Eaten all

In Brief

In Telemachus Haines leaves the tower first, followed by Mulligan, who calls behind him, “Come out, Kinch. You have eaten all we left, I suppose.” The remark seems to imply, one, that Stephen has hungrily finished off the leavings on Mulligan’s and Haines’ plates, and two, that doing so is somehow ill-mannered.

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In Scylla and Charybdis Stephen recalls Mulligan’s complaint nearly verbatim, thinking resentfully of how small an offense was laid to his charge: “Come on, Kinch. You have eaten all we left. Ay. I will serve you your orts and offals.” Read together, the two passages contribute to the impression that Stephen has been usurped, like Telemachus who eats in his own palace only by the sufferance of Antinous and the other suitors.

It is hard to fault Stephen for being hungry and polishing off the scraps that others have left on the table. But the information about his eating habits seems to flatly contradict what he says in Eumaeus, when Bloom solicitously asks, “At what o’clock did you dine?” “Some time yesterday,” replies Stephen. Bloom is astonished until it occurs to him that “it was already tomorrow Friday. Ah, you mean it’s after twelve!” Stephen corrects himself: “The day before yesterday.” Unless both men understand “dine” to refer to something more substantial than breakfast, it seems that Stephen is exaggerating his fast, possibly to solicit sympathy, and certainly to construct a heroic personal mythology of self-abnegation. Joyce represents in Stephen his own self-pitying hunger during his bohemian days in Paris, with Bloom occupying the role played in life by Mary Murray Joyce. 

JH 2011