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Episode 1: Briefing

The first episode of Ulysses is usually referred to as "Telemachus". Joyce parallels the books of the Odyssey with the episodes of his novel; as the first book of the Odyssey introduces us to Telemachus, the hero's son, so this episode introduces Stephen Dedalus, who will become a son figure to protagonist Leopold Bloom. You will notice references to the Odyssey throughout Ulysses, as well as references to Hamlet and the Christian trinity. These stories all portray father-son relationships that are evoked as protagonists Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus find their lives intertwined in a father-son relationship.

A Brief Episode Synopsis
The book begins at daybreak on the roof of the tower rented by Stephen Dedalus and Malachi ("Buck") Mulligan. While Mulligan makes his morning shave into a mockery of the mass, he converses with Stephen. Stephen is in mourning attire for his recently deceased mother, whose death brought him back from his studies in Paris. Mulligan reveals that Stephen, a recent apostate from Catholicism, refused to honor his mother's dying wish that he kneel down and pray by her deathbed.
The two go down into the tower for breakfast, where they are joined by their English boarder Haines, and (briefly) by an Irish milkwoman. After the meal, the three head off toward Dublin Bay. Stephen discusses teh Irish attitude toward the British with Haines, while Mulligan sings a blasphemous song about Jesus and begins his swim, after asking Stephen for the tower's key and some money. The pair have an appointment to meet at a tavern and drink that evening, but now Stephen must leave for his teaching job. At the end of the episode, Stephen mentally labels Mulligan, who has taken his home (by getting the key for which Stephen has paid the rent) and threatened his integrity (by encouraging him to sell out his intellect to the English), a usurper.

What to Watch For
The first episode affords a much easier read than the later episodes of Ulysses. The main things to catch from the episode are the mockery of Catholicism (and the mass, especially) performed by Mulligan throughout, and an understanding of Stephen's growing dislike for the seemingly engaging Mulligan, culminating in Stephen's denouncing at the episode's end.

One of the book's first challenges is understanding why Stephen dislikes the engaging and humorous Mulligan so deeply. Stephen's affront over a remark Mulligan made concerning May Dedalus's death is not the root of the problem. Watch how Mulligan's humor mocks Stephen's religious past (Stephen had been an extremely devout Catholic until a few years beforehand); he is also much to ready to sell himself out -- or Stephen and Stephen's witticisms, for that matter -- and Stephen, who broke the hold that church and country had over him to become an untethered, free-willed artist by the end of Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, is especially sensitive to the idea of serving others. In fact, he has thrown off friends for offenses similar to Mulligan's before (see note on Cranly in Episode 1).
Note that while Mulligan is generally well-liked, it will be revealed that three of the book's most trustworthy characters do not trust or like him: the knife-witted Stephen, Stephen's jovial father Simon (who generally gets on well with everyone he meets), and Bloom (who tends to look at the best side of every man's character.)

Other Things to Keep In Mind:
The motif of dark men and creatures carries throughout the novel as a reference to Leopold Bloom. Although Stephen does not actually meet Bloom face-to-face until late in the novel, his shadow crosses Stephen's day as early as this episode (see note on Haines's leopard dream).
Another motif appearing here is the drowned man.

Main Characters
Stephen Dedalus: Stephen, a young, intelligent man with aspirations to be an author. In mourning for the recent death of his mother, May Dedalus.
Malachi ("Buck") Mulligan: Stephen's friend and roommate in the tower. A medical student, fairly well-off via his aunt (who does not approve of Stephen).
Haines: An Englishman from Oxford, in Ireland for academic research. Boarding in the tower with Mulligan and Stephen.

This episode is set in a former naval defense ("Martello") tower on the Irish coast, now rented by Stephen and Mulligan. The tower overlooks Dublin Bay, where Mulligan goes swimming at the episode's end.


Please see the citations page for more information on resources used to create the annotations.

In this episode:
Blamires, Harry (3rd ed). The New Bloomsday Book: A Guide through Ulysses. Routledge, 1996.
Moxham, Bernard. Ineluctable Modality: Images to Accompany James Joyce's UlyssesWebsite. Http:// Accessed 25 February 2009.
Thornton, Weldon. Allusions in Ulysses: An Annotated List. UNC Press, 1968. Page 20.