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Episode Three: “Proteus”

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Episode Three: “Proteus”

Episode Three: “Proteus”

Episode Three: “Proteus”

Episode Three: “Proteus”

Episode Three: “Proteus”


Stephen walks on the beach, contemplating the difference between the material world as it exists and as it is registered by his eyes. Stephen closes his eyes and lets his hearing take over—rhythms emerge.

Opening his eyes, Stephen notices two midwives, Mrs. Florence MacCabe and another woman. Stephen imagines that one has a miscarried fetus in her bag. He imagines an umbilical cord as a telephone line running back through history through which he could place a call to “Edenville.” Stephen pictures Eve’s navel-less stomach. He considers woman’s original sin, and then his own conception. Stephen contrasts his own conception with that of Christ. According to the Nicene Creed, a part of the Catholic mass, Christ was “begotten, not made,” meaning that he is part of the same essence as God the Father and was not made by God the Father out of nothing. Stephen, in contrast, was “made not begotten,” in that though he has biological parents, his soul was created out of nothing and bears no relation to his father’s. Stephen would like to argue the specifics of divine conception (are the Father and the Son the same being or not?) with heretic-scholars of the past.

The sea air blows upon him, and Stephen remembers that he must take Deasy’s letter to the newspaper, then meet Buck at The Ship pub at 12:30. He considers turning off the beach to visit his aunt Sara. He imagines his father’s mocking reaction to such a visit (his father is disgusted by his brother-in-law, Richie, who is Sara’s husband). Stephen imagines the scene if he were to visit: Richie’s son Walter would let him in and uncle Richie, who has back trouble, would greet Stephen from bed.

Coming out of his reverie, Stephen remembers feeling ashamed of his family when he was a child. This disgust for his family brings Jonathan Swift to mind—Swift’s disgust for the masses is evidenced in his novel Gulliver’s Travels by the noble Houyhnhnm horses and beastly Yahoo men. He thinks of Swift, with a priestly tonsured head, climbing a pole to escape the masses. Stephen thinks of priests all around the city and of the piety and intellectual pretensions of his youth.

Stephen notices he has passed the turnoff for Sara’s. Heading toward the Pigeonhouse, Stephen thinks about pigeons: specifically, the Virgin Mary’s insistence that her pregnancy was caused by a pigeon (as recorded in Léo Taxil’s La Vie de Jesus). He thinks of Patrice Egan, the son of Kevin Egan, a “wild goose” (Irish nationalist in exile) whom Stephen knew in Paris. He remembers himself in Paris as a medical student with little money. He remembers arriving once at the post office too late to cash a money order from his mother. Stephen’s ambitions for his life in Paris were suddenly halted by a telegram from his father, calling Stephen home to his mother’s deathbed. He thinks back to Buck’s aunt’s insistence that Stephen killed his mother by refusing to pray at her deathbed.

Stephen remembers the sights and sounds of Paris, and of Kevin Egan’s conversations about nationalism, strange French customs, and his Irish youth. Stephen walks to the edge of the sea and back, scanning the horizon for the Martello tower. He again vows not to sleep there tonight with Buck and Haines. He sits on a rock and notices the carcass of a dog. A live dog runs across the beach, back to two people. Stephen imagines the beach scene when the first Danish Vikings invaded Dublin.

Test Your Understanding with the Episode Three: “Proteus” Quiz

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Test Your Understanding with the Episode Three: “Proteus” Quiz



When Stephen notices Mrs. Florence MacCabe and another woman, what does he imagine one of them has in her bag?
A talking bird
A miscarried fetus
Test Your Understanding with the Episode Three: “Proteus” Quiz

Episode Three: “Proteus” QUIZ

Test Your Understanding with the Episode Three: “Proteus” Quiz

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No Fear

by mdd07c, September 16, 2012

This book needs a No Fear for it! But if there were a No Fear made, it should be made in a different way from the others; some lines just need to be put into context. For example, I can't tell if one character is thinking or talking.


13 out of 19 people found this helpful

No Fear and Video

by barty567, February 06, 2013

I think Ulysses, and all Joyce (except Finnegan's Wake) should have a No Fear and a summary video. These classics are often overlooked by kids my age, and they should be read!


1 out of 2 people found this helpful


by Nordwall, September 22, 2014

I'm about half way through Ulysses and I'm beginning to realize that his scenarios and conversations will never become any clearer than they are now. I rarely quit a thing once I've started, but it's very frustrating. To those of you who have read it in you understand who's talking, where they are, who's good/bad.....nothing is clear to me. I just keep reading words......I'm not sure why.


10 out of 11 people found this helpful

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