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Episode 2: Briefing

The second episode of Ulysses is usually referred to as "Nestor". Joyce parallels the books of the Odyssey with the episodes of his novel; as the second book of the Odyssey follows Telemachus to Nestor, and old friend of his father who is unable to give Telemachus any news of his missing father, the "Nestor" episode of Ulysses follows Stephen to his school job, where his supervisor, the headmaster Mr. Deasy, is unable to provide him with any wisdom for all his advanaced age.

A Brief Episode Synopsis The episode opens with Stephen teaching at his school job, perhaps a few hours after the end of the previous episode. The episode, including the history lesson the students are working on, reference various historical figures who failed in trying to save their country from rule by a foreign imperial power (e.g. the Greeks were subjugated by the Romans much as Ireland is subjugated to the British). The students are not especially keen learners, but feel superior to Stephen because their well-off families pay his wages.
After a recitation lesson, the boys depart for field hickey. Stephen aids one of his students, Cyril Sargent, with an algebra lesson; although the boy is weak and slow, Stephen realizes that his mother must love him, leading him back to his uneasy feelings about his recently departed mother.
After helping the student, Stephen visits the office of his headmaster, Mr. Deasy, who pays him his wages while lecturing him condescendingly on the value of saving money. Mr. Deasy is an old fogey, a diehard Britisher and spouter of tired maxims, which is humorous in light of his Odysseyean parallel to the sage Nestor. They match wits on several topics, including the guilt of Jewish merchants, setting up the social atmosphere of anti-Semitism which the as-yet-unintroduced protagonist Leopold Bloom (whose father was Jewish) must move through. Deasy completes a letter suggesting a course of action against foot-and-mouth disease, which he wants Stephen to share with his friends at two Dublin newspapers, and Stephen leaves with a promise to pass the letter on.

What to Watch For
Figures who failed to prevent national usurpation:

An ironic parallel to the Odyssey: This episode parallels the part in the Odyssey when the young Telemachus goes to seek news of his missing father from the aged Nestor. Ironically, the "Nestor" here, Mr. Deasy, embodies everything Stephen is rebelling against and offers him tired cliches and no wisdom.

Amor matris -- a mother's love:: Stephen's uneasiness about his treatment of his recently deceased mother is referenced both in his musings on the weak student Sargent (who must have a mother who loves him), and the riddle he gives his students (which references a recent burial, a cunning fox [Stephen], and a dead [grand]mother).

Main Characters
Stephen Dedalus: Stephen, the young, intelligent man introduced in the previous section. Stephen has a teaching position, which he resents for turning him into a "servant" of another man (and a very English one at that).

Mr. Deasy: Stephen's supervisor and the school's headmaster. An old conservative, somewhat anti-Semitic, and quite pro-British; fond of trite and empty maxims.

This episode opens shortly after the end of the previous episode, on the same morning. Stephen has gone to his "school kip" and is engaged in teaching his class.


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., accessed March 13, 2009.
Gifford, Don & Seidman, Robert J. (2nd ed.). Ulysses Annotated: notes for James Joyce's Ulysses. University of California Press, 1989., accessed March 13, 2009.