Ulysses – Episode Six: “Hades”

Summary
Bloom steps into a carriage after Martin Cunningham, Jack
Power, and Simon Dedalus—they are going to Dignam’s funeral. As
the carriage begins to move, Bloom points out Stephen on the street.
Simon disapprovingly asks if Mulligan is with him. Bloom thinks
Simon is too vehement, but reasons that Simon is right to look out
for Stephen, as Bloom would have for Rudy, if he had lived.
Cunningham starts to describe his night at the pub and
then asks Dedalus if he has read Dan Dawson’s speech in this morning’s
paper. Bloom moves to take out the paper for Dedalus, but Dedalus
signals that it would be inappropriate to read it now. Bloom skims
the obituaries and checks that he still has Martha’s letter. Bloom’s
thoughts soon wander to Boylan and his upcoming afternoon visit.
At this moment, the carriage passes Boylan in the street, and the
other men salute him from the carriage. Bloom is flustered by the
coincidence. He does not understand what Molly and the others see
in Boylan. Power asks Bloom about Molly’s concert, referring to
her as Madame, which makes Bloom uncomfortable.
The carriage passes Reuben J. Dodd, a moneylender, and
the men curse him. Cunningham remarks that they have all owed money
to Dodd—except Bloom, his look implies. Bloom begins to tell a humorous
story about how Dodd’s son almost drowned, but Cunningham rudely
takes over. The men soon check their laughter and reminisce sadly
about Dignam. Bloom remarks that he died the best way, quickly and
painlessly, but the other men disagree silently—Catholics fear a
sudden death because one has no chance to repent. Power pronounces
that the worst death is a suicide and Dedalus agrees. Cunningham,
knowing that Bloom’s father committed suicide, argues for a charitable
attitude toward it. Bloom is appreciative of Cunningham’s sympathy.
The carriage stops for a cattle crossing. Bloom wonders
aloud why there is no tramline for the cattle and Cunningham agrees. Bloom
also suggests funeral trams, but the others agree only reluctantly.
Cunningham reasons that a tram would prevent hearse accidents, such
as the one recently that ended with a coffin dumped onto the road.
Bloom envisions Dignam spilling out of his coffin. The carriage
passes a water canal that runs to Mullingar, where Milly lives, and
Bloom considers visiting her. Meanwhile, Power points out the house
where the Childs fratricide, a well-known murder, took place.
The carriage arrives and the men get out. Trailing behind,
Cunningham fills Power in about Bloom’s father’s suicide. Bloom
asks Tom Kernan if Dignam was insured. Ned Lambert reports that
Cunningham is taking up a collection for the Dignam children. Bloom looks
on one of Dignam’s sons with pity. They enter the church and kneel—Bloom
last. Bloom watches the unfamiliar ceremony and thinks about the
repetitiveness of a priest’s job. The ceremony ends and the coffin
is carried outside.
As the procession passes May Dedalus’s grave, Dedalus
begins crying. Bloom thinks about the realities of death—specifically,
the failure of body organs. Corny Kelleher, the undertaker, joins
them. Ahead, John Henry Menton asks who Bloom is. Lambert explains that
he is Molly’s husband. Menton fondly recalls dancing with Molly
once, and he harshly wonders why Molly married Bloom.
The cemetery caretaker, John O’Connell, approaches the
men and tells a good-natured joke. Bloom wonders what it would be
like to be O’Connell’s wife—would the graveyard be distracting?
He admires the neatness of O’Connell’s cemetery, but he thinks it
would more efficient to bury bodies vertically. He thinks about
the fertilizing power of dead bodies and imagines a system by which
people would donate their bodies to fertilize gardens. Thinking
of O’Connell’s jokes, Bloom recalls the joking grave diggers in Hamlet. However,
Bloom thinks, one should not joke about the dead during the two-year
mourning period. In the background, O’Connell and Kelleher confer
about tomorrow’s funerals.
The men assemble around the grave, and Bloom wonders
who the man in the macintosh is—he is the unlucky thirteenth member
of the party, and he was not in the chapel for the service. Bloom
thinks of his own funeral plot with his mother and son in it already.
He thinks of the horror of being buried alive and how telephones
in coffins would prevent it.
The reporter, Hynes, asks Bloom for his full name. Bloom
asks him to mention McCoy’s name, as well, as McCoy had requested
in Episode Five. He asks Bloom for the name of the unfamiliar man
in the macintosh, but Bloom does not know it. Bloom watches as the grave
diggers finish. Bloom strolls through the cemetery, thinking that
the money spent on luxurious graves could be given to charities for
the living and that gravestones would be more interesting if they explained
who the person was. He thinks of his upcoming visit to his father’s
grave. He sees a rat and thinks of a rat eating a corpse. Bloom
is happy to be leaving the cemetery, since he has been thinking
about necrophilia, ghosts, hell, and how a graveyard visit makes one
feel closer to death. He passes Menton on the way out and tells him
his hat has a ding in it. Menton snubs him.
Analysis
Much of Episode Six is concerned with Bloom’s relative
isolation within a social group. Bloom is positioned as a latecomer,
an outsider, and an anomaly in the cab with Dedalus, Cunningham,
and Power; in the chapel service; and in the cemetery in relation
to Menton and other attendees of Dignam’s funeral. Bloom’s exclusion
is vaguely implicit: Bloom is invited to step in the cab last, and
he is not referred to by his Christian name. He is not bantered
with, and Hynes (to whom Bloom has lent money) admits to not knowing
his Christian name. It is not clear how much Bloom recognizes his
own exclusion. For example, the third-person narrator characterizes Cunningham
as rude when he interrupts Bloom, yet Bloom himself thinks minutes
later about Cunningham’s capacity for sympathy. Aside from the imperious
John Henry Menton, the other men’s exclusion of Bloom does not take
a vicious form—he is merely not as close to the men as they are
to each other and is treated accordingly.
The men’s attitude toward Bloom seems pointed only when
it is implicitly connected to his Jewishness or to Molly. When the
other men spot Reuben J. Dodd, their animosity for him as a moneylender merges
with their anti-Semitism, and Bloom is implicitly excluded from
their sentiments, both because of his Jewishness and because he
has never had to borrow money. Bloom again feels vaguely attacked
when Power, seeing Boylan, asks Bloom if he will be accompanying
Molly and Boylan to the concert in Belfast and refers to Molly,
less than respectfully, as Madame.

Bloom’s thoughts in Episode Six do not focus on this social
exclusion. Instead, Episode Six parallels Episode Three’s thematic
focus on fathers and sons. In Episode Three, we saw Stephen thinking
for the first time about his father, Simon Dedalus, and about fathers
in general, rather than solely about his dead mother. Here in Episode Six,
we not only see Simon’s view of his son Stephen, but we also see Bloom’s
thoughts move away from Molly and Milly to center on memories of
his dead father and son and to thoughts about paternity generally.
Here we learn explicitly that Bloom’s father committed suicide several
years ago, and Bloom’s thoughts about him dovetail with thoughts
about his son, Rudy, who died several days after birth. Bloom’s
thoughts on paternity extend easily in this episode from the personal
to the general—he views other fathers and sons, such as Simon Dedalus
and Dignam’s young son, with an eye of understanding and sympathy.
While Stephen, in Episode Three, seem to willfully isolate himself
from his father, Bloom here suffers from his own father-son isolation—he
has no means by which to continue his family line. Without a patriarchal
history or future—the foundation of epics like The Odyssey—Bloom
seems remarkably vulnerable in Episode Six.