Literature Study GuidesUlyssesPart 2 Episode 10 Summary

Ulysses | Study Guide

James Joyce

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Ulysses | Part 2, Episode 10 : The Odyssey (Wandering Rocks) | Summary



This episode includes 19 short vignettes of life in Dublin on June 16, 1904. In the first vignette Father John Conmee, a Catholic priest of the Jesuit order, walks through Dublin greeting parishioners. A one-legged sailor asks him for money and Father Conmee gives him a blessing. He thinks of a statue of Mrs. M'Guiness and her "queenly" figure, then passes a Protestant church and considers Protestants' "invincible ignorance." He sees an advertisement for Eugene Stratton, a white American minstrel performer who performs in blackface, and thinks of Peter Claver's mission to Africa and a book called Le nombre des élus (The number of saved). He thinks of the Countess of Belvedere, who committed adultery. He then takes a tram and sees a young man and woman come out of a hedgerow.

In the second vignette, Corny Kelleher stands in the doorway of the funeral home. He greets a constable and sees a "generous white arm" toss a coin out of a window in Eccles Street, the street where Bloom lives. The arm belongs to Molly, Bloom's wife.

In the third vignette, a one-legged sailor hobbles through the streets, singing and begging for coins. From her window Molly Bloom tosses him a coin, which falls on the pavement. One of a group of ragged boys picks it up and hands it to the sailor.

In the fourth vignette, three of Stephen's young sisters, Katey, Boody, and Maggy Dedalus, eat soup in their kitchen at home. Katey and Boody tried to pawn books but with no success. Boody prays to "Our father who art not in heaven." The "crumpled throwaway," the handbill about the Jewish prophet Elijah Bloom tossed away in the "Lestrygonians" episode, is seen again floating down the Liffey River.

In the fifth vignette, Blazes Boylan has a gift basket of fruit made up for Molly while he flirts with the shop girl.

In the sixth vignette, Stephen and his voice instructor, Almidano Artifoni, converse in Italian. Artifoni says Stephen could have a singing career. He looks into Stephen's eyes and gives him a warm handshake.

In the seventh vignette, Boylan's secretary, Miss Dunne, types a letter for Boylan. Five men advertising H.E.L.Y.'s with sandwich boards walk down the street. Miss Dunne gets a phone call from Boylan and tells him Lenehan wants to meet him at the Ormond Hotel at four o'clock.

In the eighth vignette, Ned Lambert shows Reverend Hugh C. Love his warehouse. The warehouse was the site of St. Mary's Abbey, "where silken Thomas proclaimed himself a rebel in 1534." (Thomas Fitzgerald rebelled against Henry VIII.) Lambert calls it "the most historic spot in all Dublin." The reverend leaves and J.J. O'Molloy joins Lambert.

In the ninth vignette, Tom Rochford shows off a machine that shows whose turn it is to be onstage in a variety show. He shows his invention to Nosey Flynn, Lenehan, and M'Coy. Lenehan and M'Coy leave, and M'Coy runs into Bantam Lyons, who is betting on the horse he thinks Bloom mentioned to him, Throwaway. M'Coy and Lenehan see Bloom looking at a bookstall. A card reappears on the windowsill of the Blooms' house, 7 Eccles Street, to advertise "unfurnished apartments." Lenehan recalls sharing a carriage one night with Bloom, Molly, and another man. Lenehan and Molly flirted while Bloom looked out the window and named the constellations he could see. M'Coy laughs at first and then defends Bloom's character.

In the 10th vignette, Bloom looks for a book for Molly at the outdoor bookstall. He peruses The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, a tell-all about sexual abuse and infanticide in a convent; Aristotle's Masterpiece, and Tales of the Ghetto by Leopold von Sacher Masoch, for whom masochism was named. The bookseller suggests an erotic novel featuring birching (corporal punishment with a birch rod), which Bloom has read, and another titled Sweets of Sin. Bloom buys Sweets of Sin for Molly.

In the 11th vignette, Simon Dedalus emerges from Dillon's auction rooms. His daughter Dilly is waiting for him. She asks for money and he chastises her for bothering him, but he gives her a shilling. She tells him he must have more, and he gives her a few pennies to buy a treat.

In the 12th vignette, Tom Kernan drinks a shot of gin and talks to the barman, Crimmins. They discuss the United States (it accepts "the sweepings of all nations") and the steamboat General Slocum, which caught fire and sank in New York City's East River the day before, June 15. Simon Dedalus and Father Cowley say hello to each other. Tom Kernan leaves the bar and passes the spot where the Irish nationalist Robert Emmet was hanged in 1803. Kernan, who is pro-English, thinks of other rebels who were "on the wrong side."

In the 13th vignette, Stephen Dedalus watches a jeweler examine a necklace. The two midwives Stephen saw on the beach walk through Irishtown. Stephen looks through the books at a book cart and wonders if he'll find any books he won as prizes in school, which have since been pawned by his family. He looks at "the eighth and ninth book of Moses," apocryphal books not found in the Bible which promise the "secret of all secrets." He runs into his younger sister Dilly, who is buying a book on French grammar. He sees she is "drowning" in the poverty and misery of the Dedalus household. He fears "She will drown me with her ... Salt green death."

In the 14th vignette, Simon Dedalus talks to Father Cowley. Cowley complains he owes money to Reuben J. Dodd, an unscrupulous "gombeen," Irish slang for a moneylender. Cowley is waiting for Ben Dollard, who will get Dodd off his back. When Dollard shows up he advises Cowley that Dodd's claim on him is worthless, but only because Cowley also owes his landlord.

In the 15th vignette, Martin Cunningham discusses the collection he has taken up for Paddy Dignam's widow and their son Patrick Dignam ("the youngster"). Nolan remarks Bloom gave five shillings. Cunningham and Power both comment on the rarity of a Jew giving out money without complaint. They run into Long John Fanning, who is after Father Cowley for the money he owes Dodd. They all notice a clatter of hoofbeats; it is the viceregal cavalcade, with "the lord lieutenant general and general governor of Ireland" on parade.

In the 16th vignette, Haines and Buck Mulligan go to the Dublin Bakery Company ("D.B.C.") for coffee ("mélanges") and scones. Buck mentions Haines missed Stephen's discussion of Hamlet. Haines says Stephen probably has an "idée fixe" (obsession), but Haines doesn't know what it is. Buck predicts Stephen's writing will never have "the Attic note" (referring to ancient Greece), but he will write something in 10 years. Bloom's throwaway Elijah tract keeps floating down the Liffey River.

In the 17th vignette, Stephen's tutor, Almidano Artifoni, walks along. The madman Cashel Boyle O'Connor Fitzmaurice Tindall Farrell follows him for a while but turns back to avoid lampposts. Cashel bumps into the cane of the "blind stripling" Bloom helped earlier. As Cashel walks away the blind man says, "God's curse on you ... you bitch's bastard!"

In the 18th vignette, young Patrick Dignam, son of the late Paddy Dignam, dawdles on his way back home. He was sent out to get pork, but he is not eager to get home and rejoin the mourners. He looks in a dress-shop window and at a poster announcing a boxing match. He considers running away to watch the match, but he realizes the poster is old and the match is over. He remembers the gray face of his father's corpse, a fly walking over the corpse's face "up to his eye," and the sound of the coffin lid being screwed on.

In the 19th vignette, the narrative goes back in time and starts over. The Earl of Dudley, Lady Dudley, and Lieutenant Colonel Heseltine leave the viceregal lodge in a carriage. The "viceregal cavalcade," a kind of horse-drawn motorcade, goes from Phoenix Park on its way to the Mirus bazaar. Along the way, it passes by characters from the previous 18 vignettes (and many other characters from Ulysses). Among these are Tom Kernan, Richie Goulding, Reuben J. Dodd, Miss Kennedy and Miss Douce at the Ormond Hotel, Simon Dedalus, Hugh C. Love, Lenehan and M'Coy, Gerty McDowell, Buck Mulligan, Mrs. Breen, and Blazes Boylan, as well as the blind stripling, the man in the mackintosh, and the two midwives from the beach. The earl acknowledges those who salute him, including "the salute of Almidano Artifoni's sturdy trousers swallowed by a closing door."


In this episode Joyce shows readers what it would be like to tell a story simultaneously in space, rather than in time. This ties back to Stephen's thoughts in the "Proteus" episode when he considered the nacheinander, "one after another," and nebeneinander, "next to each other." A conventional narrative tells a story with one event following another, while an unconventional one—like Ulysses—can tell the story with events next to each other in space. The parallel to The Odyssey is not as direct as in the other episode names. The wandering rocks of The Odyssey represent a route Odysseus chooses not to take, just as this episode departs from the journey of its main characters as they wander about Dublin living their normal lives.

The episode opens with the vignette about Father Conmee (representative of the church) and it ends with the viceregal cavalcade (representative of the state). Joyce may be playing with the reader's usual ideas about how to organize a story, but in Dublin, church and state still provide the bookends. The cavalcade is the more significant of the two, as it receives the most narrative attention in the episode; it attracts the attention of almost all of the characters (though not Bloom or Stephen) and reminds all these Dubliners that Ireland is not a free state but a territory subject to English rule.

Like a trapeze artist working without a net, Joyce writes an episode without his main characters. Molly is reduced to one arm appearing at a window, and Bloom and Stephen are only briefly glimpsed. Dispersed in so many vignettes and characters, the episode is unified in three ways: by the image of Bloom's Elijah throwaway floating down the river; by the sound or sight of the viceregal cavalcade passing by; and by the reappearance of characters in the different vignettes. So the blind stripling successively encounters Artifoni, Cashel, and the Earl of Dudley. Likewise, Miss Dunne, Lenehan, and Dudley all pass by the "dauby" smile of a poster of the performer Marie Kendall. Once again, "Coming events cast their shadows before"; characters appear in "Wandering Rocks" whom readers do not meet properly until later. For example, in a window at the Ormond Hotel, readers see "Bronze by gold, Miss Kennedy's head by Miss Douce's head." This same scene is repeated several times in the next episode, "Sirens," which begins with the words bronze by gold.

Although "Wandering Rocks" takes an expansive view, the episode does develop the main characters further. Molly and Boylan are seen in characteristic actions—Molly beckoning from her boudoir and Boylan roguishly flirting. Stephen's father Simon has previously been shown to be scornful toward Stephen, but in "Wandering Rocks" he is positively vicious with his daughter Dilly. First he mocks Dilly's posture, and then he calls her and her sister "an insolent pack of little bitches." Readers get more of a picture of Stephen's family—he and his sisters living in poverty while the disagreeable and often drunk father treats them as burdens and offers no financial support.

M'Coy makes an unexpectedly keen observation about Bloom. Previously when characters talked about Bloom they maligned him as a cuckold or a Jew, but M'Coy points out, "There's a touch of the artist about old Bloom." Bloom does lack the education and the artistic aims of Stephen, but he certainly is imaginative. M'Coy's remark foreshadows Bloom's relationship as father to artistic, intellectual Stephen. The episode also reveals more about Bloom and Molly's marriage. Buying Molly a book called Sweets of Sin, Bloom seems to be encouraging her infidelity. But when Bloom reads some passages, he imagines Molly desiring him. Bloom's gift of the erotic book is a roundabout way of encouraging their sexual relationship as well as her infidelity.

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