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For the first little while, I deliberated on how to pronounce the name “Telemachus.” “Tell-em-a-che-us,” “Tela-mah-chus,” “Tell-em-ah-cus.” (Turns out, the last one is correct!).

Who is Telemachus in The Odyssey? Telemachus is the son of Odysseus. In The Odyssey in book 1 (also called “Telemachus), Telemachus is desperate to find out what happened to his father. His home has been overrun with suitors for his mother’s hand after it is assumed that Odysseus is dead, and Telemachus can do nothing to stop them. So, Telemachus sets out to ask around for any news of his father.

Structural information:

Style: Narrative (young). Joyce is not the one who attaches these different names to the styles of narration of his book. The narrative quality of the book tends to demonstrate that it is a book that is written in a narrative style told through the perspective of a young person, in this case, Stephen Dedalus.

Time and place: the tower at 8:00 a.m

In Ulysses, the character Stephen Dedalus represents Telemachus. Stephen Dedalus is the protagonist of another novel called Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (also written by James Joyce). The first three chapters of Ulysses focuses on what happens to Stephen after he fails at becoming an artist.

The first few lines of the book begin like this:

“Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stair head, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.”

Now, if you are assuming that following these lines that there would be a lovely description of who Buck Mulligan is followed by a description of context and location, you are not reading the right book. There is no context, and very little description. Instead, you have to pay close attention while dodging all the Latin, Greek, and Irish cultural references. Thanks James Joyce for making me feel incompetent while reading your book!

Of course, once you finish the first section and read the other chapters (especially chapter 3), you will find the first chapter very easy to understand. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Here is what happens in a nutshell…

Stephen Dedalus and Buck Mulligan are roommates living in Ireland. It’s the morning, and they are shaving in a tower while discussing a variety of subjects. Each subject blends into the other until you are left wondering “what’s going on!” But, never fear! You will understand 10% more if you read it twice (bearing in mind that this book is 900 pages). Then you will find out that Stephen is obsessed with his mother (who is now dead), he feels guilty because he refused to pray for her (he’s atheist), and he keeps comparing himself to Hamlet. Meanwhile, Buck Mulligan is an insensitive jerk who just wants to use Stephen for his own benefits.

Once they have finished shaving, they proceed to eat breakfast with another one of their roommates named Haines. Haines is an Englishman who knows how to speak Gaelic. He’s annoying in Stephen’s eyes because he spent the entire night talking in his sleep about shooting a black panther. Random right!

After breakfast, Stephen decides to hand over the keys of his house to Buck Mulligan, and he sets out to go to work.

Until next time,

-Alice

 

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