And so Stephen walks away from Mulligan and Haines, ostensibly going off to work, but also having determined that he cannot come back. He is no longer comfortable there, and really no longer welcome.
As he walks away the prayer for the dying comes back to him (“Liliata rutilantium…”), the prayer his mother wanted him to say at her bedside while she was dying . Why? Perhaps because of the priest he saw swimming, and Mulligan’s sign of the cross… or perhaps his decision to not return to the tower is a decision to not submit to Mulligan, in the same way that he refused to submit to his mother’s or his family’s will. The latter reason would also explain why he thinks that he also can’t go home, to his family’s home.
In the Odyssey, Telemachus knows exactly why he’s leaving Ithaca, and he knows what he needs to do, and he knows where to go. He doesn’t know where his father Odysseus is, but Athena has told him how to go about learning what happened. He has a plan… where Stephen’s plan is less clear. He has a job to go to, he has a date for drinks later (he won’t go, by the way). What can we say Stephen is leaving to find?