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MonkeyNotes-Ulysses by James Joyce
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Chapter 2

Nestor Summary

The time is 10 a.m. Stephen is teaching a class. He leads his class through a history lesson on the life of Pyrrhus, coaching them and prompting them towards the right answers. At the same time, he broods over his inadequacies as a teacher and his clownish behavior before friends such as Haines. The class moves on to recitation of Miltonís Lycidas, but Stephen, his mind still on the problems of history and his own state of mind, finds his thoughts full of his student days in Paris when he studied Aristotle. The repeated lines of Miltonís elegy remind him of his religious doubts.


At ten oíclock, the class breaks up. The boys go off to play hockey. Stephen dismisses them with an uncomprehendible riddle of the fox burying his grandmother. Death and its impact on the living runs in his mind. The boy Sargent stays behind, to show some extra mathematical exercises he has been told to complete. He does not understand the work. Stephen gently explains it to him. Sargentís mother must have loved him, and thinks Stephen, "Like him was I, these sloping shoulders, this gracelessness." After the boy goes off to the hockey match, Stephen waits for Mr. Deasy, the headmaster, who is outside settling some schoolboy altercation. Mr. Deasy himself lectures to Stephen on the need for financial caution. Stephen remembers his heavy debts. Knowing that Stephen has friends in the editorial offices of the Dublin newspapers, Mr. Deasy solicits his help in publishing a letter recommending a new treatment for foot-and-mouth disease. While Stephen waits, he types out the trite and vulgar sentences typical of the mindless enthusiast. Mr. Deasy feels that powerful influences are at work to still his voice: "England is in the hands of the Jews." Stephen tries vainly to stem the headmasterís scurrilous outbursts by reasoned objections. His mind again wanders to his experiences in France. Mr. Deasy concludes by prophesying that Stephen will not long remain a teacher. He patronizingly claims to enjoy his debates with the young man. He calls him back for a final, feeble sally against the Jews.

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