Ulysses – Episode Seven: “Aeolus”

Summary
Episode Seven takes place in the Freeman newspaper
offices. New-spaper-like headlines break the episode up into smaller
passages. Without the headlines, the episode reads much the same
as previous episodes have.
In Dublin’s city-center, tramcars, postal carts, and
porter barrels simultaneously roll to their destinations. Bloom
is in the back office of the Freeman getting a
copy of his Keyes advertisement. Bloom walks through the printing
rooms to the Telegraph offices, which are under
the same ownership as the Freeman. He approaches
the foreman, City Councillor Nanetti, who is Italian by birth and
Irish by choice. Nanetti is speaking to Hynes about his report of
Dignam’s funeral. Hynes owes Bloom three shillings, and Bloom tries
to tactfully remind him about it, but Hynes does not catch on.
Over the noise of the presses, Bloom describes the new
design for the Keyes ad: two keys crossed, to evoke the independent
parliament of the Isle of Man and thus the dream of Irish home-rule. Nanetti
tells Bloom to get a copy of the design and to secure three months
advertisement from Keyes. Bloom listens for a moment to the sound
of papers shuffling through the printer, then walks toward the staff
offices. Bloom watches the men typeset backward and thinks of his
father reading Hebrew, from right to left. Bloom enters the Evening
Telegraph office, where Professor MacHugh and Simon Dedalus
are listening to Ned Lambert, who is mocking Dan Dawson’s overwrought
patriotic speech, reprinted in the morning newspaper. J.J. O’Molloy
enters and the doorknob bumps Bloom. Bloom remembers O’Molloy’s
past as a promising lawyer—O’Molloy now has money troubles.
Lambert continues to mock Dawson’s speech—Bloom agrees with
the criticism but reminds himself that such speeches are well-received
in person. Crawford enters, greeting MacHugh with mock disgust.
Dedalus and Lambert leave for a drink. Bloom uses Crawford’s telephone
to call Keyes. Lenehan enters with the sports edition and proclaims
that Sceptre will win today’s horserace. We hear Bloom on the phone—he
seems to have missed Keyes at his office. Re-entering the room,
Bloom bumps into Lenehan. Bloom tells Crawford that he is headed
out to settle the Keyes ad—Crawford could not care less. A minute
later, MacHugh notices from the window that the newsboys are following
Bloom, mimicking his jerky walk. Lenehan imitates it too.
O’Molloy offers MacHugh a cigarette. Lenehan lights their
cigarettes, waiting to be offered one. Crawford jokes with MacHugh,
a Latin professor, about the Roman Empire. Lenehan tries to tell
a riddle, but no one listens.
O’Madden Burke enters with Stephen Dedalus behind him. Stephen
hands Deasy’s letter to Crawford. Crawford knows Deasy and comments
on Deasy’s ornery late wife, which helps Stephen understand Deasy’s
view that women are responsible for the sin of the world. Crawford
skims Deasy’s letter and agrees to publish it. MacHugh is arguing
that the Greeks and the Irish are similar because they are dominated
by other cultures (Roman and British, respectively) yet retain a
spirituality that those cultures do not have. Lenehan finally tells
his riddle. Crawford comments on the gathering of many talents in
the room (literature, law, etc.). MacHugh remarks that Bloom would
represent the art of advertising, and O’Madden Burke adds that Mrs.
Bloom would add vocal talent. Lenehan makes a suggestive comment
about Molly.
Crawford asks Stephen to write something sharp for the
paper. Crawford recalls the great talent of Ignatius Gallaher, who
reported on the 1882 Phoenix Park murders
(the British chief secretary and under-secretary were killed). This
recollection sparks many individual stories about the murders and
the Invincibles, the group who claimed responsibility. Some of them
were hanged, but others remain alive, such as Skin-the-Goat, a character
who will appear later in Ulysses. Meanwhile, MacHugh
answers the telephone. It is Bloom, but Crawford is too preoccupied
with the conversation to speak with him.
O’Molloy tells Stephen that he and Professor Magennis
were speaking of Stephen. They are curious about Stephen’s opinion
of A.E., the mystical poet. Stephen resists the urge to ask what
Magennis said about him. MacHugh interrupts to describe the finest
example of eloquence—John F. Taylor’s speech at the Trinity College historical
society debate over the revival of the Irish tongue. MacHugh re-enacts
the speech, which equated the British, who threaten to culturally
overwhelm the Irish, to the Egyptians, who threaten to completely
assimilate the Jews.
Stephen suggests they adjourn to a pub, and Lenehan leads
the way. O’Molloy holds Crawford behind to ask him for a loan. Stephen
walks outside with Professor MacHugh and tells MacHugh a cryptic
parable of two old virgins who go to the top of Nelson’s pillar
to see the views of Dublin and eat plums.
While Stephen tells his story, Crawford finally emerges
outside and Bloom, on his way in, attempts to accost him on the
front steps. Bloom wants approval for two month’s renewal of the
Keyes ad instead of three. Crawford turns this offer down flippantly
and returns to his conversation with O’Molloy. He cannot lend O’Molloy
any money.
Ahead, Stephen’s story continues: the women, giddy at
the top of the pillar, eat their plums and spit the seeds over the
side. Stephen laughs—the story is apparently over, but the listeners
are confused. Stephen names his story “A Pisgah Sight of Palestine”
or “The Parable of the Plums.” MacHugh laughs knowingly.
Meanwhile, the trams and other vehicles all across the city continue
to roll.
Analysis
Episode Seven, “Aeolus,” is the first episode in which
the text seems conscious of itself as a text. The newspaper-like
headlines break up the otherwise-familiar text and suggest to the
reader that an outside editor, author, or arranger is responsible
for them. We are no longer involved in a one-on-one relation with
the plot of Ulysses—someone is filtering this information
for us.
The episode parallels the aftermath of Odysseus’s visit
to Aeolus, the god of the winds in the Odyssey. One
of Odysseus’s men disobeys him, opening a bag of winds that then
blows them off-course. In the “Aeolus” episode of Ulysses, wind
is represented by the windy rhetoric used in journalism and oratory.
The newspaper-room setting of the chapter, the episode’s headlines,
and the men’s own inflated speech, together with the conversation
about rhetorical and journalistic triumphs, all support the theme
of the episode. Additionally, within the headlines and within the
general text of the episode, over sixty different rhetorical figures
(such as hyperbole, metonymy, chiasmus) are demonstrated.
Episode Seven also recalls one of Joyce’s earlier
works—the short-story collection, Dubliners. Several Dubliners characters appear
here (Lenehan, Ignatius Gallaher), and the sense of futility and
paralysis of Dubliners filters into this episode
depicting mid-day idleness, disappointment, and frustration. Just
as Odysseus’s ship was blown off-course by the winds released from
the bag, several characters are thwarted in their individual quests.
Bloom does not get the Keyes ad in the paper, O’Molloy does not
get a loan from Crawford, Stephen never makes it to meet Buck at
the Ship pub at noon. If rhetoric is a means for making arguments
and convincing listeners, it gets short shrift here. Few comprehensive
connections are made in this episode—points and arguments trail
off or are swallowed in the noise of the newspaper pressrooms. Instead,
language works to obscure and divide: inside jokes, cryptic remarks,
and stage-whispered comments abound.
Episode Seven is the first episode in which Stephen and
Bloom actually cross paths (at the very end of the episode). Notably, Stephen
ignores Bloom, while Bloom, father-like, notes Stephen’s newer boots
and, with disapproval, that Stephen has muck on his shoes and is
leading the way to the pub. Bloom’s and Stephen’s separate but equal
time in the episode invites comparison between their appearances
in the Freeman offices. Bloom fails in his task
of securing the Keyes ad for three months, while Stephen succeeds
in getting Deasy’s letter printed. Stephen has the center of the
room, physically and symbolically, while Bloom remains unseen on
the outskirts, bumped more than once. Bloom is jokingly referred
to as a representative for the art of advertising, while Stephen
is treated like a near-equal by the men and is even offered the
chance to write for the paper. We also notice the two men’s differing
approaches to the domain of public expression. Bloom, as we have
seen, has a pragmatic approach to the art of writing, oratory, and
advertising. In Episode Four, we saw him consider writing fiction
himself, in part to make money by it. Stephen, though flattered
by the newspapermen’s high expectations for him, will not waste
himself on their type of writing—he will remain focused on his art,
his poetry.