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MonkeyNotes-Ulysses by James Joyce
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Chapter 3

Proteus Summary

Stephen walks down to the sea. He muses over the various modes in which experience can come to us. He is recollecting the various forms of his own past and present existence. First he considers the colors and shapes that he can see. By closing his eyes as he continues walking, his thoughts move from philosophical speculation to more practical matters. He uses his stick as blind men do, but has momentary childish fears that he will find himself permanently blind. When he opens his eyes, he sees two midwives coming down from Leahyís Terrace. He meditates, first on his own birth, then on birth in general. Arius, the heretic, who spent his whole life in arguments on the jaw breaking words of theology, comes to his mind. Stephen remembers his errands. Wondering whether he should visit his Aunt Sara, he recollects the family visits of his youth and his fatherís scorn for his wifeís relatives. He briefly recalls the childhood scene centering on the eccentric Uncle Richie, the solicitor. Richie sits in bed drinking, cursing and humming airs from old-fashioned operas.

Stephen used to lie to his schoolfellows with fabricated tales of his familyís wealth and position. Thoughts of school trigger remembrances of the priests who taught him and the ringing bells of the Mass. The audible experiences predominate here: the songs of Richie and the twanging of the bells. However, Stephen recalls that he was not fitted to clerical life. The promptings of sexual desire inflamed his young manhood. He remembers the ridiculous youthful ambition he had to be a writer. The desolate, unwholesome, littered beach reminds him of his inconclusive and uncertain past life. Suddenly he realizes that he had unwittingly passed the road that leads to Aunt Saraís. Changing his direction he walks towards the Pigeon House. His thoughts turn about too, prompted by a recollected French joke about pigeons. By association he recalls his Parish conversations with Kevin Egan and his son Patrice Egan, and the futility of political action. In reality he had been fearful of the police and mistreated by a post office clerk. He had come home, laden with tourist curiosities and a fake French manner. He was summoned by the news of his motherís final sickness. Memories of friends and snatches of remembered conversation flash through his mind. He gradually switches on to memories of lust and of imagined dissolution.


Stephen reaches the edge of the sea. He turns back, knowing however, that he cannot turn back to the tower and Mulligan. He sits on a rock and overlooks the scene. He observes the body of a drowned dog and the boulders around. Suddenly a dog appears, running towards him. Stephen has a moment of fear that it will attack him. However, it turns away. He realizes how false his day dreaming has always been. Even Mulligan had bravely saved a drowning man, while he is scared of a passing dog! The dogís owners, cockle-pickers, appear. The man calls his dog from the body on the beach, which it has been sniffing. Watching the dog pawing in the sand, Stephen remembers the riddle about burial that he had told, Hainesí nightmares of a scratching panther and his own dreams of sexual passion in splendid oriental settings. He is a great contrast to the earthy gypsy couple on the shore in front of him. As man and wife they experience universal love. Yet he is strongly aware of their essential vulgarity. His own tentative love affairs pass through his mind. He is shocked by the thought that he is wearing a pair of Mulliganís shoes. He nevertheless remembers with delight trying on a girlís shoe in Paris. He relieves himself on to the sand. Memories of the drowning waters and the polluted beach flash before him. He picks his nose, leaving the mucus on the rock and worries about his bad teeth. However, as he leaves the beach, these trivial and disgusting physical concerns are forgotten as he looks over his shoulder at the beautiful sight of a boat in the bay.

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