The first “episode” of Ulysses casts Stephen Dedalus in the role of Telemachus, Ulysses’s son. My impressions (which probably some scholar has written a thesis on so I’m probably making already eluciadated points but anyway…)
– There are two themes that come across in the first chapter: 1) Religion in overt references and through the trope of the mockery of the mass 2) Ireland and Irish art – through the fact that Stephen is a struggling artists, his last name Daedalus, his comments etc
– The role of Oscar Wilde: Wilde is named overtly and on reading the notations, referenced through a metaphor that gets emphasised; that of the art of Ireland being like a cracked mirror. The Wilde quote is rather deep and startling for Wilde, almost post-structuralist. Despite this, the whole tone of the first chapter, and in particular the character of Buck Mulligan, is very flippant, very Wilde.
– The sea is a recurring motif, but that’s obvious because the Greek epic is concerned with the sea.
Weird – Joyce’s desire to make Stephen both Telemachus and Hamlet seems rather clumsy.
-There also seems to be a homosexual undercurrent in the relationship between Buck and Stephen though maybe this is just the modern penchant for construing any kind of friendship between men as gay.
– Reading the Richard Ellman essay at the back of my copy it appears that this entire first chapter was inspired by Joyce’s own experience with a patron, who Buck is modeled on. The similarities in that incident and the events of the first chapter made my admiration wane. Just presenting the events of one day and then peppering in some historical references is a lazy form of art, I think. Or is it?
Also, the entire construction seems rather rough. The epic exclamations etc (even though serving a purpose) intrude in a similar manner to songs in a Hindi film.