Ulysses Summary and Analysis of Chapters 10-12

Chapter Ten: Wandering Rocks


The "Wandering Rocks" chapter of Ulysses is a narrative interlude midway through the novel. Joyce depicts the adventures of a collection of Dubliners between 2:40 and 4pm, ending approximately half an hour before Molly and Boylan meet. The diverse roll of characters includes some figures that do not appear in other chapters and Joyce's primary concern in Chapter Ten is painting a vivid portrait of Dublin. Among these, we meet several figures of the Roman Catholic Church included Father "Bob" Cowley, who a habitual alcoholic who has lost is collar for previous indiscretions.

We also encounter Father Conmee, who has the noble though naïve dream of venturing into Africa in the hopes of converting the millions of "dark souls" who are lost in paganism. Father Conmee¹s nostalgic thoughts on his days at Clongowes College are interrupted when he notices two young people who are kissing behind a half-hidden bush. Joyce also offers several glimpses of the Dedalus daughters. One of the four daughters has made a failed effort to pawn their brother Stephen¹s books in the hopes of getting some money for food. After she returns, another daughter departs for the bars there father is none to frequent. While she accosts him in the hope of getting a few coins to purchase some food, her sisters are at home boiling laundry before taking a break to drink some discolored pea soup.

We receive separate views of Boylan and Molly before they meet. Molly appears on Eccles Street, offering a coin to a beggar sailor before preparing her home for her upcoming tryst. Boylan exposes himself as a hopeless flirt in his relationship with his secretary and in his treatment of the clerk of the flower shop. Stephen Dedalus appears without mulligan; a few mourners meet again to discuss Dignam's funeral and two viceregal carriages cast their shadows over beggars and barmaids, among others. Bloom's path intersects with Boylan's yet again and Bloom busies himself with the purchase of a book.


In Homer's epic, Ulysses heeded the advice of Athena who urged him to pass through Scylla and Charybdis, entirely avoiding the Wandering Rocks. Joyce includes this episode nonetheless and this tenth chapter poses an intentional barrier to the reader almost as formidable as "Scylla and Charybdis." While the prose of "Wandering Rocks" is simpler, it is divided into nineteen sections-one for each of the sections of the novel, with a final section linking the themes of the first eighteen. The Dubliners in this chapter are "wandering rocks," wandering at home without a homeland and questions of homeland politics unquestionably dominate this chapter. The rocks imagery of the chapter signals both infertility and doom and the sections of the chapter each focus on specific Dubliner or group of Dubliners. As the citizens wander through the city streets, their listlessness and misplaced energy suggest that they are simultaneously wandering emotionally.

The eighteen sections are not chronological and while some span five minutes, others span a full hour. Readers must construct a chronology by looking for specific phrases that appear in multiple sections. In this regard, Joyce sought to reflect his ideas of "consubstantiality" and "collage" in the structure of the chapter. One example can be seen in Section I where Father Conmee is sitting on a bench imagining his schoolyard past where "his thinsocked ankles were tickled by the stubble of Clongowes field." In Section IV, a conversation between "Katey and Boody Dedalus is interrupted by the sentence: "Father Conmee walked through Clongowes field, his thinsocked ankles tickled by stubble" indicating that these events (the Dedalus' conversation and Father Conmee's daydream) occurred at the same time. With similar links occurring between all of the 18 sections we can construct an accurate chronology for approximately seventy-five to ninety minutes. Remarkably, Joyce was able to almost perfect recall Dublin's myraid alleys, bridges and quays, despite the fact that he was living in self-imposed exile while writing Ulysses.

Several members of the Dedalus family are among the characters introduced in "Wandering Rocks." Stephen's sisters are living a destitute existence as their father's alcoholism is exhausting their already strained finances. Stephen's sisters Maggy, Katey and Boody discuss the unsuccessful attempt to sell Stephen's old books to a pawnshop. As they drink a thinned yellow pea soup, Maggy addresses "Our Father, who are not in heaven." Simon Dedalus later appears in the chapter, completely drunk and unable to support his daughters. In a later street scene, Simon sees his sister Dilly who has procured a little money from her father and used it to purchase a French primer from a used book cart, in hopes of fleeing to France as Stephen did. Stephen feels incredible sympathy for Dilly, grimly concluding: "she is drowning...she will drown me with her," linking his sister Dilly to the memory of his drowned mother. Just as Stephen feels that Dilly is "drowning," Haines and Mulligan are discussing Stephen in his absence concluding that "he can never be a poet," though he may write something in ten years. To the degree that Stephen Dedalus is autobiographical, it is worth noting that ten years after 1904, Joyce had written Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

The "Wandering Rocks" episode also mines the histories and personalities of the other major characters. Lenehan's recounts a lewd story to M'Coy, telling of his historic and incomplete sexual exploit with Molly Bloom. While Lenehan's story confirms Molly's penchant and reputation for infidelity, M'Coy finds the story unfavorable and instead compliments Bloom as a "cultured allroundman." Ironically, while Bloom is hiding from Boylan's shadow, he decides to buy a gift for Molly: a romance novel entitled Sweets of Sin. In contrast to Bloom, Boylan presents himself as a swaggering, cocksure flirt who teases a girl selling flowers as well as his secretary. Boylan's planned Belfast/Liverpool concert is set for a date that coincides with Bloom's annual visit to his father's grave. Joyce also introduces Misses Kennedy and Douce, the bronze- and gold-haired barmaids of the Ormond Hotel, who become the sirens of Chapter Eleven.

The motif of the wandering sailor is presented in the one-legged beggar who receives a donation from Molly. Ironically, the war hero sings a pro-British song echoed in the veritable Irish patriotic song that is sung later in the chapter, "At the siege of Ross did my father fall." Bloom continues within the motif of the Wandering Jew and Joyce constructs a series of corresponding images. As the "Wandering Jew," Bloom is considered a "throwaway," referring to his marginal status and his resemblance with the unsung racehorse. Joyce again alludes to the Old Testament prophet Elijah. Considered a forerunner to Christ, the wandering Jewish prophet was assumed into heaven, discarding his mantle as a throwaway, worn by his appointed successor, Elisha. The Elijah references foreshadow the moment in the novel where Bloom's tired heroic ambitions will be largely subsumed by his desire to help the younger Stephen, for whom there is more hope. The passing ship in "Wandering Rocks" is the Rosevean, which first introduced the crucifixion motif in "Proteus." Bloom's status as a bruised, "crumpled" throwaway indicates that he may be ultimately valuable as a sacrificial figure.

The polar opposite to Bloom's "throwaway" motif is the viceregal carriage of William Humble who is the Earl of Dudley and the face of British occupation in Dublin. The Earl, Lady Dudley and their accompaniment take an hour-long course through Dublin; some Irishmen salute, while others spit. Despite the occasional displays of resentment, the carriage is a symbol of British hegemony. Its course is the itinerary presented in the final nineteenth section. The carriage casts its shadow over all of Dublin and the reader is able to perfect ascertain the chronology of the chapter because nearly all of the featured Dubliners fall subject to the shadow of the carriage. Ironically, the one wandering character who does not fall under the shadow of the ostentatious carriage is Leopold Bloom. Joyce could be suggested that Bloom is the one citizen whose soul retains its independence, or it could be that the "Wandering Jew," Bloom, is so marginal a citizen that the failed Irish struggle for Home Rule does not pertain him.

Irish political desperation is reinforced by the story of Parnell whose coffin may have contained stones, preserving the possibility for a Messianic triumph. Joyce places Parnell's brother under the shadow of the carriage as he sits in a bar before becoming a street wanderer himself. Ireland's lack of political viability is underscored by the presence of the disabled sailor who once fought for a cause. The pro-British slant of his begging song is justified by Bloom's later realization of Ireland as a country that cannot care for its own. Joyce's most expert depiction of Ireland's weaknesses is in the character of Father Cowley, who opens the chapter. While he is described as "the very reverend," Father Cowley's sincere sympathy for others is stymied by his simple-mindedness and deception. Father Cowley is a pretender who has been demoted in his ecclesiastical duties, on account of an unexplained scandal.

Chapter Eleven: The Sirens


"The Sirens" takes place in the bar and restaurant of the Ormond Hotel, where Lydia Douce and Mina Kennedy are barmaids. The chronology of the chapter overlaps with the previous one. Douce and Kennedy have entered the Ormond bar before the "Wandering Rocks" episode has concluded and Bloom only arrives at the Ormond after he has made his purchase of Sweets of Sin. Because Bloom is in the restaurant area of the Ormond he can only hear the noise coming from the bar area. Boylan arrives at the Ormond to meet Lenehan and the singer enters and exits without Bloom noticing; all the while, Bloom sits in dread of his upcoming cuckolding. A despondent Leopold Bloom accompanies Richie Goulding to a restaurant table. The physical consequences of Richie's drinking are visible to Bloom who suspects that Goulding will soon die. Soon after sitting at the table, Bloom begins writing a letter to Martha while talking to Goulding, disguising his efforts and insisting that he is only replying to a newspaper advertisement and not writing a letter as Goulding had suspected.

The piano sets a lively tone for those who are in the bar, including Simon Dedalus, Douce, Kennedy, Lenehan, Boylan, a singer named Ben Dollard, Father Cowley and Tom Kernan. This lively group provides intermittent comic relief from Bloom¹s depressing meal. Dedalus is a strong singer and he engages in several rounds of a few Irish folk songs including the patriotic ballad, "The Croppy Boy." Ben Dollard, a professional singer, is also rather obese and he is the butt of a few of the barmaids¹ jokes. For their parts, Douce and Kennedy, fully thrust themselves into their "siren" roles, luring Boylan and after he departs for 7 Eccles, focusing their attentions on Lenehan who squanders a significant amount of money in their bar.


Homer's Sirens were hybrid bird-women who were perched on a perilous rocky shore. Despite their hideous physical appearance, the Sirens were able to entice sailors with their alluring voices, fitting within The Odyssey's series of female enchantresses. Ulysses was pre-warned that the sirens would lure sailors by song and then viciously devour them. Indeed their rocky crag was largely composed of bleached bones. Ulysses ordered his men to stop their ears with wax before they passed through the Sirens' territory. He did not have his own ears sealed and instead ordered his crew to securely tie him to mast of the ship so that he might be able to hear the song without being in danger. Upon hearing the Sirens' song, Ulysses pleads with his men to release him, but they refuse and normalcy returns to the deck once Ulysses is no longer able to hear the distant Sirens.

The intoxicating effects of the Sirens are duplicated in the Ormond barmaids, Lydia Douce and Mina Kennedy who deliver songs, drink and flirtation in order to collect money from the Ormond's male patrons. The men of Dublin stroll by the bar and stay, and Bloom is interesting foil to Ulysses. In "The Sirens," Bloom can only hear the music of the bar but he cannot see it unlike Ulysses whose sight of the hideous sirens does little to rein in his desire to flock to them. Unlike Ulysses, Bloom's thoughts of Molly and his home are not eclipsed by his desire for the Sirens, Douce and Kennedy.

Joyce makes extensive use of direct Homeric parallels in his depiction of the Ormond barmaids, describing their "wet lips" and the "long in dying call" of their victims. One of the barmaids later says: "he's killed looking back." The phrases "Miss Douce retorted, leaving her spyingpoint," "reef of counter," "ruffling her nosewings," and "screaming...high piercing notes," all contribute to Joyce's efforts to transform the Ormond Bar into the rocky crag held by the Sirens. The sentence "Miss Kennedy unplugged her ears to hear" is typical of Joyce's thematic puns. While Miss Kennedy plays the Siren role, she plugs and unplugs her ears in mockery of Ulysses' pre-warned sailors. Joyce does not portray Kennedy and Douce with as wholly villainous and just as Miss Kennedy can plug and unplug her ears, both Kennedy and Douce simultaneously play the roles of victor and victim. For all of their efforts to attract and steal from men, both Kennedy and Douce are lonely, unhappy and jealous. Despite their brash demeanor and coarseness, Joyce's portraits of the two aging barmaids evoke sympathy from the reader.

While "The Sirens" is noted for its obvious parallels to the corresponding Homeric episode, it is one of the most critically studied chapters because of Joyce's extensive musical references. Expanding the theme of "The Sirens" to music as a whole, Joyce fuses Bloom's letter with lines from the opera Martha. In the Ormond bar, Ben Dollard sings of the Croppy Boy, a young Irish boy soldier who is a revered hero of folk song. After his regiment was entirely destroyed, the Croppy Boy sought to escape before eventually finding himself trapped by a British soldier who had disguised himself as a priest.

Joyce's most complex musical reference is developed in the narrative structure of "The Siren." The chapter opens with sixty-three lines that are fragments of sentences, short phrases and spelled-out sounds. Joyce intended the chapter as a musical arrangement and these sixty-three, beginning with "Bronze by gold heard the hoofirons, steelyringing" and ending with "Begin!" are musical "motifs" woven throughout chapter, changing meaning as they are applied and reapplied. One example is "rose of Castile" (line 8) which refers to a riddle that asks for the opera whose name is also the definition of a train's tracks (rows of cast steel). Later, floral imagery attaches the word "rose" to Bloom writing a Flower-Clifford letter. Amid Bloom's comparison of Martha Clifford and his wife Molly, the phrase "rose of Castile" is decisively attached to Molly who happens to be of Spanish descent. "Jingle jingle jaunted jingling" (line 15) occurs throughout the entire chapter to emulate the sound of the Bloom's loose bed-an anticipation of Molly and Boylan's sexual act. The "jingle jingle" of the loose (and unfaithful) bed of Penelope/Molly becomes the "jaunted jingling" of the wandering Ulysses/Bloom's absent "jingling" key. "Jingle jingle" mirrors the alliteration of Blazes Boylan's name and parodies his cocky swagger into the Ormond.

The progression of a musical motif is able to immediate alter the tone of the chapter. "Trilling, trilling: Idolores" (line 9) first appears when Miss Douce is "gaily" singing ("trilling") the song "O, Idolores, queen of the eastern seas." When the theme is rephrased, the queen of the eastern seas becomes Molly and "Idolores" becomes "Dolores." Dolores is both a regal and religious female name, but when translated from Spanish, dolores is defined as pain and emotional suffering, capturing the depression of Bloom who is juxtaposed to the gaiety "trilling" several feet away from him.

Bloom's outsider status in "The Sirens" is not defined by his Jewishness but by his non-participation in musical activity and his desire to reduce music to scientific principles. Bloom contends that-unlike words, music is simply "musemathematics," a series of vibrations as magical as multiplication. Bloom's scientific mind decomposes music to explain away so that it will not pose as great a threat to him. Despite Bloom's attempts to plug his ears to music's emotional power, the phrase "love that is singing: love's old sweet song" enters his thoughts and Bloom recognizes it as a song which Molly will sing with Boylan. Molly's love songs exclude Bloom much as his seat in the Ormond's restaurant prevents him from participating in the gaiety of the bar. Bloom feels alone, even while he is sitting at the table with Richie Goulding, and he likens himself to the Croppy Boy, thinking "I too. Last of my race...Well, my fault perhaps. No son. Rudy. Too late now. Or if not? If not? If still?" While Bloom is able to leave "The Sirens" in a tone of indecision, he is forced in next chapter to defend himself against the shame of a lone outsider.

Chapter 12: The Cyclops


During the time of Molly's affair, Leopold Bloom wanders into Barney Kiernan's pub. Bloom is not a drinker and this is not a pub that he regularly frequents; indeed, Bloom seems to be lost in thought when he literally wanders into Kiernan¹s where he is to meet Cunningham and Power for a trip to see the Widow Dignam. The pub's fierce scene is a severe contrast to the mellow drunkenness of the Ormond's bar and Bloom is immediately uncomfortable. A rabid Irish nationalist called Citizen, terrorizes Kiernan's pub and focuses most of his verbal attack on Bloom. Citizen, like many of Joyce¹s patriots, is both anti-Semitic and isolationist in his thinking.

Citizen initially begins his drunken discourse on the subject of the lost Celtic culture. Though he briefly touches upon the death of the Irish language, Citizen¹s primary focus is on the renaissance of the ancient Celtic games. Citizen¹s verbal spouting is not held in regard, though none of the pub¹s patrons feel as uncomfortable as Bloom. A large dog named Garryowen is equally menacing for Bloom, and despite Garryowen¹s allegiance with Citizen, who feeds the dog biscuits, Citizen is not the dog¹s owner.

Lenehan is present and his conversation reveals the results of the horserace where Throwaway has upset the heavily favored Sceptre. When Citizen's anti-Semitism flares, Bloom is forced to assume a heroic role in defending himself. Specifically, the Citizen accuses Bloom of stealing from widows and orphans and he goes further, insinuating that Jews can never be true Irish citizens. Bloom defends himself as an honest person before offering Citizen a brief catalogue of Jews who have made significant contributions to European and Irish culture. When Bloom informs Citizen that his own God (Christ) also happened to be a Jew, Citizen becomes enraged and as Bloom exits the pub victorious, Citizen chases behind him, throwing an empty biscuit tin at Bloom's head. The sun temporarily blinds Citizen, whose missile falls far short of the target. Upon exiting Kiernan¹s pub Bloom continues on his mission to visit the Dignam widow, accompanied by Martin Cunningham and Jack Power. They intend to discuss the specifics of Paddy Dignam¹s insurance policy and help the widow get her finances in order.


The Cyclops, a tribe of one-eyed giants, are among the most famous of The Odyssey's villains. A son of Poseidon, one particular giant named Polyphemus kidnapped Ulysses and his crew and held them inside of his cave, intending to eat them all. The clever Ulysses offered Polyphemus a drink of wine and when the giant passed out, he and his men blinded Polyphemus with a fiery wooden stake. Trapped in the Cyclops' cave, Ulysses' men hid in the fleece of Polyphemus' giant sheep and escaped when the blinded giant permitted his sheep to exit the cave in order to graze. The victorious Ulysses taunted the blinded giant, telling him that his name was "Noman" and Polyphemus takes blind aim at Ulysses' ship, hurling a rock into the sea before praying to his father, Poseidon, who added enormous difficulties to Ulysses' journey.

Clearly, Joyce's parallel to Polyphemus is Citizen, the semi-blind drunk who terrorizes Bloom in Kiernan's dark and cave-like pub. Citizen's blindness is both intellectual and physical and images of blinding shafts, light and blindness link "The Cyclops" to its correlating Homeric episode. Additionally, Citizen drunkenness and attempt to "stone" an exiting Bloom are mirrored in Polyphemus' actions. Citizen's patriot interests include reviving Gaelic sports and expelling the Jews and his surly attitude is reflected in the sinister demeanor of the vicious dog, Garryowen.

Despite Bloom's heroism and self-defense, Joyce does not reveal the character's first-person commentary as he usually does with Bloom and Dedalus. The narrative structure of the chapter is seriously affected by the fact that Joyce uses an anonymous narrator. The distance between Bloom and the narrator provides an honest examination: the protagonist is a decent man whose incessant didacticism, intentional ambiguity and helpless hesitancy are grating and annoying. The narrator is a frequenter of pubs and his "street language" is a contrast to the elevated diction of Stephen Dedalus. The narrator is equally sarcastic and gross, and his commentary ranges from deriding the despicable rhetoric of Citizen to complaining about his painful urination on account of having contracted syphilis. The narrator unknowingly contributes to the irony of the chapter with his comic references to the "heroics" of Bloom's altercation with the villain, Citizen. The narrator then undercuts his own story by relaying his own exhaustion with Bloom's long-windedness and Citizen's rhetoric. Citizen's accusation that Bloom, like all Jews, robs from widows and orphans, is as ironic as his drunken appeal to God for a Messiah for the Irish chosen people. Consider the Citizen's appropriation (or theft) of Jewish imagery and Bloom's continued and anticipated generosity in regards to the widow Dignam and numerous street orphans.

The theme of Irish political independence is continued in the Citizen's rhetoric but Joyce's chief arguments are not wholly expressed in his continued parody of the villain's ardent and blind patriotism. The weighty phrase "Ireland sober is Ireland free" provides context for Citizen's drunken drivel while damning Dublin's excess of pubs and bars. Joyce's other major addition to his political theme is the re-employment of the Promised Land/Chosen People motif. While it is ironic to find these words expressed by anti-Semitic characters, there is some validity in Citizen's lament for Ireland's "lost tribes." Ireland's is a double loss of old martyrs and young people (like Stephen Dedalus) who are self-exiled from the island.

The themes of masculinity and self-identity find an interesting parallel in the Homer "Cyclops" episode, when Ulysses taunts Polyphemus, confiding that his true name is "Noman." In addition to subtle references to "Noman" and "Nobody," Bloom is emasculated by references to "the adulteress and her paramour." Furthermore, Bloom has spent the day hiding from Boylan and just as his legal name Bloom differs from his ancestral name (Virag), Bloom is posing as Henry Flower as a method of escaping from his household troubles. That Bloom, Flower and Virag are synonymous indicates that under any name, Bloom cannot hide himself. The antics of the aptly named Citizen, force Bloom to gain some masculinity at the same time that he must define himself as something other than a nameless nomad. By defending his Jewish-ness and his simultaneous Irish citizenship, Bloom effectively sloughs off his "Noman" status.

The "throwaway" motif painted Bloom as "a rank outsider" and "a bloody dark horse" and the 20 to 1 odds against the unsung horse parallel Ulysses' twenty years away from Ithaca. Lenehan's disgruntled announcement of Throwaway's unexpected victory also corresponds to Bloom's "victory" in spite of the derision of others. Just as the Old Testament Elijah was connected to the "Throwaway" motif in "Wandering Rocks," Bloom fulfills the prophecy in his "ascension" into heaven having bested Citizen. The "throwaway" motif applies aptly to the mantle that Elijah handed to his successor, Elisha, as well as the prophet's "throwaway" status as a forerunner of the Messiah. Bloom's victory against the Citizen is tempered by the termination of his own messianic ambitions. As an ascended "Throwaway," Bloom's perspective shifts to the younger generation and thoughts of his son Rudy, as well as Stephen, come to the forefront of his mind.

The period of the day foreshadows the mood of Ulysses' later chapters. In several ways, "The Cyclops" foreshadows the nighttime darkness that reaches its dramatic climax in the Nighttown episode of "Circe." While Bloom has overcome his greatest challenge, the cooling of his anxieties as well as the completion of the "throwaway" motif anticipate the nighttime shift to the dilemmas of Stephen Dedalus. The extremely intimate portrait of Bloom in "Nausicaa" confirms another shift in the novel's thematic structure: Characters are becoming increasingly polarized by age. Finally, the general political questions of "Home Rule," anti-Semitism, cultural insularity and "Mother Ireland" and "Sireland," are becoming increasingly personal and consequential for Bloom and Dedalus.