From charlesreid1

Summary: the opening lines, the entire opening chapter, is like a cannon being fired right at Rome. Right on the nose.


Odyssey Parallels

The parallels with the opening chapters of The Odyssey are subtle, but present. The title of Chapter 1 is "Telemachus." Telemachus is Odysseus's son, and The Oydssey starts us in the middle of the action - much like we begin in the middle of Stephen's and Buck's morning "ritual." In The Odyssey, Odysseus has been away for ten years, first fighting the Trojan War, then being held captive by Calypso. The book begins with Telemachus being humiliated by the hundred suitors, who are literally eating up Odysseus's wealth while he is away, and basically waiting for Penelope to give up hope of her husband Odysseus returning, declare him dead, and pick a new husband.

The theme of the "death" or apparent death of Telemachus's father is echoed in Stephen's preoccupation with the recent death of his mother, whose death he and Buck Mulligan discuss. Telemachus and Stephen (both sons) are parallel characters in the two books.

Like Telemachus, who, in the first two chapters, is galvanized by Athene, the goddess protector of Odysseus, to take up his manly duty to stand up for his father's honor and seek him out, thereby stirring up trouble in defense of his father, Stephen also stirs up trouble between himself and his roommates - first with Mulligan over a careless comment about his dead mother, and then with Haines, over the tumultuous and loaded topic of Ireland and England.

The sea imagery, and reference to poets and poetry (or, as the case may be, bawdy Irish drinking songs) abound, recalling Homer. Nautical references. The Ship.

Finally - unfinished business that will come up later. Buck Mulligan wanting the key, and to meet for a drink, and asking for money - all of this, in addition to being in the first sentence of the novel, portend that we shall see Buck Mulligan again soon. His ballad, his jokes, stay with us throughout the book. Echoes of this chapter abound.

Major Themes

Major themes in the chapter:

  • Buck Mulligan's inversion of the Catholic Mass and Christianity in general (the opening chapter pokes at the Catholic Church and Christianity in general over and over again)
  • References to numerous poets, Irish and otherwise (Algernon Swinburne, Walt Whitman, W. B. Yeats, bawdy Irish drinking songs, and the Ballad of Joking Jesus)
  • Themes of Ireland vs. England, homerule, politicians such as Parnell, and anti-semitic themes are all referenced in the first chapter. These recur throughout Ulysses, even serving (as in the case of nationalism, anti-semitism, and Chapter 12, Cyclops) as the entire theme of the chapter.
  • Discussions of, images of, Ireland abound; the broken mirror, the old woman, Stephen himself.

The Ballad of Joking Jesus

Joyce inserted his friend Oliver Gogarty's poem, "The Song of the Cheerful (but slightly sarcastic) Jesus," by putting it in Buck Mulligan's mouth as the "Ballad of Joking Jesus":

I'm the queerest young fellow that ever you heard.

My mother's a jew, my father's a bird.

With Joseph the joiner I cannot agree,

So here's to disciples and Calvary.

If anyone thinks that I amn't divine

He'll get no free drinks when I'm making the wine

But have to drink water (and wish it were plain)

That I make when the wine becomes water again.

Goodbye, now, goodbye. Write down all I said

and tell Tom, Dick, and Harry I rose from the dead.

What's bred in the bone cannot fail me to fly

And Olivet's breezy... Goodbye, now, goodbye.

Olivet is a small ridge in Jerusalem. Haines says of this: "We oughtn't to laugh, I suppose. He's rather blasphemous. I'm not a believer myself, that is to say. Still his gaiety takes the harm out of it somehow, doesn't it?"

Stephen mentions to Haines that he hears this poem, three times a day, after meals.


Pages 1-10

Introibo ad altare Dei. - I will go in to the altar of God. The book starts, right off the bat, by mocking the Catholic Mass, starting ceremonially, and invoking the beginning of Homer's Odyssey.

Kinch - nickname for Stephen; means "knife" (an image that recurs throughout Ulysses)

For this, O dearly beloved, is the genuine Christine: body and soul and blood and ouns. - Mocking the Catholic Mass

Thanks, old chap, he cried briskly. That will do nicely. Switch off the current, will you? - Mocks the transubstantiation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ during Mass. Suggests there must be some kind of "electric current" or other-worldly science that makes transubstantiation happen. This is another recurring theme throughout Ulysses - both Stephen and Leopold are well-versed in modern scientific concepts, and references to Newtonian science, Cartesian mathematics, and even Einsteinian concepts of space-time make their appearance throughout the book.

Malachi Mulligan - a name with the stress in the first syllable of the first and last names (the two dactyles).

jejune - dull or insipid, immature or childish

Haines is the third roommate of Dedalus and Mulligan.

Buck Mulligan frowned at the lather on his razorblade. / Lend us a loan of your noserag to wipe my razor. - The blade/knife imagery again.

The bard's noserag. A new art colour for our Irish poets: snotgreen. You can almost taste it, can't you?

Itsn't the sea what Algy calls it: a grey sweet mother? - reference to Algy is Algernon "Algy" Swinburne, whose poem, "A Triumph of Time," contains the line: "I will go back to the great sweet mother / mother & lover" (referring to the sea)

The snotgreen sea. The scrotumtightening sea. - A reference to Homer's "wine-dark sea," "wine-colored sea," made more Irish.

Epi oinopa ponton. - The original Greek, translating into the recurring phrase, "upon the wine-colored sea." The irony here is, this is one of the first terms any Greek student will learn. Mulligan pretends to know Greek, but uses two very common Greek phrases, the other being Thalatta - from Xeonophon's Anabasis.)

Thalatta! Thalatta! - from Xenophon's Anabasis

g.p.i. = general paresis of the insane

The rage of Caliban at not seeing his face in a mirror, he said. If Wilde were only alive to see you. A reference to Shakespeare's The Tempest and Oscar Wilde's A Picture of Dorian Gray (1891):

The 19th century dislike of Realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in the glass.

The 19th century dislike of Romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass.

- Wilde, A Picture of Dorian Gray

Shouts from the open window startling evening in the quadrangle. A deaf gardener, aproned, masked with Matthew Arnold's face, pushes his mower on the sombre lawn watching narrowly the dancing motes of grasshalms. Social critics as deaf gardeners - able to filter out absolutely everything.

To ourselves... new paganism... omphalos. omphalos is the Greek word for "navel" - refers to a stone at the center of the world. Homer's Odyssey: "In a sea-girt isle, where is the navel of the sea"

You wouldn't kneel down to pray for your mother on her deathbed when she asked you. Why? Because you have the cursed jesuit strain in you, only it's injected the wrong way. Cold, intellectual rigor and uncompromising intellectual consistency. (A fever of anger caused by blood rushing to cheeks.)

Sir Peter Teazle - a racing horse

hired mute from Lalouette's - mourners-for-hire to keep a funeral procession from being too sparse.

Chuck Loyola, Kinch, and come on down. - St. Ignatius Loyola was the founder of the Jesuits

And no more turn aside and brood / Upon love's bitter mystery / For Fergus rules the brazen cars - W. B. Yeats, "Who Goes with Fergus"

I sang it alone in the house, holding down the long dark chords. Her door was open: she wanted to hear my music. Silent with awe and pity I went to her bedside. She was crying in her wretched bed. - Mulligan and Daedalus have very different impressions of the song.

I am the boy / That can enjoy / Invisibility - Stephen's mother hid that she attended bawdy shows

And no more turn aside and brood - W. B. Yeats again

Ghostly light on the tortured face. Her hoarse loud breath rattling in horror, while all prayed on their knees. Her eyes on me to strike me down. Liliata rutilantium te confessorum turma circumdet: iubilantium te virginum chorus excipiat. - from the Catholic ceremony of Last Rites. Reference to non-martyred saints who suffered for their faith.

Pages 11-20

Mulligan sings a tune from the celebration of the coronation of King Edward VII:

O, won't we have a merry time

Drinking whisky, beer and wine,

On coronation,

Coronation day?

O, won't we have a merry time

On coronation day?

Two shafts of soft daylight fell across the flagged floor from the high barbicans: and at the meeting of their rays a cloud of coalsmoke and fumes of fried grease floated, turning. Smoke, shaft of light - reference to Chapter 2. Also a visual image that is a reference to clouds of incense and shafts of light inside of a cathedral or church. (Barbican - the outer defense of a castle, especially a double-tower above a gate or drawbridge.)

Daedalus has it, Buck Mulligan said. Janey Mack, I'm choked. - Janey Mack is an Irish euphamism for Jesus Christ

Mulligan sings a bawdy Irish song, leaving off the last line:

For old Mary Ann

She doesn't care a damn,

But, hissing up her petticoats...

(She pisses like a man)

The islanders, Mulligan said to Haines casually, speak frequently of the collector of prepuces. - Mulligan as a mock ethnographer; belief in a strange deity that judges loyalty of followers by willingness to slice off rings of skin from genitals of infant male offsprings. (Reference to 1900 papal ban on discussing the foreskin of Christ.)

Speaking to me. They wash and tub and scrub. Agenbite of inwit. Conscience. Yet here's a spot. - reference to Lady Macbeth, washing her hands in her sleep, conscience torturing the mind.

Mulligan is stripped of his garments. - more mockery of Christ and the Church

Contradiction. Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. Mercurial Malachi. - reference to Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself"

Billy Pit had built them, Buck Mulligan said, when the French were on the sea. But ours is the omphalos. - William Pit t the younger - built forts to protect against the French (1803 Napoleonic wars)

I'm not equal to Thomas Aquinas and the fiftyfive reasons he has made to prop it up. Wait till I have a few pints in me first. - Aquinas fused Christianity with Aristotalean philosophy. Originally he was controversial (Aristotle was a pagan), but later he became more accepted and was eventually named a Father of the Church

We have grown out of Wilde and paradoxes. - Wilde quote: "There are two ways to dislike poetry. One way is to dislike it, the other way is to read Pope." Another Wilde quote: "I can resist anything except temptation."

Ballad of Joking Jesus - reference to Oliver Gogarty's "The Song of the Cheerful (but slightly sarcastic) Jesus"

A crazy queen, old and jealous. Keneel down before me. - this line is the first hint of the novel's stream of consciousness style.

et unam sanctam catholicam et apostolicam ecclesiam - one holy and apostolic Catholic Church (Apostle's Creed)

Pages 21-23

The void awaits surely all them that weave the wind - reference to T.S. Eliot's poem "The Wasteland," "Vacant shuttles / wave the wind"

Buck Mulligan made way for him to scramble past and, glancing at Haines and Stephen, crossed himself piously with his thumbnail at brow and lips and breastbone. - Mulligan is indicating the old man is a priest.

Give us that key, Kinch, Buck Mulligan said - keys to Heaven, keys to the Kingdom, keys to the castle

He who stealeth from the poor lendeth to the lord. Thus spake Zarathustra. - quote from Nietzsche's book "Thus Spoke Zarathustra"

The Ship, Buck Mulligan cried. Half twelve. - Meet at The Ship (pub) at 12:30. He ends up skipping out and sending a telegram later in the book.

Liliata rutilantium. Turma circumdet. Iubilantium te virginum. - Last Rites again.

Usurper. - in the last line in the chapter, "Stately, plump Buck Mulligan" becomes "Usurper."

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