Stephen Dedalus


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Stephen Dedalus appears in Ulysses as the character who corresponds to Telemachus; less overtly, he embodies aspects of Hamlet. He is the protagonist of the first three chapters. Subsequently, Leopold Bloom is introduced, and Stephen's interactions with Bloom and his wife, Molly, form much of the final chapters' substance. Mirroring his mythological namesake, Daedalus (or Daidalos in the Greek pronunciation and transliteration), whom Ovid described in the Metamorphoses (VIII:183-235) as being shut up in a tower to prevent his knowledge of the labyrinth from spreading to the public, Stephen is introduced taking breakfast in the Sandycove Martello tower in Dublin on the morning of 16 June 1904. Stephen shares his opinions about religion, especially as they relate to the recent death of his mother, with his quasi-friend Buck Mulligan, who manages to offend Stephen before making plans to go drinking later that evening as they part ways. In the second chapter Stephen teaches a class of boys a history lesson on ancient Rome. In the "Proteus" chapter (in Greek myth Proteus was the old man of the sea and the shepherd of sea animals who knew all things past, present, and future but disliked telling what he knew), Stephen ambles along the strand as his thoughts are related in the form of an internal monologue. Following several chapters concerning Bloom, Stephen returns to the fore of the novel in the library episode, in which he expounds at length to some acquaintances his theory of the obscurely autobiographical nature of Shakespeare's works and questions the institution of fatherhood, deeming it to be a fiction. He discredits his own ideas afterward, suggesting some lack of self-confidence.