Chapter 2 - Telemachus
In the first chapter of his Ulysses, James Joyce introduces us to Stephen Dedalus, one of the main characters of the novel. An alter-ego for the work’s author, Dedalus is a philosophical, brooding young man who shares a flat inside Martello tower in Dublin with Irishman Buck Mulligan and Haines, an English guest.
These three intellectuals discuss art and literature over breakfast: Dedalus is skeptical and pessimistic about Irish art, comparing it with the “cracked looking-glass of a servant”. As the chapter comes to a close, Stephen senses that Haines will take his place as tenant of the Tower and mutters “Usurper” –a reference to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, whose rightful place as king is also unjustly usurped.
No direct reference to Homer’s epic poem is to be found in the chapter, excepting the very title: “Telemachus” is Odysseus’s son, whom the Greek war hero hasn’t seen since the Trojan War. This cryptic title may refer to the nature of the relationship between Stephen and another Joycean character, later to be found in the narrative – Leopold Bloom.
Chapter 2 - Nestor
In the episode Stephen’s history lesson is about to end and the students are preparing to leave the class to go to play hockey, in fact they are agitated and not disciplined.
The main characters of the episode are Stephen and Deasy.
In the first part of the episode Stephen explains Pyrrhus’s victory to the students, until a question is asked about history: is history the only possible course or one of many? While reflecting, the students prepare and begin to leave the classroom.
Everyone goes out except Sargent, who is a rather ugly and clumsy student, so much so that Stephen wonders how his mother’s love is for him. Later, Stephen meets Deasy a school teacher who gives him the salary and tells him he should not spend them all but use them with care.
Deasy believes that Stephen can affect the public opinion and therefore she asks him to publish his letter in the newspapers, where he writes that the mite can be cured and the Jews lead to corruption.
A goal is scored as they speak during a hockey game.
Deasy accuses the Jews of having sinned against the light, but Stephen replies that everyone has done it. But Deasy goes on saying that even women have destroyed the world by making a list.
At the end Deasy says Stephen will not remain a teacher for a long time because he is not made for it and as Stephen leaves, Deasy gives him the coup de grace saying that in Ireland there are no Jews because they are not made to enter.
Main themes are Anti-Semitism, Christianity, and Compassion.
Chapter 3 - Proteus
At the beginning of the third chapter Stephen is walking on the beach, observing the dissimilarity between the material natures of the world as it is and how he sees it.
Stephen then opens his eyes and notices two midwives; one is Mrs. Florence MacCabe and the other one an old woman. He starts to have strange thought about them and then he makes parallels between his conception and that of Christ. He remembers a part of a Catholic mass, which says Christ was “begotten, not made,” and he notices that he is, in contrast “made, not begotten”. After these thought Stephen would like to talk about “the specifics of divine conception” to understand what means that the Father and the Son are the same essence.
Stephen remembers then about a letter of Deasy that he has to work on and others appointments that brought him imagining some other peculiars scenes.
An important recall he brought to his mind was the feeling he felt when he was a child: the feeling of shame of his family.
It is truly this hate for his family that recalls Jonathan Swift, Stephen makes a parallelism between himself and Swift’s disgust for the masses and, finally, he figures Swift with a tonsured head scaling a pole to escape masses.
Stephen realizes that the time for his appointments has already passed. He starts to think about other bizarre ideas about pigeons, Virgin Mary and Patrice Egan the “wild goose”. He has met him in Paris and that makes him remember about the sights and sounds of Paris and of Kevin Egan’s speeches about nationalism.
Stephen walks to the edge of the sea; he sits on a rock and spots the carcass of a dog and another dog is running across the beach, that scene made him remember the invasion of Dublin by Danish Vikings. Stephen thought flow continues, he remembers his morning riddle about a fox who laid on the grave of his own grandmother, then he tries to remember the dream he had the previous night, he reminded a past sexual encounter in Fumbally’s lane and it constructs a fast poem in his head. Stephen lays down and examines his boots and his little feet; Stephen thought flow ends, eventually. He finally gets up and leaves.
Chapter 4 - Calypso
Chapter four of the Odyssey starts at 8:00 a.m in the kitchen of the Blooms’ house during Leopold’s breakfast and ends before 9:00 a.m.
The main characters of the chapter are Leopold Bloom and Molly Bloom, his wife.
The scene starts with Leopold’s breakfast in the kitchen and moves to Eccles Street. He has to go to the butcher shop. During the walk to the shop and also during the return trip the reader follows Bloom’s thoughts. When Leopold is back home, the author describes all the things that he has to do for his wife who stays in bed during the morning. Towards the end, there is a conversation between Molly and Leopold where we can see the wife’s superiority over her husband.
This chapter has a relation with the Calypso episode in the Odyssey because Leopold is described as a prisoner of his wife Molly as well as Ulysses was love captured, for seven years, by the nymph Calypso.
The main theme of the chapter, in my opinion, is the oppression that Leopold endures living with his wife, because he has to plan his daily routine in function of his wife so he’s not free at all.
Chapter 5 - The Lotus Eaters
In the chapter 5 we are in Dublin, it’s mid-morning, Bloom, the main character, is walking toward the post office. At the post office he takes a letter for his pseudonym. Outside the post office, he meets McCoy who tells him uninteresting things. Then Bloom reads the letter from his erotic pen-pal, Martha Clifford; she asks to meet him but he decides to destroy the letter because he doesn’t want to meet her. Subsequently Bloom steps into the church, where a ceremony is in progress; he makes observations about the stupefying power of religious ceremony. Now Bloom goes to the chemist’s to take Molly’s lotion, but he has forgotten the recipe at home and when he leaves the Pharmacy, he meets Bantam Lyons who asks him about racehorses.
In this chapter, Joyce makes a lot of references to Dublin, like Sweny pharmacy or Phoenix Park, there are also a lot of parts likely to cause scandal, like the desire to be punished and the fetish for women’s underclothing. In my opinion the main themes of this episode are curiosity and reflexivity based on the numerous protagonist’s reflections and his curiosity.
Chapter 6 - Hades
The episode takes place around 11:00 a.m. and the four main characters are Bloom, Cunningham, Power and Dedalus. The four men have gathered up to take a carriage which will bring them to Dignam’s funeral.
While travelling, the group talk about different topics, but the most predominant is death, which is also the main theme of this episode, so they start to make a list of a series of deaths that took place in Dublin and wondering which was the best way to die, that is for Bloom sudden death, because it is painless and quick, while for the other three that is the worst death, because you don’t have a chance to repent.
The carriage arrives and all the men get out to attend Dignam’s funeral, after the end of the ceremony the coffin is brought outside and the procession begins
The episode ends with Menton asking Lambert who Bloom is, after the explanation he wonders why Molly married Bloom.
This episode in which Bloom crosses four rivers to reach the funeral can be related to Ulysses’s wanderings; more precisely to the episode in which Ulysses visits the Underworld and comes across the four rivers of the Hades.
Chapter 7 - Aeolus
This episode begins at noon in the offices of the weekly Freeman. The chapter is divided into sections, each section is introduced by a headline imitating the headlines of a newspaper. But what about the plot? The plot is very bizarre, too. It all starts with Bloom. He is the main character and he spends the chapter attempting to get an advertisement in the newspaper from a man named Keyes. He goes to get approval from the editor of the newspaper, Myles Crawford. The two men then start talking about the old days of journalism, recall some old speeches they admire. Then they make plans to go out to a pub. Stephen arrives to deliver an article on foot-and-mouth disease written by his headmaster and boss at the school in which he works. Crawford likes Stephen and thinks that he is a lot like his father who is an alcoholic. While everyone is conversing, Stephen shares a parable about two women who climb a statue so they can spit the plum seeds onto the streets below of Dublin (this episode is known as “The Parable of the Plums”). Meanwhile, Bloom hustles all around to see if he can get Keyes to renew his subscription to the newspaper in order to get the advertisement for him. As soon as he does this, he is blown off by Crawford who tells Bloom to tell Keyes that he can “kiss his arse.” This is certainly a very intricate and unique plot but despite this we can easily identify analogies with the Odyssey. This chapter is patterned on the scene of the Odyssey when Aeolus, the king of the winds, gives Odysseus and his crew a magic bag of wind to help them on their journey home. When they are close to Ithaca, just out of reach of their goal, one of the crew members opens the bag to speed things up but it has the reverse effect and blows them back to Aeolus. Like Odysseus, Bloom works hard in this chapter to achieve his goal to get this advertisement from Keyes but he’s only going to fail right at the finish line due to Crawford’s response. This suggests that Mr. Crawford’s dislike of Bloom is based on no real rational cause. In conclusion, one of the main themes is certainly the achievement of one’s goals. Every project could hide some obstacles but one must never give up. Those who do not give up are those who learn from every difficulty and eventually reach their goals.
Chapter 8 - Lestrygonians
While lunch-time is coming, Bloom, the main character of the eighth episode of Ulysses, walks around the old quarters of the city of Dublin and is attracted by the pubs where, when he was young, he often stopped for something to eat or drink. He passes a candy store, then the Dedaluses’ inn, where he recognizes Dilly, who had become very thin because of the “inhumanity of the Catholic Church”: this religious institution forces their parents to give birth to and raise more children for their meagre income. Then, Bloom passing the University of Astronomy, remembers some astronomic words he never clearly understood. He finds a flyer advertising another inn, where he could eat “blood and lamb”, and a famous inn. But Bloom’s thoughts are now directed at food: in fact, entering Burton’s Hotel, he makes very crude remarks as he sees some men eating such disgusting food that he comes out at once and enters another pub. Bloom meets other people but as soon as he sees Boylan on the other side of the street, he gets into the National Museum.
Chapter 9 - Scylla and Charybdis
The episode takes place in a library during lunch time and its main characters are Stephen, whose speeches lasts almost all chapter long, John Eglinton, A.E., Lyster, Best, Quaker and Bloom.
As already mentioned, Stephen talks a lot during this section: he is determined to explain what he calls his “Hamlet’s theory” to a bunch of mundane and intelligent men, not being intimidated at all by their superior attitude and their comments about his lack of experience.
The young thinker supports the idea of Hamlet’s father as the alter-ego of Shakespeare, instead of Hamlet himself and Ann Hathaway as Gertrude. He also counters Eglinton’s thesis that goes against him saying that Shakespeare’s father is actually the ghost of Hamlet’s father by giving a brief thought of his own about fathers’ role in child’s life: for him fathers are linked to their children only by a sexual act, this makes paternity extremely insubstantial.
One curious fact that happens in this chapter is how, at the end of his soliloquy, Stephen contravenes his own thought when asked if he’s really into it, making emerge his skeptic-self.
James Joyce in this chapter places Stephen in a generally Homeric context by comparing him to Scylla, an enemy of Ulysses (Bloom) and portraying their missing chemistry, we can see that by the obvious differences between the two characters and their opposite lifestyles that will never provide them a solid relationship.
Finally, in my opinion, the main themes of this episode are paternity and female infidelity.
Chapter 10 - The Wandering Rocks
Leopold Bloom is not at the center of episode 10: in fact, so much is going on that one can hardly pinpoint a single stream of action, but rather several rivulets, which give a wide portrait of Dublin city life.
Individual and collective stories are analyzed by the narrator’s all-seeing lens: for instance, readers get a closer look at Stephen’s family; we get to see where the throwaway that Bloom dropped into the river turned up; and the vice-regal cavalcade that brings up the rear of the episode reminds us of the British military and political pressure on 1904 Ireland.
In a way, every small aspect of Dublin life portrayed in this episode is not dissimilar to the wandering rocks in Homer’s Odyssey: these enormous traps hidden in the mist could capsize a ship, preventing the heroes from reaching their goal. Similarly, readers can find the tenth chapter – roughly the midpoint of the whole story – too demanding a task to manage. A cautionary subtitle to this chapter might therefore read “Caution! Watch for Wandering Rocks ahead!”.
Chapter 11 - Sirens
After a break, the narration opens in the bar of the Concert Room of the Ormond Hotel at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
This episode parses several of the major themes of Ulysses, such as sexual temptation and Bloom’s isolated social status, through the lens of music. The first instance of music is in the voices of the barmaids, associated with Bloom’s book The Sweets of Sin, which is placed alongside their conversation in the text.
Immediately, the barmaids are associated with the Sirens’ allure, and the structure of their “song” here makes it clear that they are a pair associated with sex. While Bloom with his salacious novel has yet to make his entrance in the bar, the juxtaposing of “the sweets of sin” with such suggestive descriptions seems to align their song with sex, and the allure of possible outlets for sexual distraction on the pathway home. This theme is repeated several times throughout the episode, with each reincarnation of temptation becoming less and less attractive to Bloom, ending with the “frowsy whore” at the end of the episode. But despite all this temptation, Bloom knows that he is “dear too near to home sweet home” and is able to resist the sexual allure of the many sirens in this episode, though he will later fall prey to Gerty’s visual allure in Episode 13.
In life, and therefore also in James Joyce’s works music has always played an important, fundamental role. His entire journey, in fact, biographical as well as artistic, turns out to be imbued with a real focus on him; an attention that in writing has often turned out to be not only a mere passion, but also something functional, a tool to be pursued and used with the intent of an end, of an ultimate and extreme work, especially in the case of Joyce.
There are many occasions in which the author demonstrates his interest: as a young man he is a talented tenor, to the point of even earning a bronze medal on the occasion of a Dublin contest; loves to attend theaters and generally gravitate around the opera world, loves Verdi and, in an absolutely conflicting way, even Wagner.
The story takes place inside the Ormond bar, and some of the protagonists involved in the action are Miss Douce and Miss Kennedy, the two most explicit sirens that the narrator places behind the bar, and after them Simon Dedalus, Lehenan and Boylan; and Leopold Bloom obviously, who, shortly before reaching the Ormond, entertains himself in the purchase of some envelopes and writing papers in order to be able to answer to Marta, the typist who is courting, in a shop from which he can see , fixed on the Essex bridge, the buggy of Boylan: Boylan about whom Bloom does nothing but think in the initial part of the episode, neurotically, obsessively; Boylan is associated with the figure of Bloom’s wife Molly, and therefore to their future, imminent betrayal. Leopold Bloom makes his entrance into the room shortly after him, just at the moment when Simon stops playing on the piano the song Goodbye, Sweetheart, Goodbye.
It is important to point out, in this first phase, the reference to the opera Martha that is present in Ulysses with two songs, M’appari and The Last Rose of Summer. We could say that music represents the most natural vein of the chapter. In addition to the aforementioned compositions we mention Liszt’s Rhapsodies, Florodora, When the Bloom Is on the Rye, The Croppy boy, also the hendelian Judas Maccabeus, and again The Shade of the Palm, The Harp That Once Through Tara’s Hallseee, Love and War.
Just taking into account this last song, we can say that there are two main themes in the “Sirens” episode, war and love and, in the Odyssey, men were tempted by the Sirens, beautiful female creatures whose singing lured sailors to their deaths. The “Sirens” episode begins with a series of sentence fragments reminiscent of a musical overture as words are assembled for their sound patterns.
Joyce follows the “Wandering Rocks” storytelling technique with a more conventional one in this episode. This is appropriate, since in the “Sirens” episode, Joyce experiments with sound and music, the “Sirens” episode experiments with sound and music, an art intimately bound up with time. As he did in the “Aeolus” episode, where he experimented with the visual and typographic limits of prose fiction, Joyce seems to be going to the limit. In this case he is trying to see how far words can be reduced to sounds before they lose all sense and meaning.
Chapter 12 - Cyclops
The episode takes place in Dublin, June 16, 1904 in the afternoon. Its main characters are Leopold Bloom, anonymous inhabitant of Dublin who is the narrator and a character called the Citizen who is against Jewish people and therefore against Mr Bloom. Moreover, there are other characters from Dublin.
Leopold Bloom enters Barney Kiernan’s pub, meets the Citizen and is rebuked by him. In the final part of the episode Bloom reminds the Citizen that Christ was a Jew. While Bloom is leaving the pub, the Citizen, full of rage, throws a biscuit tin against Bloom’s car.
The chapter depicts a comparison between Bloom and Elijah, a biblical character who ascends into Heaven by a chariot.
This chapter refers to the episode of the cyclops in the Odyssey. The citizens of the pub stand for cyclops and Kiernan’s pub is metaphorically the Homeric cave in which Odysseus-Bloom is imprisoned by the cyclops of the Greek myth. So, in this chapter, there are mythological and biblical references.
I think these cultural references make us think about the parallel between Ulysses’ voyages and Leopold Bloom’s adventures in his life.
In the chapter there are specific references to Dublin, above all, the Irish nationalist Michael Cusak who wants a revival of Gaelic sports in Ireland as a reaction against England.
In my opinion this episode cannot be considered scandalous except for the gossip about Molly Bloom’s betrayals.
In conclusion, we can say that the main themes of this episode are the adventure of man in the world, his culture and the history of mankind which his represented by the different characters Mr Bloom meets.
Chapter 13 - Nausicaa
The 13th chapter, belonging to the second part of the book which describes Bloom’s day, takes place on Sandymount Strand. The scene happens in the evening and its main characters are Leopold Bloom, Gerty MacDowell and her two friends, Cissy and Edy, who are looking after their brothers. The chapter starts with the description of Gerty and her dream of marriage. After the kids’ ball falls next to Bloom, her attention goes to him and she starts to slowly seduce him from afar, which causes his arousal and his masturbation. The narrator lays out their mutual thoughts explicitly. Bloom wonders about women’s sexual desires after he discovers she is lame in one foot and then about his cheating wife, right before he falls asleep. This chapter has many particularities which connect it to a scene from Homer’s Odyssey; Odysseus met Nausicaa because of a misthrown ball, she offers succor (as Gerty gave sexual aid), both the girls are unmarried and while Gerty dreams of marriage, Nausicaa represents it by washing her family’s linens; also Bloom gets his clothes dirty because of the sperm. Gerty’s figure is also compared to the religious figure of Mary, as the “Refuge of Sinners” for mankind, like she is for Bloom. This chapter is very impressive and violent, and it strikes the reader with lewd images, as it describes the masturbation of an old man, on a beach, in front of young girls.
This episode is surely a cause to the initial censorship of the book since its main theme is sexual arousal.
Chapter 14 - Oxen of the Sun
The main episode takes place at the Holles Street maternity hospital where the most important characters are Bloom, Mrs. Purefoy and Stephen. Mrs. Purefoy is pregnant and Bloom goes to the hospital to visit her.
Later, he is invited to join some men including Stephen who are eating and drinking beers. The discussion was about medical cases in which the doctor must choose between mother’s life or baby’s one. Bloom is somber and he attempts to calm Stephen who is afraid of a thunder. Then Mrs. Purefoy gives birth to a little boy.
Another topic refers to the Gold Cup race where Stephen, Alec Bannon are kicked out from Burke’s pub. Various prose styles are used to talk about different themes, such as gestation and social relationships among people.
A similarity between Joyce’s Ulysses and Homer’s Odysseus could be the role of the husband and the wife-mother.
Chapter 15 - Circe
The fifteenth chapter takes place at night, near the entrance to Nighttown, where there’s Bella Cohen’s brothel.
Stephen and Lynch go into the brothel, however Bloom doesn’t manage to follow them and he goes into a butcher’s. Soon Bloom’s first hallucination begins.
The entire chapter is filled with hallucinations, people having sex, or issues related to the latter. The nightmarish illusions nearly always end when a woman, Zoe Higgins, who appears. Bella Cohen is able both of starting and ending Bloom’s hallucinations. Back to reality, in Cohen’s brothel, Bloom helps his friend Stephen, who is extremely drunk, by taking care of his money. Bella calls the police and Stephen runs out, followed by Bloom. Stephen puts himself into trouble by insulting the king Edward VII. Stephen is knocked out by the offended British soldier Carr. Bloom, at the end of the episode, lays near Stephen, who is unconscious.
The main themes of the episode are love in its most materialistic aspect and illusion. The hallucinations show the willingness to not belong to this world. Bloom is imprisoned in a debasement, like the companions of Ulysses in Homer’s Odyssey.
Bloom is not capable of resisting the temptation and he succumbs to materialistic love and to its personification (Bella Cohen). However, Ulysses can contrast Circe’s spells due to his stronger will, demonstrating how the two heroes are very different from each other.
Chapter 16 - Eumaeus
It is now after midnight and Bloom helps Stephen and decides to sober him up and get a cup of coffee, a bite to eat at the cabman’s shelter, a coffeehouse owned by a man named “Skin-the-Goat” Fitzharris. While they are walking, a man named Corley (a friend of Stephen’s father) appears and borrows money from Stephen. At the cabman’s shelter they start a debate with a sailor, named D.B Murphy who invents his own stories.
Even though the scene takes place at 1 a.m. in a place of exhausted and drunken people, it is the first time where the two characters really talk to each other. Here becomes clear that Bloom and Daedalus are different and that there is a big gap between them. The Eumaeus episode is about the “mutual misunderstanding”; in fact, they discuss about religion, politics, women and in every case, Bloom and Daedalus have opposite opinions.
Later, Bloom pays the bill for Stephen’s uneaten fare, they begin walking home and chatting about music. Stephen sings an obscure song for Bloom and the episode ends with the two men walking arm in arm into the night.
This final chapter depicts the homecoming of Ulysses. There is a parallel between Joyce’s Ulysses and the Homeric text, Bloom (Ulysses) corresponds to Stephen’s father (Stephen is Telemachus), he takes care of Stephen’s appetite and home life.
The language of the episode is fragmentary, dialogues are with no resolution and the atmosphere is intensely depressing.
Chapter 17 - Ithaca
The main characters of the episode are Stephen Daedalus and Leopold Bloom, the chapter takes place when Bloom came back home with Stephen. They jump over the fence and enter in the home. While they are drinking cocoa, they start to chat about their early encounter. Bloom remembers some moments from Molly’s childhood, so he decides to invite Stephan to stay the night, but he declines. They go out and urinate together while looking at the night sky, after this episode Bloom lets Stephen out and he feels alone. He starts to disrobe and puts Martha’s letter in his locked cabinet (including Bloom’s father suicide note). He kisses Molly and goes to sleep. When they wake up, Bloom tells her about his days with some omissions. They also talk about Stephan.
Here we find a connection with the final part of the Odyssey, to murder of the suitors who insisted on counting Penelope until she chooses one of them.
The main themes of the episode are the antisemitism and humanism.
Bloom is curious, decent, pacific, and somewhat timid.
Stephen is the alter ego of Joyce and he exists mainly within his own world of ideas; his actions in the world tend to distance himself, pointedly, from others and from the world itself.
Bloom is both an infant in womb and Molly is described as a Gea-Tellus earth mother.
Episode Seventeen is narrated in third person through a set of 309 questions and their detailed and methodical answers, in the style of a catechism or a Socratic dialogue.
Chapter 18 - Penelope
Chapter 18 represents the last part of the day where Molly Bloom, the wife of the protagonist, thinks about her day and about the feelings she feels.
The first thought is about sex, virility, about different men. Molly thinks that she and Bloom are mutually lucky.
The second one is about career, money and dresses. She thinks that Bloom should quit the Freeman and find a job at an office.
In her third sentence Molly ponders female breasts and male genitalia. She thinks about when her husband suggested her to pose naked.
Molly’s fourth sentence begins with a train whistle. Milly, Molly’s friend, sent Molly a card, Bloom a letter. Molly wonders if Boylan would send her love letters.
Molly fifth sentence begins with her first love letter. She thinks she could have been a stage star if she hadn’t married Bloom.
In the sixth sentence Molly doesn’t like being alone in the house. She realizes that Boylan didn’t make her pregnant.
Molly’s seventh sentence recounts she wants to read and study before Stephen comes again so he won’t think that she’s stupid.
In her last sentence Molly thinks Bloom kissed her bottom instead of embracing her. Molly thinks that the world would be better if it was governed by women.
Molly is associated with the figure of Penelope and this episode represents the moment in which, in the Odyssey, Ulysses comes back home.
In my opinion the main themes of the episode are: love, sex and family.