Student Question

What are Stephen's sensory experiences in Episode Three: "Proteus" of Joyce's Ulysses?

Expert Answers

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In “Proteus," what Stephen thinks and feels, sees, hears, and smells through this chapter connects to his boots, his family, religion, dogs, and past adventures.

At first, Stephen is concerned with his boots. To “hear his boots crush crackling wrack,” Stephen shuts his eyes. It’s as if he doesn’t want any of his other senses to interfere with his sense of hearing. He thinks about how the “two feet in his boots are at the ends of his legs” and how it “sounds solid.” Of course, these sounds are unique to him since he’s at the beach.

Eyes open, Stephen sees a midwife, which makes him think of religion, his family, his uncles, Aunt Sara, and his father, who makes a quip about his artistic sensibilities. The cry of all’erta prompts him to think of the opera. Soon, his thoughts return to religion and his lack of saintliness. He then recalls his time in Paris and remembers seeing “the crude sunlight on her lemon streets.” Back in the present, Stephen spots a dog’s “bloated carcass,” and hears barking sounds from a living dog. He focuses on the living dog and then thinks about a dream involving a “street of harlots” and a man with a melon.

Other senses and thoughts to trace in this chapter relate to literature, his handkerchief, and the state of his teeth.

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