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Questions

Wednesday, September 9, 2009; 03:46 am Leave a comment Go to comments

This was a rather large topic to cover, since by a count in the html text there are around 230 or so questions in the first three episodes.  Instead, then, of addressing every question, I will try to illuminate running patterns where questions are concerned, by epsisode.

Episode One:

This episode’s questions, numerically speaking, are dominated by Buck.  Interestingly, most of Buck’s questions are rhetorical or are followed up by another question (either by Buck himself or Dedalus).  Such a theme may point to Buck’s desire to have the same type of intellectual curiosity that Dedalus has, but inability to fulfil it as Mulligan’s questions hold little weight in any of the episode’s discourse.  Such a reading is enforced by the fact that Stephen asks very few questions, and when he does they generally relate to more prominent scenes such as the “beastly dead” debate and the milk maid mistaking Gaelic for French. 

Episode Two:

In the first half of the episode, Stephen asks all the questions and never answers his students’ questions directly.  Throughout, he answers most questions directed at him with no answer out loud, but instead with an inner monologue concerning the subject.  This solidifies Stephen’s position as a learner rather than a teacher — he rarely if ever helps his students and answers their questions, but their questions always lead him to internal scholarly debate over ideas such as fatalism.  As for the second half of the episode and Mr. Deasy, Dedalus’ boss never gets his questions answered either, or if the questions are answered it is only in Stephen’s inner monologue or in his typical cryptic fashion (ie God is a shout in the street).  Given that the question/answer relationship is handled in much the same way between the students and Dedalus, and Mr. Deasy and Dedalus, we might say that Mr. Deasy has as much to learn from Dedalus as the students do. 

Episode Three:

Questions here serve to propel the inner monologue.  As with the other two episodes, the vast majority of questions are not answered, even though Dedalus is the one posing the questions to himself.  Perhaps of note is that the questions at the end are answered at a far greater rate than those elsewhere in the episode, coinciding with Stephen becoming more aware of his body (as spark notes points out – “by the end of the chapter we finally have a sense, for the first time, of the presence of Stephen’s body, as he urinates, touches his rotten teeth, picks his nose, and looks over his shoulder”).  Whether this represents a shift just within the episode itself, or we can expect to see questions answered more directly in further episodes is yet to be seen, but for the opening episodes, questions by and large remained unanswered both for the characters and the reader.

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