are connected to the sea-god Proteus–they’re his informants. And Proteus is the title of an upcoming episode–not the next one, but the one after.

So you could say that the seal is telling Stephen that Mulligan is a usurper, or that when Stephen hears the seal’s barking, he imagines that it’s telling him that. Or maybe the seal has nothing to do with it.

A number of the episodes of Ulysses end on equivocal moments like this, where there’s a final word, a closing point, that seems to close the chapter like a well-made box (to paraphrase Yeats), but that leads off in a number of possible interpretive directions.  You could even say the final episode, with its famous concluding “Yes,” is the ultimate example of this.

In any event, we’re left with this cinematic image of Stephen heading out into the world, without a home, without a clear path. What would it mean for him to have a homecoming? What kind of father would he seem to be looking for, if any? What exactly does he want, anyway?

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And so Stephen walks away from Mulligan and Haines, ostensibly going off to work, but also having determined that he cannot come back.  He is no longer comfortable there, and really no longer welcome.

As he walks away the prayer for the dying comes back to him (“Liliata rutilantium…”),  the prayer his mother wanted him to say at her bedside while she was dying . Why?  Perhaps because of the priest he saw swimming, and Mulligan’s sign of the cross… or perhaps his decision to not return to the tower is a decision to not submit to Mulligan, in the same way that he refused to submit to his mother’s or his family’s will.  The latter reason would also explain why he thinks that he also can’t go home, to his family’s home.

In the Odyssey, Telemachus knows exactly why he’s leaving Ithaca, and he knows what he needs to do, and he knows where to go.  He doesn’t know where his father Odysseus is, but Athena has told him how to go about learning what happened.  He has a plan… where Stephen’s plan is less clear. He has a job to go to, he has a date for drinks later (he won’t go, by the way). What can we say Stephen is leaving to find?

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Well, alright. More Nietzsche, then, as Mulligan closes the loop on his Zarathustra-inspired teaching.  One of the ways Friedrich’s term “ubermensch” has been translated is “superman.”  Whether Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster had the German philosopher in mind when they invented the noblest superhero of them all is a matter of debate, but I think Rob might be having fun with it here.  Certainly our stately, plump Buck Mulligan is quite a spectacle in flight.

Stephen’s thoughts, in the black boxes, come from an old Irish proverb (according to the great Gifford): “Beware of the horns of a bull, of the heels of a horse, of the smile of an Englishman.”  Stephen has been sensing trouble throughout the chapter, and things are no different here.

Mulligan proposes meeting at “The Ship,” which was a Dublin pub, but also has a nice overtone of the ship Telemachus uses to leave Ithaca, and the ship Antinoos uses to try to catch him.  Joyce must have liked the tidiness of the reference.

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The unwanted suitors in Ithaca (in Homer’s Odyssey) are described as eating and drinking up all the wealth of the household, as they wait for Penelope to make a decision about whether to remarry.  Mulligan has no compunction about living off the charity of others, which is even more galling when you consider that he’s clearly from a higher social class and greater family wealth than Stephen.  That Stephen is asked for the key and the two pence for a pint is his final indignity of the chapter.

For any of you interested in money, rest assured that Joyce keeps careful track of it throughout the novel.  Whether it was part of his quest for verisimilitude or just his own cash consciousness, the novel frequently mentions prices charged and amounts paid. There’s even a (more or less) complete budget of Leopold Bloom’s spending at one point.  In this chapter, we’ve seen the milkwoman already perform an elaborate calculation of the tower’s milk bill.

Mulligan’s priestly quote is a travesty of Proverbs 19:17 “He that hath pity on the poor lendeth unto the Lord,” done in the manner of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra.  By taking Stephen’s money, Mulligan is, in a sense, stealing from the poor indeed.

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They key thing that happens on this page (so to speak) is Mulligan asking for the key to the tower.  We know that Stephen has paid the rent, we know that he’s the real intellectual, we know that Mulligan has been overplaying their friendship to Haines for the sake of squeezing some money out of the Englishman, we know that Mulligan’s real interest in Stephen pales in comparison to his more craven or conniving plans.

By giving up the key, Stephen is relinquishing control of the tower to an untrustworthy friend.  As he does so, he knows it’s a turning point in his relationship with Mulligan and in his life.  By handing over the key, he is freeing himself from the “third master” who wants him for the “odd jobs.”

And of course, Haines, the Englishman, prudently shows himself to be afraid of swimming on a full stomach. Or maybe the sight of naked Mulligan disheartened him.

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Mulligan engages in a little smack-talking before diving in the water. Self-consciously or boastfully, he stands naked before jumping in and shows off his Nietzsche, and though he’s joking, he’s also revealing his not-so-secret desire to be linked with Stephen as a superman, as the architect of a new age.

One of the great things about seeing this chapter in the comic form is the way it makes obvious visual elements of the scene. Like Mulligan’s nakedness. When you read the chapter, you know that he’s taken off his clothes and is going to be swimming naked, and on some level you know that as he talks about himself as the Ubermensch, that he’s naked… but seeing it illustrated is another thing entirely.

What does it say about Mulligan? It would have been perfectly ordinary for a man to swim naked at the Forty Foot on a warm June day in 1904, but Mulligan needs to make a show out of it. He ain’t shy. And he also wants to be seen by those around him as being connected to Stephen.

I suppose there’s more I could say about Mulligan’s reference to Nietzsche–just Google “Nietzsche and Joyce” and you get a whole cascade of articles and books. [Here’s one of some interest.]  But I’m leery of going too far down the rabbit hole of references and annotations. Suffice it to say that there was a considerable intellectual fad for his writings across Europe in the early 20th century, and that Mulligan’s reference shows him to be attuned to that fad.  It’s also true that Oliver St. John Gogarty, on whom the character of Mulligan is based, was reading the German philosopher at this time.

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This conversation with the unnamed man serves a few purposes — one is to set up a surprise about the “photo girl” you won’t really get until Episode 4– but it also showcases Mulligan’s alpha personality, and  the eagerness with which others approach him with the latest news.

Mulligan’s miming the sign of the cross might seem a little unclear. One reason is that there is a swimmer we’ve left out of the comic — an old man who climbs up a rock next to Mulligan and who is likely a priest, so Mulligan may be signalling that to the swimming man. He may also be making a joke (as several people do during the day) about Stephen’s mourning dress and hat making him look like  a priest.

Textual trivia. In the Rosenbach Manuscript of Ulysses, the line “red-headed women buck like goats” is followed with “and all creation simply gloats.” Now you know.

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Stephen identifies with the drowned man.  In contrast, Mulligan is irrepressibly vital.  Joyce puts Mulligan’s disrobing and his getting ready to swim at the center of the narrative frame — which Rob picks up here.  As the chapter winds into its close, we see Mulligan asserting his dominance and power over Stephen, sealing Stephen’s determination to escape him and thereby sending Stephen on his journey.

Mulligan’s physical energy connects him with Antinoos, the chief of the suitors pursuing Penelope in Homer’s Odyssey.  The unnamed man in the water seems like a supplicant to Mulligan–which seems even clearer from Rob’s representation.  Their world, with its gossip and hierarchy, is a trap for Stephen–one of the masters he serves.

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Haines has totally lost Stephen, as the Englishman goes into his conspiracy theory about the German Jews taking over Britain.

Stephen, meanwhile, is having that moment familiar to all precocious young artists wherein he realizes he is wasting his gifts among idiots. After his vision of the purge of the heretics, background music by Palestrina, he gives himself a little sarcastic applause. He’s so smart! But surrounded by racists and spongers.

So when he hears about a man who has drowned in the harbor, he easily finds sympathy.

The reference to the drowned man also links back to the Odyssey, and to Odysseus’ supposed fate, lost with the rest of his crew for 10 years since the end of the Trojan war.  And given that our modern Odysseus is a Jew, Haines’ comments further paint him as an impatient suitor.

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Haines’ glib comment about history triggers a vivid and complex set of associations for Stephen, all turning around questions of what it means to be an artist or an intellectual within the rigid doctrine of the church–or what it takes to get kicked out as a heretic–and what the consequences of those oppositions are in the longer context of history.

The “Symbol of the Apostles” is the twelve stars here, as Rob has them, but is also another way of referring to the Apostle’s Creed.  In Giovanni Palestrina’s mass for Pope Marcellus (Missa Papae Marcelli), it sounded like this .  Impressive background music.  Important in context, however, are the stories around this work. During Palestrina’s lifetime, the Church disputed whether polyphony was appropriate for sacred music.  If you have listened to Palestrina’s work (and you should), you can imagine that he was a big fan of polyphony.  The Mass for Pope Marcellus was presented to Pope Pius IV in 1564 as an example of how effective polyphony could be in sacred music, and the Pope approved. It’s not hard to imagine that Joyce might have felt some kinship with Palestrina as an artistic trailblazer, one managing many voices at the same time.

But behind Palestrina’s Mass, perhaps ironically, is the great enforcer of church doctrine, the archangel Michael.  Stephen imagines him chasing out the heretics like Arius, Valentine, and Sabellius, with whom he also surely identifies. It seems history is to blame for them too.

Beyond the issues brought up by the content and associations of Stephen’s thought, it’s useful to also take a step back and see what’s happening here as a window into Stephen’s nascent creative process.  What Stephen is experiencing is a lot like what his author called an “epiphany,” and moments like it will continue to turn up through this book.

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