Literature Study GuidesUlyssesPart 2 Episode 7 Summary

Ulysses | Study Guide

James Joyce

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Ulysses | Part 2, Episode 7 : The Odyssey (Aeolus) | Summary



At noon Bloom goes to the combined newspaper offices of the Weekly Freeman and National Press, the Freeman's Journal and National Press, and the Evening Telegraph. The episode opens with an all-caps title like a newspaper headline: "IN THE HEART OF THE HIBERNIAN METROPOLIS." (Hibernia is the Latin name for Ireland.) Other newspaper headlines appear throughout the episode. Trams depart for various destinations from Nelson's pillar, a column and statue in honor of the English naval hero Lord Nelson. Sacks of mail are loaded for delivery from the general post office, and barrels are loaded from Prince's warehouse.

Bloom has Red Murray, one of the newspapermen, cut out an example of the ad he wants to place for the House of Keyes, the tea, wine, and liquor business owned by Alexander Keyes. Bloom will take the ad to the Evening Telegraph. Bloom and Red watch as the stately figure of the lawyer William Brayden enters the Freeman's offices. They think he looks like Jesus or an opera singer.

Bloom thinks about the printing press machinery and how it would "smash a man to atoms" if he got caught in it. He considers Dignam's "machinery" of fermentation is now also churning away and imagines himself caught in the printing machinery, having the day's edition printed all over him. Hynes is at the newspaper office drawing up an obituary for Dignam. Bloom hints Hynes owes him money, but Hynes ignores him. Bloom talks to the foreman about Keyes's ad, a design with crossed keys, and Bloom suggests running a "par" (a paragraph) to call attention to the ad. The foreman agrees to it if Keyes will renew the ad for three months. Bloom goes to get an example of the design from Keyes, stops to watch the typesetter at work, and then waits in order to visit the Evening Telegraph office.

In the Evening Telegraph office, Ned Lambert, Professor MacHugh, and Simon Dedalus are reading and mocking a pompous speech by Dan Dawson. The newspaperman J.J. O'Molloy enters, bumping Bloom with the door. Then the Telegraph editor emerges from his office in a bad mood. Bloom pauses to make a phone call to Keyes who is away at an auction, so Bloom goes to meet Keyes there.

MacHugh holds forth on the Roman empire, saying it was not so grand; the Jews built temples but the Romans built sewers, he says. Stephen Dedalus enters the office, bringing Mr. Deasy's letter. Newspaperman Myles Crawford notes "all the talents" gathered in the office. Mr. O'Madden Burke makes a cutting remark about Molly being promiscuous: "Dublin's prime favorite." The editor of the Telegraph asks Stephen to write something for the newspaper.

The men begin talking about the murders in Phoenix Park in 1882, in which the British chief secretary of Ireland and his undersecretary were killed. The talk turns to the Invincibles, the secret Irish nationalist group that claimed responsibility for the murders. Stephen thinks about the poem he wrote, and J.J. O'Molloy asks Stephen his opinion of the poet A.E. (George Russell). MacHugh recalls the best speech he ever heard on reviving the Irish language: its speaker died without ever entering the paradise of Irish language revival. Stephen suggests they adjourn for a drink, and as they walk he tells a story about two old Irish spinsters who visit Nelson's column. Bloom runs into Myles Crawford on the street and explains Keyes's terms: renewal for two months, and the paper will run a puff piece about his business. Crawford tells Bloom that Keyes "can kiss my royal Irish arse," then hurries off to catch up with Stephen and the others.

Stephen continues his story. The old women are tired after climbing the tower. They look down at the rooftops and talk about landmarks then look up at the statue of Nelson, whom Stephen calls "the one-handled adulterer." Finally, they are too tired to look up at Nelson or down at the city or to talk. They eat plums and spit out the plumstones. Stephen finishes his story by laughing and suggests two titles for it: "A Pisgah Sight of Palestine" and "The Parable of the Plums."


The "Aeolus" episode is the first major stylistic departure in Ulysses. Newspaper headlines are scattered through it, and the narration moves from the rhetoric of Dawson's speech to the gruff rebuke of "kiss my royal Irish arse." In the section under the headline "Omnium Gatherum" (a kind of fake Latin for "all gather"), Crawford notes representatives of all the arts are gathered there. Likewise all the rhetorical arts are gathered in the "Aeolus" episode: speechmaking, law, the study of the classics (by Professor MacHugh), newspaper reporting, "scare journalism," and, with Bloom, "the gentle art of advertisement." Even objects speak in this episode: barrels thump, the printing press says "sllt," and as Bloom notes, "Everything speaks in its way."

Aeolus is the name of a figure from Greek mythology known as the ruler of winds. In The Odyssey Aeolus gave Odysseus the winds in a bag to help him sail home to Ithaca. But Odysseus's men open the bag, letting the winds loose and blowing them off course. Thus Joyce's "Aeolus" episode is also an episode of winds: the speaker who dies before the Irish revival is "Gone with the wind"; Keyes wants his business promoted with "a little puff"; and Bloom considers the way reporters change jobs: "those newspaper men veer about when they get wind of a new opening. Weathercocks."

What is Joyce's point in gathering up all these arts of rhetoric and using all these wind metaphors? There is a gigantism in Joyce's vision of the modern epic; if he can gather all other rhetorical arts within his novel, then Ulysses becomes a masterwork, a compendium of literature. At the same time, Joyce diminishes the drama on the level of plot. He fills pages with the chatting voices and thumping machines of modern urban life. Another way Joyce tones down the drama is by having Stephen mock the melodramatic kind of story Bloom read that morning, "Matcham's Masterstroke." Watching a man light a match, Stephen thinks to himself in the voice of the narrator of just such a story: "I have often thought ... that small act ... determined the whole aftercourse of both our lives." There is no life-altering encounter of Odysseus (Bloom) and Telemachus (Stephen) in this episode. They don't come in contact with each other, like the Irish speaker who dies before entering "the land of promise."

The theme of a narrowly missed happiness is taken up in Stephen's story, "A Pisgah Sight of Palestine." Moses led the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt, but he died before they reached the promised land. In Deuteronomy 34 it is said God granted Moses a view of Palestine from the top of Mount Pisgah. The two women in Stephen's story have a "Pisgah sight" of Dublin—they look down on a faraway Dublin, but they are trapped in a monument to an English hero and cannot take part in Dublin's life at ground level. They also fail to arrive at a free Ireland, which does not yet exist in 1904.

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