Telemachus 0037

This is an especially marvelous page, and the less said about it the better. But something must be said.

So Stephen, Mulligan, and Haines are eating their breakfast. There being no refrigerator, milk is delivered every day by a milkwoman, who’s presumably just come from the cows. Stephen (or is it Stephen?) imagines her as a messenger in disguise, like Athena. If the milkwoman is Athena, and Stephen is Telemachus, then we can expect that in some way she’s going to send him on his way, wittingly or unwittingly.

Several old women represent Ireland symbolically: “Silk of the Kine and poor old woman,” are two, also the Shan van Vocht or Cathleen Ni Houlihan.  So you could say that Stephen and Mulligan’s profanation of Irish culture (and Irish women) has been punctured by the arrival of the symbol of Ireland herself.  We will soon find that she’s not a perfect symbol of all things Irish, but we’ll save that for a later panel.

So what’s with the naked lady?  It’s all part of Stephen’s notion of her as a goddess in disguise, also a figure of Ireland enslaved, serving her conqueror (Haines, the Englishman) and her gay betrayer (Mulligan).  If a messenger from the gods comes to visit your for breakfast, in the guise of a poor old woman, how might that change the way you face your day?