Ulysses

by: James Joyce

Episode Two: “Nestor”

Notably, Stephen challenges only Deasy’s anti-Semitism during the conversation, and not any other of Deasy’s ill-considered comments. Stephen’s overall passivity and politeness toward Deasy seem to have more to do with his unwillingness to participate in a political argument on Deasy’s terms. Stephen’s bohemian-intellectual comment that God is “a shout in the street” is a clear departure from the terms of Deasy’s argument, and it confuses him. Deasy is aggressive and likens their conversation to armed confrontation—breaking lances. Stephen dislikes violence. The subject of his morning history lesson, Pyrrhus, is notable for winning a battle, yet reckoning the cost of the violence too great. During his conversation with Deasy, Stephen is rattled by the noises from the hockey field outside. He envisions the field hockey match as a joust and imagines the boys’ moving bodies as sounds and gestures of bloody battle. Rather than remaining in this atmosphere, prey to Deasy’s aggressive comments, Stephen politely signals the end of the conversation by rustling the sheets of Deasy’s letter. When Deasy runs after Stephen in the driveway to report an anti-Semitic joke, Stephen’s non-participation is palpable. His thoughts are silent; his mind has moved on.