When Stephen thinks, "I just simply stood pale, silent, bayed about," he may or may not be recalling some earlier physical experience with a dog. But he is certainly repeating one of Joyce's early images of himself as a deer hunted by dogs.
In the last chapter of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Stephen famously announces to his friend Cranly "the only arms I allow myself to use—silence, exile, and cunning." In the embryonic germ of the novel—the similarly titled essay/story "A Portrait of the Artist," written in 1904—Joyce used different metaphorical language to describe the blood sport that he saw himself engaged in during his university years. Instead of the athletic contests (hockey, hurling, rugby, football) that sublimate violence for many young men, he would think of himself as a solitary buck pursued by a pack of hounds.
He wrote of the young artist: "About this period the enigma of a manner was put up to all comers to protect the crisis. He was quick enough now to see that he must disentangle his affairs in secrecy and reserve had ever been a light penance. His reluctance to debate scandal, to seem curious of others, aided him in his real indictment and was not without a satisfactory flavour of the heroic. It was part of that ineradicable egoism of which he was afterward redeemer that he imagined converging to him the deeds and thoughts of the microcosm. Is the mind of boyhood medieval that it is so divining of intrigue? Field sports (or their correspondents in the world of mentality) are perhaps the most effective cure, but for this fantastic idealist, eluding the grunting booted apparition with a bound, the mimic hunt was no less ludicrous than unequal in a ground chosen to his disadvantage. But behind the rapidly indurating shield the sensitive answered: Let the pack of enmities come tumbling and sniffing to the highlands after their game. There was his ground and he flung them disdain from flashing antlers" (Poems and Shorter Writings, ed. Richard Ellmann, A. Walton Litz, and John Whittier Ferguson [London, 1991], p. 211, italics added).
Later in 1904 Joyce wrote a poem called "The Holy Office" in which he excoriated contemporary Irish writers who "dream their dreamy dreams," leaving Joyce, the truth-teller, to "carry off their filthy streams." Against the pack mentality of the Irish Revival he presented himself again as a solitary pursuer of truth:
- Where they have crouched and crawled and prayed
- I stand, the self-doomed, unafraid,
- Unfellowed, friendless and alone,
- Indifferent as the herring-bone,
- Firm as the mountain ridges where
- I flash my antlers on the air.
Thornton and Gifford both suggest that the deer-dog image in Proteus recalls the myth of Actaeon, and Gifford sees fit to observe that "The deer or roebuck is also a traditional symbol of the hidden secret of the self. In Celtic mythology its epithet is 'Hide the Secret.'" It is unclear what these other associations might have to do with Stephen's situation, though Gifford does offer one possible connection to the "lapwing" in Scylla and Charybdis.