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MonkeyNotes-Ulysses by James Joyce
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Another significant feature of this chapter is Joyce’s use of symbolism. Ireland is symbolized in the decayed milkwoman and old Mother Grogan in the story Mulligan tells and Stephen sees the milkwoman as a symbol of poor, sterile and subjected Ireland. A true representative of her country, Stephen notes that she has more respect for Mulligan, the loud-voiced medicine man, than for himself, the artist. When Haines tries out his Gaelic on her, she doesn’t understand. We may take this as Joyce’s comment on Celtic revivalism, started by Yeats and Lady Gregory.

Ireland’s slavery is represented by the Martello tower itself, by Haines’ assurance as the typical Englishman visiting the barbarians, and even by his cigarette case (silver with an emerald set in it like a green island). Like Ireland, the Roman Church is given prominence in a variety of ways. Mulligan takes it light-heartedly as he mocks its ceremonial. Stephen on the other hand, seems weighed down and oppressed by his constant, involuntary recollection of fragmented prayers and moments of ritual. Stephen’s erudite display of theological learning only serves to deepen his gloom. Neither religion nor the abandonment of religion for atheism is liberating. Yet all the time Stephen is perfectly conscious of the bright morning, the sea, the pleasures of literary quotation and parody, the high spirits of youth. The experience of these things has hardly ever been more brilliantly evoked.


In this chapter James Joyce seems to ask a pertinent question: "Who holds the key to the future of Ireland?" Is it Mulligan who is known for physical brutality and coarseness? He gets the key to Martello Tower and uses it to press down his clothing. He persuades Stephen to join him in his attempt to "Hellenize" Ireland. Or is it with Stephen, the intellectual artist? Or is it with Haines who can speak Gaelic while the milkwoman cannot? Joyce never bothers to answer these questions. The novel, however, hints at many possible answers.

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