Chapter Three, Proteus
Narrative Focus: Stephen
Characters: Stephen, the “Frauenzimmer” (passing midwives), a dog, various of Stephen’s relatives and friends in recollection.
Setting: Sandymount Strand, a stretch of Dublin beach, 11 am.
Menelaus recounts his own wanderings and how, aided by Eidothea, daughter of Proteus, he wrestled with and captured the shape-changing Proteus, the Old Man of the Sea, in order to learn from him the way of his returning from the Trojan War (Book IV). Stephen similarly wrestles with his own protean memory and language to wrest from them the self-knowledge he seeks.
Stephen encounters his memories and dreams, meditates on history, philosophy, and language while walking on the beach. Contemplates a visit to his Uncle Richie Goulding’s, mixing memories of past visits with an imagined visit now. Watches a dog sniffing another dog’s carcass (the fox of Ch. 2) while the Frauenzimmer (“midwives”) pass. Stirred to write a poem, but paperless.
Stephen’s manipulations of the primal matter of poetry are the most extended and most radical use of interior monologue thus far: the protean nature of his mental associations anticipates the fluidity of association that Joyce will invoke to construct the fantasia of the fifteenth, or “Circe” chapter.