Ulysses – Episode Two: “Nestor”

Amor matris: subjective and objective
(See Important Quotations Explained)

Stephen is teaching a history class on Pyrrhus’s victory—the
class is not very disciplined. He drills the students, and a boy
named Armstrong phonetically guesses that Pyrrhus was “a pier.”
Stephen indulges him and expands on Armstrong’s answer, calling
a pier “a disappointed bridge.” He imagines himself subserviently
dropping this witticism later for Haines’s amusement. Thinking of
Phyrrus’s and Caesar’s murders, Stephen wonders about the philosophical inevitability
of certain historical events—is history the fulfillment of the only
possible course of events, or one of many?
Stephen takes the class through Milton’s Lycidas as
he continues to ponder his own questions about history, questions
he thought about while reading Aristotle in a Paris library. An
image from Milton’s poem makes Stephen think of God’s effect on
all men. Stephen thinks of the lines of a common riddle then decides
to tell the students his own riddle as they gather their things
and prepare to leave to play field hockey. Stephen alone laughs
at his impenetrable riddle about a fox burying his grandmother under
a bush.
The students leave, except for Sargent, who needs help
with his arithmatic. Stephen looks at the ugly Sargent and imagines
Sargent’s mother’s love for him. Stephen shows Sargent the sums,
thinking briefly of Buck’s joke that Stephen’s Hamlet theory is
proven by algebra. Thinking again of amor matris, or
mother’s love, Stephen is reminded of himself as a child, clumsy
like Sargent. Sargent heads outside to join the hockey game. Stephen
walks outside, then goes to wait in Deasy’s office while Deasy,
the schoolmaster, settles a hockey dispute.
Mr. Deasy pays Stephen his wages and shows off his savings
box. Deasy lectures Stephen on the satisfaction of money earned
and the importance of keeping money carefully and of saving it.
Deasy remarks that an Englishman’s greatest pride is the ability
to claim he has paid his own way and owes nothing. Stephen mentally
tallies up his own abundant debts.
Deasy imagines that Stephen, whom he assumes is Fenian,
or an Irish Catholic nationalist, disrespects Deasy as a Tory—a
Protestant loyal to the English. Deasy argues his Irish credentials—he
has witnessed much Irish history. Deasy then asks Stephen to use
his influence to get a letter of Deasy’s printed in the newspaper.
While he finishes typing it, Stephen looks around his office at
the portraits of racehorses and remembers a trip to the racetrack
with his old friend Cranly.
Stephen hears shouts welcoming a goal scored on the hockey field.
Deasy hands Stephen his completed letter and Stephen skims it. The
letter warns of the dangers of foot-and-mouth cattle disease and
suggests that it can be cured. It seems that Deasy resents the influence
of those people who currently have power over the situation. He
also seems to blame Jews for similar corruption and destruction
of national economies. Stephen argues that greedy merchants can
be Jewish or gentile, but Deasy insists that the Jews have sinned
against “the light.”