ULYSSES pp. 94-100 “Hades”

By KATIE ELSE

As we continue down the road to Hell, let me share with you my tweets…

94. LB starts to tell joke about Dodd’s son almost drowning, MC steps all over it. finishes story. much laughter

95. men discuss sudden death of PD. LB thinks it’s best to go quickly. Other men seem to disagree. They see a child’s coffin.

96. Men remark on child’s coffin. JP says suicide is worst death.MC says to reserve judgement knows how LB’s father died.LB appreciates that

97. It’s finally blatantly stated thru Lbs thoughts that his father died of suicide. They pass by cattle. Carriage is stopped again.

98. LB ponders a new tramline that could carrya coffin.They remember a coffin falling out of a carriage before. LB thinks of PD falling out

99. LB details the scenery, crossing over canal, the man on the turfbarge, the stonecutter’s yard, a tramp on the side of the road…

100. They pass by a home where a murder took place, get to cemetery, notice how few carriages are there

So far this chapter reeks of death which, of course, is fitting considering it’s parallel chapter, Hades. How much death can one squeeze into 14 pages? The death of Dignam is obviously a focus of this chapter. Bloom is also meditating on the deaths of this son, Rudy, and his father.   They pass by the coffin of a child. There’s the story of the poor chap whose coffin tumbled out of it’s carriage along the same route on the way to its final resting place. There’s the subject of the murder of someone names Childs. Bloom even thinks about the death of the cattle as they are on their way to slaughter.

The language and mood revolve around death as well. I actually went through and underlined any word that pertained to death (a very scholarly method, trust me) and this chapter is riddled with them, even when what is being described is not a death itself.  Death, mourning, condemned, sorrowful, grief, gloomy…I’m starting to feel like I’m in a Cymbalta commercial!

The other thing that struck me about the going-to-hell-and-back aspect of this chapter is that the fates of the two most prominent deaths, in the eyes of Catholics at least, are pretty grim. Poor Dignam died before he could receive his last rites, which might not put him in hell but he’s definitely on the chain gang in purgatory. And suicide? Sorry, buddy, here’s a one way ticket to hell.

Here’s where Bloom is again, viewed as an outsider. He believes that to go swiftly and without pain is the best death. For Catholics, this is devastating because there’s no certainty as to whether the deceased will make it to heaven at all. The mens’ wide-eyed glares say it all. It reminds me of a homily I heard in mass when I was about 9, a homily that would leave me terrified for years about my own fate postmortem, when priest said, “Trust me, you will be surprised at how many of your friends end up in hell.”

But Bloom thinks of death in this chapter with more of a scientific curiosity. He thinks about a scenario where Dignam falls out of his coffin, how he would look, what procedures are necessary soon after death, if he would bleed if cut at this point. He is not worried about what has become of Dignam’s soul or whether he has one at all. Instead he looks out the window, describing in nearly minute detail what he is passing.

It is in this chapter that we receive solid confirmation that his father’s death was indeed suicide. I found it interesting that he was so thankful to Cunningham for defending him. What he did was kind, but he has just moments ago been so rude to him. I think it points to Bloom’s empathy in that he can let that go and so quickly move to unreserved gratitude.

So here are some questions…

  • What do you think the reason is for Bloom’s detailed description of everything passing by, sometimes even just listing establishment after establishment?
  • Do the men consciously separate themselves from him or is it more like he’s not even there, he’s of no consequence?
  • Are you depressed yet?

BONUS: Which of your friends do you think will end up in hell and why? (Please use specific examples.)

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2 Responses

  1. Bloom’s observations suggest a pattern of avoidance. We’re getting to a lot of touchy subjects for Bloom (his wife’s adultery, his Dad’s suicide, his son’s death). During pre-Cymbalta days, you had to distract yourself (by looking at your nails or out the window, for example) to avoid constantly crying.

    I’ve gone so far as to specify the exact circle of hell my friends will end up (according to Dante’s scheme). I don’t have many of these friends now.

  2. I don’t believe in Hell. And I’m not depressed. You should underline the references to “heart” too. Hades to me is about the vanquishing of cold death through the warmth of human kindness. A look at ‘The Dead’ in light of Hades is fascinating.

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