The book opens with Stephen coming up the steps of Martello Tower (outside Dublin, overlooking the bay) to talk with his friend, Buck Mulligan.
Buck Mulligan teases Stephen about not praying over his mother before she died, but Stephen is very serious about it.
Stephen wants Haines, an Englishman who is living with them, to move out. He has breakfast with Buck Mulligan and Haines.
After breakfast, they go down to the sea. Haines tries to engage Stephen in conversation but he is stubborn and withdrawn. He tells Haines, "You behold in me a horrible example of free thought" (1.295).
When Haines supposes that Stephen is free to act as he chooses, Stephen says that he is the servant of two masters – an English and an Italian. He spells it out and says that he is speaking of the imperial British state and the holy Roman Catholic and apostolic church.
Haines tries to sympathize with him, and Stephen thinks of all the famous heresiarchs in Church history.
Stephen says that he won't be swimming and leaves Haines and Buck Mulligan by the sea, but not before Buck Mulligan asks for the house key and twopence for a pint. Stephen leaves them.
As he wanders off, he thinks to himself "usurper" (1.356).
Episode 2: Nestor
At the start of the Episode 2, we find Stephen teaching a class in Dalkey, questioning his students about Pyrrhus.
It is clear that Stephen is not a very good teacher; he makes inside jokes with himself that go over the students' heads.
Stephen helps a student with his math problems after class. At first, he thinks the student is pathetic, but then takes a more sympathetic view. He thinks of the love the student's mother must have nourished on him.
Stephen meets with Mr. Deasy, the head of the school, in his office.
Deasy lectures Stephen and tells him the proudest thing a man can say is that he paid his way. Stephen admits to himself that he cannot say this.
Deasy says he knew that Stephen wouldn't and says that though they are generous they must also be just. Stephen says, "I fear those big words which make us so unhappy" (2.122).
Deasy has written an article on hoof and mouth disease that the wants Stephen to deliver to the press. Stephen agrees.
When Deasy begins going on about what a problem Jews are and how they work against the progress of history, Stephen says, "History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake" (2.157).
Mr. Deasy claims that all history moves toward one great purpose and they are not to question his ways. There is the cheer of a goal, and Stephen claims, "That is God" (2.162). He says God is "A shout in the street" (2.165).
Deasy says Stephen will not remain long at the school, and Stephen agrees.
As he leaves, Deasy runs out after him and tells one last anti-Semitic joke. Stephen does not respond, but as Deasy returns, Stephen thinks that the leaves look like sun-spangled coins.
Episode 3: Proteus
It's about 11am, and Stephen has come to Dublin from Dalkey by way of public transportation. As you might recall, he has a set meeting with Mulligan at 12:30pm, and in the meantime he has wandered down to Sandymount Strand (the beach at the east-most side of Dublin) to stroll along the beach and think think think.
Stephen wanders up and down the Strand and thinks about religion, philosophy, his times in Paris, and his own remorse over his mother.
At first, his thoughts are highly abstract. Yet they gradually become more and more concerned with his surroundings.
Stephen sees the bloated carcass of a dog, and thinks, "These heavy sands are language tide and wind have silted here" (3.62).
After Stephen passes another couple, he sits down on a rock and jots out a poem on a scrap of Deasy's letter.
He realizes that he does not know "that word known to all men," i.e. love (3.80).
Stephen thinks about death at sea and picks his nose.
When he begins to feel as though someone is behind him, he turns and sees a ship coming into the bay.
Episode 6: Hades
Bloom sees Stephen in the street and points him out to his father. Stephen waves. His father (Simon) does not see him, but wonders if he is staying with his Aunt Sally. Simon Dedalus complains about the company Stephen keeps, Mulligan in particular.
Episode 7: Aeolus
It's shortly after noon at the offices of The Freeman's Journal (and the Evening Telegraph). Stephen Dedalus enters the office behind O'Madden Burke. The editor greets Dedalus, who gives him Deasy's article on foot and mouth disease.
Professor O'Molloy and Crawford, the editor of the paper, joke with Stephen and ask what he has been writing lately.
When Professor O'Molloy recalls a beautiful speech by Seymour Bushe, Stephen almost swoons at the language.
A few minutes later, he suggests they all go for a drink at a nearby bar.
On the way, Stephen tells Professor MacHugh an idea he has for a piece. It's a parable about two old women who climb Nelson's Pillar (pillar in the center of Dublin, no longer there), eat plums, and throw the seeds down onto Dublin. MacHugh picks up on all of the literary allusions in the parable and thinks it is very clever.
Episode 9: Scylla and Charybdis
It's 2pm in the National Library.
Stephen is joking with John Eglinton, the librarian, and George William Russell, a well-renowned mystical poet in Dublin. They want to know what he is working on.
They debate Aristotelian versus Platonic views of art and begin to discuss Shakespeare's Hamlet.
Stephen argues that Shakespeare drew heavily on his own life in order to write Hamlet, particularly on his relationship with his father and with Ann Hathaway. Russell strongly disagrees with him.
When Eglinton suggests that Shakespeare's marriage to Hathaway was a mistake, Stephen snapped back, "Bosh! A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery" (9.90).
When Russell announces that he is going to leave, they talk about a poetry reading. They fail to invite Stephen and he feels left out.
Eglinton is very skeptical of Stephen's argument so Stephen circles back and makes it more elaborate.
Mulligan appears while Stephen is explaining the theory. He gives Stephen a hard time for ditching him and Haines at the bar and Stephen laughs.
Stephen argues that fatherhood is nothing but a mystical state, and concludes that Shakespeare was his own father. Eglinton now seems impressed.
Stephen wraps his argument. Then "he laughs to free his mind from his mind's bondage" (9.365).
When Eglinton asks if Stephen believes his own theory, he says that he does not believe it.
As Stephen and Mulligan pass out, they see Bloom. Mulligan jokes that Stephen should watch out for Bloom because he thinks he saw Bloom turn a lustful eye on Stephen.
Episode 10: The Wandering Rocks
Stephen runs into his sister at a bookcart on Bedford Row. She has bought a French primer in an effort to learn French. Stephen tries to act as if this is only natural.
Looking at her, Stephen thinks, "She is drowning. Agenbite. Save her. Agenbite. All against us. She will drown me with her, eyes and hair. Lank coils of seaweed hair around me, my heart, my soul. Salt green death" (10. 477).
He is torn between the desire to pull her out of her miserable situation, and the fear of being dragged into it with her.
Episode 11: Sirens
Lenehan passes on Stephen's greetings to Simon. He tells Simon how everyone was fawning over his son at Mooney's earlier in the day (where they went after the "Aeolus" episode).
Episode 14: Oxen of the Sun
It is 10pm at the National Maternity Hospital. Stephen is sitting in a room of medical professionals, students, and men about town. He is the drunkest of them all.
He is blabbering on about Church teachings having to do with pregnancy, but most of the men are ignoring him.
Bloom watches him as he goes on about the passage from death to life. A thunderclap is heard and Stephen becomes scared; he seems to think that God is punishing him for his blasphemy.
Stephen suggests they all go to Burke's pub, which they do. He drinks absinthe (very strong liquor) there and buys the first few rounds.
He wonders off to Nighttown (the red light district) when the bar closes. Bloom follows behind.
Episode 15: Circe
Recall that the episode opens at midnight, that it is told in the form of a play dialogue, and that much of it consists of the dreamscapes of Bloom and Stephen.
Stephen and Lynch are in high spirits as they wander the streets. Stephen calls for gesture to become a universal language, but Lynch dismisses the idea as "pornosophical philotheology" (15.21).
A bit later, when Bloom finds the two of them in the brothel, Stephen is sitting alone at the piano, playing drunkenly.
When Lynch laughs at Stephen, Zoe says, "God help your head, he knows more than you have forgotten" (15.436).
The prostitutes try to get Stephen to sing, but he says that he is a finished artist. Stephen has a dialogue with the drunk and sober personifications of his conscience.
Stephen tries to pay the prostitute madame, but gives her too much. Bloom takes his cash so he won't lose it.
The girls are quite taken with Stephen and begins acting like a French prostitute. Bloom watches over him paternally.
Stephen begins dancing with the prostitute Zoe, but when he has an image of his dead mother rising up to greet him, he becomes terrified.
When the ghost asks him to repent, he begins crying nonsensically (for the others to hear): "The intellectual imagination! With me all or not all. Non serviam!" (15.915).
Stephen raises his ashplant, smashes the chandelier and rushes out of the brothel.
He gets into an argument with an English constable, Private Carr, on the corner. He speaks condescendingly to Carr, and when Carr thinks that he has insulted the English king, he punches him in the face.
Stephen curls up on the sidewalk.
Episode 16: Eumaeus
It is 1am on the corner of Beaver Street. Bloom helps Stephen up, and the two of them go to a shelter under Loop Line Bridge.
Stephen runs into his acquaintance, Corley. He loans Corley money, and Bloom thinks that Stephen has been too generous.
When Bloom asks Stephen why he left his father's house, and Stephen says, "To seek misfortune" (16.27).
Bloom tells Stephen that his father takes great pride in him and notes that Mulligan is taking advantage of him. Stephen doesn't respond.
At the cabmen's shelter, Bloom orders for the two of them while Stephen listens to some men haggle in Italian.
Stephen begins to discuss the soul with Bloom. When Bloom describes his idea of a utopia for Stephen, Stephen becomes sullen because it leaves out a place for the artist.
Bloom shows Stephen a picture of Molly and invites him to come home with him. Stephen agrees.
They walk arm in arm to Bloom's house discussing different types of music. When Stephen sings a few lines in German, Bloom is baffled by how good he is.
Episode 17: Ithaca
It's 2am as Bloom and Stephen make their way from the cabmen's shelter to Bloom's house at 7 Eccles Street.
On the way, they discuss music, literature, Dublin, women, diet, and the Roman Catholic Church.
Stephen shares his views on "the eternal affirmation of the spirit of man in literature" (17.4).
Inside, Bloom makes cocoa for Stephen.
They discuss a woman that they new in common, Mrs. Riordan.
Stephen tells Bloom "The Parable of the Plums."
They discuss famous Jews, and Stephen shares his knowledge of Gaelic with Bloom.
Stephen's sings an anti-Semitic song. He imagines both he and Bloom could be the victims in the song, but it makes Bloom unhappy.
When Bloom proposes Stephen stay the night, Stephen politely declines. He suggests they go pee in the garden. They do, and they see a shooting star.
They make a number of plans before Stephen departs: Molly will give Stephen vocal lessons; Stephen will give Molly Italian lessons; Bloom and Stephen will meet for intellectual discussions.
Before parting, Stephen " affirmed his significance as a conscious rational animal proceeding syllogistically from the known to the unknown and a conscious rational reagent between a micro- and a macrocosm ineluctably constructed upon the incertitude of the void" (17.149).
They shake hands and Stephen walks off, alone, into the night.
Episode 18: Penelope
Having heard about Stephen from Bloom, Molly thinks of maybe taking Italian lessons from him in the future.
She imagines that she could teach him some Spanish, and thinks she will study so that he won't think that she is ignorant.
At first, Molly fantasizes a romantic relationship for her and Stephen, but her thoughts eventually become more motherly. She thinks that the reason Stephen is carousing about town is because he doesn't have a mother, and imagines him staying with her and Leopold.