ULYSSES pp.87-93 “Hades”


Let me just begin by saying that I am enjoying being inside Leopold Bloom’s head far more than Stephen’s. I find him a much more sympathetic, empathetic and accessible character.  In the first pages of this chapter, the subtext and the… well, obvious text give us insight into these two men.  Let me share my tweets:

87. We meet Martin Cunningham, Mr. Power, Simon Dedalus (in person) getting into the carriage in front of Dignam’s with LB in last.

88.On their way thru town to funeral.LB points out Stephen to Simon.Simon asks if BM is w/him. Rants about how much BM sux.LB thinks of Rudy

89. LB reflects on Milly growing. Men express disdain for crumbs in carriage. They get stopped at the grand canal.

90. LB thinks of his father’s death and the dog, Athos, he inherited. Men chat about weather, mock a few mutual acquaintances, read obit

91. LB tries to remember what he did with letter,passes Blazes Boylen just as he’s thinking of him, examines nails and tries to ignore him

92. LB talks of Molly’s tour w/the finest musicians, dwells on Power calling her Madame, thinks of her then of Powers alleged mistress

93:Men spot Dodd a jewish money lender all have been to but LB. LB tries to tell funny story about Dodd & his son but MC keeps interupting

This chapter beings around 11am with the men are getting into the carriage which will take them to Paddy Dignam’s funeral, in front of Dignam’s home. We are introduced to Martin Cunningham, Jack Powers and Simon Dedalus who we finally meet in person. They enter the carriage with Bloom pulling up the rear setting the stage to portray Bloom as an outsider.

The carriage carries the men through town in the funeral procession.  Bloom recognizes Stephen Delalus and points him out to his father. This is where we gain some insight into Stephen’s relationship with his father. I can’t really see the warm and fuzzies between the two.  And it seems Simon could benefit from some anger management or, at the very least, thinking before he speaks.

Simon is concerned as to whether Buck Mulligan is with Stephen. This launches him into a rant about Mulligan’s character on par with the Real Housewives of New Jersey . The colorful language and lack of restraint paint him to be a bit of a loose canon. His threats go as far as a strongly worded letter to his mother or aunt and the promise to “tickle his catastrophe”, catastrophe being slang for buttocks, or so the internet tells me. Let’s just say I wouldn’t want to be a fly on the wall for that one.

To me it seems this is well-meant paternal concern gone awry. It seems Bloom sees it the same way. At first, he’s put off by the tirade but it leads him to thinking of his own son’s death, what it would have been like to have had him grow up, the day of his conception and he concludes Simon is right to be upset.

But it seems Simon snaps more than he speaks showing us something about his temperment.  “It’s as uncertain as a child’s bottom” he blurts out in regards to the weather, which one of my personal faves. I’m hoping to add that one to my repertoire and work it into conversation as much as possible.

The theme of fathers and sons is touched on again when Bloom thinks of his own father’s premature death. This thought is triggered when he sees the Gasworks while they are stopped at the grand canal (the first of four rivers they cross on their way to the cemetery which symbolize the four rivers of Hades). Bloom is now fatherless and has lost his son; he is the end of his lineage, isolated.

What we see of this carriage ride so far shows us that he is isolated amongst his aquaintances as well, an outsider. There are small hints, Dedalus cutting him off from reading the obituary they mentioned (presumably because it was inappropriate), Power’s veiled insult in calling Molly “Madame” alluding to something promiscuous about her. Then right as Bloom’s thoughts wander to Blazes Boylan, they pass him on the street. He can’t understand why everyone is so taken with the “Worst man in Dublin”. He mentally disengages my concentrating on his nails.

The awkwardness really gets dialed up when they pass by Rueben J. Dodd, a Jewish money lender. The three Irishmen share an obvious disdain for him and alientate Bloom from the pack in mentioning that he’s the only one who hasn’t borrowed money from him. The obvious division here is one of religion.

Bloom tries to chime in with a (not so) humorous story aout Dodd’s son nearly drowning. Cunningham interrupts him repeatedly and ends up telling the story instead (no doubt because he’s Irish and has the gift of  the Blarney) putting him in his place once again.

There’s an obvious ‘you vs us’ vibe happening. I’m not quite sure (this being my first read) if Bloom is fully aware of how the others view him. He picked up on the ‘Madame’ comment and had a hard time letting it go. But he seems to remain fairly jovial, even after Cunningham railroads his story.  Do you think he has just accepted that is how he is viewed in Ireland, that he will always be somewhat of an outsider and has comes to peace with that? Or is he mildy oblivious to that fact? I’m sure this carriage ride to Hades will reveal more as we go along.

Throughout all of this we get hints that Bloom is an empathetic creature. He puts himself in the shoes of crazy talkin’ Simon Dedalus and determines he would be defensive of his son too. I was struck by something he thought in regard to a man he saw working the rails:

“Couldn’t they invent something automatic so that the wheel itself much handier? Well but that fellow would lose his job then? Well but then another fellow would get a job making the new invention?”

You see his pragmatism in wondering if they couldn’t be doing something more efficiently. Then you see his empathy in wondering how is would affect that particular man. Then it’s a mixture of both in that it could be beneficial for someone else and more practical. It leads me to think of how differently he relates to the physical world around him as compared to Stephen. Stephen has a hard time taking things in and processing them, he seems to be neither practical nor empathetic. He has a hard time connecting to the world around him and other people. He’s is stuck in this self-centered, cerebral space. That is his isolation. Blooms thoughts are so much more fluid. He associates things easily. And while he is isolated in a different way, he tries to relate to and empathize with other people instead of just thinking of himself. Can you think of other examples of how Bloom does this?

I think this is long enough, folks. I’ll hit you tomorrow with more from the carriage ride to Hades….

5 Responses

  1. Very comprehensive review. Thanks!

    Another example of Bloom’s sympathy (and I think that it’s also interesting to note) that it’s Bloom who first sees Stephen. It demonstrates how in Bloom’s sympathy he’s much more aware of his surroundings and people generally, compared to Stephen’s self-involvement and blindness. The way sympathy enables perception I think is a key theme to this book.

  2. Great point, Jer.

    And apologizes for the length now that I’m seeing it laid out. Zoinks. I’ll try to be more concise next time!

  3. I got the Oxford edition while in Ireland and found the annotations enlightening. The repeating of words like ‘dead’ and ‘heart’ were notable, as was the crossing over 4 rivers. I’m struck again with how this book captures so wonderfully the human experience. No other novel approaches it in that respect. As a native Irishman, I appreciate too the countless historical figures and places. Anyway, I appreciate the provocation to jump into the world of Bloom again and look forward to future posts.

  4. For about the 4th time, someone in this section claims that drowning is the best way to die. I am annoyed.

  5. The annotations note that Martin Cunningham corresponds to Sisyphus. Maybe this will reveal itself later?

    For the record, Jerry tickled my catastrophe every night when we lived together.

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