Aeolus, Ruler of the Winds
It is late morning in Dublin. Bloom is back from Paddy Dignam's funeral, and Stephen is off the beach. Episode 7 takes place in the Freeman newspaper offices.
Headlines in Large Bold Type
disrupt the narrative text and the interior monologue of previous episodes is mostly absent. Leopold Bloom stops in to discuss a newspaper ad for one of his clients. Staff is gathered in the front office listening to one of their colleagues mock a political speech reprinted in the morning newspaper. Interspersed with this oration are various jokes, riddles, bragging, philosophical arguments, and predictions about today's horse race. Basically, it is a gathering of windbags, including the editor, dawdling through the late morning. Simon Dedalus, Stephen's father is also present.
"The episode parallels the aftermath of Odysseus's visit to Aeolus, the god of the winds in the Odyssey. One of Odysseus's men disobeys him, opening a bag of winds that then blows them off-course. In the "Aeolus" episode of Ulysses, wind is represented by the windy rhetoric used in journalism and oratory. The newspaper-room setting of the chapter, the episode's headlines, and men's own inflated speech, together with the conversation about rhetorical and journalistic triumphs, all support the theme of the episode."
And, as Odysseus was blown off course, so Bloom has a setback getting an ad into the newspaper. His client wants the ad only for the month of July; the foreman asks for "a three months' renewal". Bloom spends the rest of the episode attempting to reach his client and being rebuffed by the editor as he hopes to circumvent the foreman's three-month renewal dictate.
After Bloom ("the Father"), leaves the office, Stephen Dedalus ("the Son"), enters. He joins in the general conversation and is asked by the editor to write a piece for the newspaper. At one point, narrative changes to Stephen's interior monologue. Reacting to part of a bombastic speech, he thinks: "Gone with the wind. Hosts at Mullaghmast and Tara of the kings." My first thought on reading this was "a ha!, Margaret Mitchell took this line for the title of her masterpiece and the name of Scarlett O'Hara's plantation." No, both Joyce and Mitchell lifted them from lines in the poem "Cynara" by Ernest Dowson. Makes one feel very un-read.
At the end of the episode, Bloom and Stephen cross paths as they meet on the steps of the newspaper office as staff are leaving for lunch. Bloom approaches the editor about his ad but the editor has no time for him. He is more interested in what Stephen is saying.
The Isle of Cannibals
"Bloom is primarily alone in episode 8, "Lestrygonians". He does not have any errands to run yet; he is merely strolling the city street and looking for lunch. In episode 4, we were first introduced to Bloom as a preparer and eater of food, and, most notably in the opening lines, a meat lover. Yet, now, outside his own home, the prospect of getting and eating food is more overwhelming and problematic. Episode 8 corresponds to Odysseus's visit to the island of cannibals in the Odyssey. Under this thematic menace, the meat-loving Bloom opts not to eat at the Burton, where men shove meat into their mouths, and heads instead to Davy Byrne's for a vegetarian lunch.
The episode opens outside a candy shop, and food pervades Bloom's thoughts and serves as a tie-in with many other disparate topics. Thoughts of food connect with thoughts of pregnant women, from Molly's hunger for certain foods while pregnant to Mina Purefoy, currently in labor with many other mouths to feed at home. Food connects with sex, in Bloom's memory of making love with Molly years ago on a hill as she fed him a seedcake out of her mouth, and in his thoughts of aphrodisiacal food."
As Bloom wanders, he thinks of the scientific term "parallax" and its meaning. The word is "an astronomical term that roughly refers to the way in which an object seems to be positioned differently when viewed from a different vantage point." This is a key to understanding Ulysses. The way we think of events and people in the novel will change as we read about the same events and people from a different character.
At the diner, patrons gossip about Bloom behind his back. Bloom daydreams while he eats and contemplates beauty. He thinks about the statues in the National Museum and wonders if there is anything under the statues' robes and decides to sneak a look later in the day.
Underlying Bloom's thoughts throughout this episode is his fear that Molly will be having sex with Blazes Boylan later in the afternoon, in their home. The episode closes as Bloom spots Boylan across the street and ducks into the gates of the National Museum to avoid him.
Scylla and Charybdis
"Caught Between a Rock and a Whirlpool"
Episode 9 is all about Stephen and his "Hamlet theory". He is expounding it in the National Library (part of the National Museum) director's office to his literary friends, Eglinton, a critic; A.E., a poet; and Lyster, a librarian. "Stephen contends that Shakespeare associated himself with Hamlet's father, not with Hamlet himself." And, he says that Hamlet was based on Shakespeare's dead son Hamnet. He also says that Shakespeare's unfaithful wife, Ann Hathaway, was the inspiration for Hamlet's unfaithful mother. In episode 1, Stephen's friend Buck Mulligan teased him about this theory, saying that Stephen would explain it algebraically to the Englishman Haines after they had a few pints at The Ship bar.
"He never met Haines and Buck at the Ship pub at 12:30, as they arranged this morning...Stephen is trying to interest Eglinton and A.E. into publishing the theory and in his own talent in general...There are frequent interruptions and digressions, and Stephen often ad-libs, using thoughts or the words of others from earlier in the day. Episode 9 corresponds to Odysseus's trial-by-sea in which he must sail between Scylla, the six-headed monster situated on a rock, and Charybdis, a deadly whirlpool. The concept of negotiating two extremes plays out several times within the episode, most notably in the Plato-Aristotle dichotomy that Stephen mentions. Like Odysseus, Stephen sails closer to Scylla, and thus Stephen's thoughts and theories owe more to Aristotle's grounded, material, logical sense of the world (symbolized by the rock) than to Plato's sense of unembodied concepts or ideals (symbolized by the whirlpool)."
As Stephen contends that Shakespeare based his work on the realities of his own life, his friends argue that a writer's personal life should not be used to judge the works produced by that writer. During this conversation, Buck Mulligan enters the room and begins to mock Stephen with his extreme physical-based humor. Stephen is annoyed by Mulligan and wants to be accepted by his literary friends. And, he is sad that they have not included him in their upcoming compilation of young Irish poets.
Stephen and Bloom again cross paths as Bloom is following Stephen and Mulligan out the door of the National Library. Mulligan had earlier seen Bloom peeking under a statue in the lobby and jokingly warns Stephen that Bloom must be homosexual.
"The cameo appearances of Bloom in this episode remind us of the sonless Bloom's suitability as a replacement father figure for Stephen. The schematics of the chapter reinforce this sense. Though Stephen himself seems to be the Odysseus figure for a time in the 'Scylla and Charybdis' episode, in the schematic of Shakespeare, Bloom seems to be the father figure (Shakespeare) and Stephen, the son (Hamlet). Bloom is aligned with Shakespeare through their similarly unfaithful wives and dead sons, Hamnet and Rudy, respectively."
Episode 9 is especially down in the literary weeds. I relied a LOT on SparkNotes throughout this post, but especially for the episode 9 section. All quoted sections in this entire post are thanks to SparkNotes. I appreciate all of the online resources now available for interpreting Ulysses. No wonder this book has been considered inaccessible to the general reader since its 1922 publication. Even with reading aids, it is still WORK for me to understand it, but we are now just about halfway through the book, thank goodness!
My next Ulysses Project post will be on episodes ten, eleven, and twelve. See you then!