Stephen Dedalus, a proud and sensitive young Irishman. He is a writer and teacher called Kinch (from “kinchin,” meaning “child”) by one of his friends. In his search for the nature and meaning of life, Stephen examines all phases of his existence. History, he says, is a nightmare from which he is trying to awake. As he looks back to his childhood, he can remember only his family’s poverty and his father as a patron of taverns. His devotion to Ireland is not the answer to his search; she is an old sow, he believes, that eats her own young. His religion is not enough to make life purposeful. Stephen cannot dismiss his mother’s deathbed prayer that he avow his belief, and his inability to comply causes him to fret with remorse. Symbolically, Stephen is Telemachus, the son in search of a father. In effect, he finds a symbolic father in Leopold Bloom, an older man who takes care of Stephen after the young man has been in a street fight with British soldiers. Declining Bloom’s invitation to live with him and his wife, Stephen goes out into the darkened street to return to the Tower where he is staying and to his dissolute life among the young men and students he knows.
Leopold Bloom, a Jewish advertising salesman who is, symbolically, Ulysses, the father of Telemachus. Bloom’s yearning for a son stems from the long-past death of Rudy, his eleven-day-old son. A patient husband, he is cuckolded by his wife’s business manager, but he is carrying on a furtive flirtation of his own. Bloom is Any Man, plodding through the daily routine of living—visiting bars, restaurants, newspaper offices, hospitals, and brothels of Dublin—because he hopes for something out of the ordinary but must be satisfied with the tawdry.
Malachi “Buck” Mulligan
Malachi “Buck” Mulligan, a medical student and the friend of Stephen Dedalus. He points up Stephen’s attitudes and philosophies, the two young men being opposites, the scientific and the philosophical. Buck says that death is a beastly thing and nothing else; it simply does not matter. According to Buck, Stephen’s religious strain is all mockery; if it were not,...
(The entire section is 910 words.)