Ulysses Summary and Analysis of Chapters 13-15

Chapter 13: Nausicaa


Nausicaa takes place several hours after "The Cyclops," and ends with the clock striking nine. In the interim between the chapters, Bloom has visited the Dignam widow to discuss Paddy's insurance policy and in this chapter he is walking along Sandymount strand, the same beach where Stephen strolled during "Proteus." There is a group of young people on the beach including a young woman named Cissy Caffrey who is watching Tommy and Jacky Caffrey and a smaller baby. Alongside Cissy is her friend Gertrude "Gerty" MacDowell. Gerty's mostly thinks about her previous boyfriend and later she considers thoughts of marriage. In her conversation with Caffrey, MacDowell hides the emotional disappointment that she has suffered. Even as she maintains a rigid and impassive exterior, MacDowell is deep in thought, considering (apparently, for the first time) that she may not be able to find a boyfriend whom she might convince or seduce into marriage.

Midway through her thoughts, Gerty notices the voyeur, Bloom. Leopold Bloom is still dressed in all black on account of Dignam¹s funeral and he is a somber contrast to the white sand of the beach. MacDowell can easily detect that Bloom is watching her though he continues his failed attempts to conceal his furtive staring. Cissy Caffrey suspects that something is awry when MacDowell appears to be distracted and focused in the direction of the dark stranger. MacDowell then decides to use Caffrey in a ploy to get a better look at Bloom who is sitting in the distance. Knowing the Caffrey did not have a timepiece with her, MacDowell asks her for the time and when Cissy replies that she does not know, MacDowell ventures over to Bloom, an "uncle" of hers, so that she might find out.

Upon returning to her original seat with Caffrey, MacDowell feels sympathy for Bloom, who she decides must be the saddest man alive. In place of her thoughts on her boyfriend, Reggie Wylie, MacDowell suggests to herself that Bloom might be a character worth saving, as only she could truly understand him. It is not long before MacDowell notices that Bloom is again engaged in furtive behavior, masturbating himself with a hand cloaked in his pocket. After a brief consideration, Gerty decides to "loves" him back, teasing Bloom by displaying her garters as he masturbates. Soon after this, MacDowell and the Caffreys depart from the beach, having stayed for the display of the nearby Bazaar¹s fireworks. After MacDowell¹s flirtatious departure, Bloom's considers his wife Molly and at the end of "Nausicaa," our hero confesses that his nauseous post-orgasmic lassitude is a sure sign that he is aging.


Homer's Nausicaa is a maiden, who is playing on the beach with her friends. When their ball rolls away, Nausicaa departs to retrieve it and she encounters the body of Ulysees who is unconscious and has been swept to land after his shipwreck. After reviving Ulysses, Nausicaa sends him to her father's house where Ulysses plays the role of a story-telling dinner guest. Nausicaa is an unmarried young maiden whose love for the aging Ulysses continues long after he departs, having been granted a ship to continue his homeward voyage. Joyce's Nausicaa is Gerty MacDowell and her perception of Leopold Bloom as "soulwrecked" mirrors Nausicaa's discovery of the shipwrecked sailor. "Nausicaa" also shares its beachside setting with the Homeric episode and when Jacky Caffrey deliberately kicks his ball away, Bloom's blundering attempts to toss the ball to the group bring the mysterious dark-clad stranger into focus.

MacDowell's Nausicaa-like qualities also include her clothes washing duties and the connection that Bloom makes between MacDowell and "nausea" which sounds like "Nausicaa." Gerty's imaginations of her "lover" as a tale-bearing stranger fit Bloom as squarely within the "ancient mariner" motif as her beachside display reveals her own "sea-maiden" qualities. While Joyce constructs numerous minor parallels between this chapter and the Homeric episode, the most recurring parallel is the thematic one. When greeted by Nausicaa, both Ulysses are in need of relief and aid. While the image of the young woman offers Bloom a vehicle for sexual relief, the copious references to the "stormtossed heart of man" suggests that Bloom is need of both spiritual and physical comfort. This argument is reaffirmed in Gerty's numerous overtures, expressing a merciful and sympathetic desire to love Bloom and offer a salve for his visible pain.

"Nausicaa" opens with an exposition of Gerty MacDowell's thoughts and instead of writing the chapter as MacDowell's interior monologue, Joyce opts for an omniscient third-person narrator whose voice is a parody of the heavily sentimental "romantic" novels made popular by the likes of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte. Much of Joyce's affected "female" hyperbole is lost in the shift from the "marmalady" style that comes with a return to Bloom. The hyperbole of the narrative prose is echoed in the hyperbole of the beach activity. MacDowell utters trite metaphors, the images of a church procession are juxtaposed with the scene of Bloom's masturbation. The bright fireworks that are shot from nearby Bazaar district explode across the dark sky at the same time that Bloom experiences the ejaculatory climax of his furtive masturbation.

Despite the "marmalady" style of "Nausicaa," Joyce provides enough depth in MacDowell's character to establish her as one of the more memorable Dubliners crossing Bloom's path. While MacDowell's sentimentality is satirized, her hopes for an opportunity to "share love" are as desperate as the pleadings of the Dedalus girls for grocery money. Additionally, MacDowell's sentimentality is not completely blinding and she is able to accurately identify Bloom as a fumbling and unattractive older man at the same time that she is able to present the romanticized notion of Bloom's face as the "saddest she had ever seen." Fusing MacDowell's portrait of Bloom with the musings of the narrator of the previous chapter produces an evening view of the tired Leopold Bloom.

The novel's return to Sandymount strand provides for a comparison and contrast between Stephen and Bloom. Stephen's morning thoughts in "Proteus" concentrated on the concepts of "form" and "sight." Bloom is similarly fascinated by Gerty's transparent stockings, which "had neither shape nor form." Bloom's voyeuristic masturbation provides another corollary to Stephen's ideas as Bloom's vision of MacDowell is distorted and his masturbatory act is only the hollow approximation of sex. Stephen's physical release is not an ejaculation but urination and both men consider literary ventures in connection with their "releases." Finally, the rocks of the beachside are unquestionably a testament to the loneliness of both characters. Joyce will bring these characters together in the next chapter, having fully indicated their spiritual congruities.

Just as Bloom's actions suggest that Stephen Dedalus is his younger counterpart, Gerty MacDowell's sentimental thoughts foreshadow the exposition of Molly Bloom's thoughts, presented in the final chapter of Ulysses, "Penelope." The focus on Gerty's undergarments and her domestic duties as a washerwoman presents the image of MacDowell as a young woman whose cleanliness jars with our memory of the dirty underwear strewn about sleeping Molly's bedroom. The Woods' washerwoman (the Woods are Bloom's neighbors) and the image of Dedalus girls boiling their laundry, complete the motif. But the simple dichotomy between "clean" youth and "dirty" age is complicated when Molly reveals her earliest sexual memories, the first of which occurred when she masturbated a man into her handkerchief, (dirtying it). And in "Nausicaa," Bloom must dirty himself while his Nausicaa waves her own clean handkerchief at Bloom upon exiting Sandymount Strand.

Unquestionably, MacDowell's capacity and desire for love bring her closest connection to the revelations of "Penelope." In her own considerations of romance, the young woman both foreshadows Molly's response to Bloom and engages one of Joyce's major themes. In her reflection on Reggie Wylie, a recent ex-boyfriend, MacDowell regrets that she may never marry and she confesses that "she had loved him better than he knew." Gerty considers the personal relationships that are produced by the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church and she concludes that "there ought to be women priests" so that Irish women might have a soul in whom they may comfortably confide." While these two statements have nearly identical counterparts in "Penelope," MacDowell's other crucial admission is a somewhat damning commentary on the Blooms' marriage: "love laughs at locksmiths." While Gerty only means to express her unflagging desire to eclipse the barriers that separate human souls, her laughing at locksmiths turns Ulysses' key motif on its head, suggested that the preoccupying tedium of key and tower is evidence of love's absence. The cuckoo clock is equally damning in regards to Bloom. The chapter ends as the clock strikes nine and the bird sings three triplets of "Cuckoo." This seemingly unimportant occurrence is colored by Joycean references to "cuckolding" and Peter's tripled denial of Christ.

Gerty's concept of love faults Bloom for his pretense and furtiveness and as a voyeur, Bloom is unsuccessful. Earlier in the day, Mulligan caught Bloom furtively staring at the rear ends of ancient statues and MacDowell can easily discern that Bloom is staring at her while masturbating. Gerty plays on Bloom's ineffective pretenses by displaying her undergarments "accidentally on purpose," and in this regard, "love" becomes a "game." The consequences of pretense are rather steep and Joyce recalls Hamlet's thematic treatment of pretense. The King Claudius is a royal pretender; the Queen, Gertrude, presents a false façade of devotion; Prince Hamlet presents a play in an attempt to replicate the true murder of his father and coax a confession from the King, and Hamlet later feigns madness. Similarly, Polonius eavesdrops behind a curtain and the unsuccessful snoop is murdered. Bloom's actions confess the inevitable futility of these "games" and at the end of "Nausicaa," Bloom realizes that he and Gerty must separate. In this relationship-just as with Martha Clifford-nothing real has been shared. At the chapter's end, Bloom suggests that these games are part of a larger attempt to "see ourselves as others see us" and Bloom evokes the "form" and "sight" theme of Stephen's Sandymount stroll. Bloom's exit from Sandymount corresponds with the novels official entry into the "Night" episodes of the novel and a final reference to "Proteus" occurs when Bloom notes that it is dark and difficult to see. Bloom plays with the idea concluding that Irish Home Rule is similarly a "Mirage." In love and life, Bloom argues, what appears on the horizon is not necessarily what is.

It is interesting that "Nausicaa" captures the transition from dusk to night even though it ends at 9 pm. The darkening of the day foreshadows a shift in the mood of the novel, but the winding of the day refers to Bloom's comparative age in relation to Stephen, who strolled the beaches of Sandymount earlier in the day. Bloom's fascination with young girls is heightened by his flagging energy. After masturbating, he considers the effects of MacDowell's "temptation" referring to himself in the third-person plural: "drained all the manhood out of em...my youth." While Dedalus hopes for a grey-eyed muse, Bloom is Gerty's grey-haired lover. Like Stephen, Gerty is considered as the "future" of Ireland and her "winsome Irish girlhood" is a fusion of sexual allure, childlike purity and maternal instincts. She is a "sterling good daughter... just like a second mother" and within her chest beats "the very heart of a girlwoman."

Just as Stephen is considered to be "consubstantial" of several men, Gerty MacDowell is alternately temptress and patron. The overriding "relief" and "rescue" themes of "Nausicaa" limit the parallels to MacDowell's namesake, Gertrude of Hamlet, but Joyce clearly suggests that MacDowell's affected displays are attempts to "corrupt" Bloom, though the desire to tempt Bloom is only one of several minor motives. Gerty's chief motive comes from her emulation of the Virgin Mary and Gerty's beachside "Virgin Mary" bears a striking resemblance to the fourth chapter of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, where a beachside "Virgin Mary" inspires Stephen Dedalus' crucial epiphany. The opening lines of "Nausicaa" invoke the blessings of "Mary, star of the sea" and MacDowell's "eggblue" garments give her a chromatic resemblance to the traditional depictions of the Virgin Mary. Additionally, Gerty wears a badge identifying her as a "Child of Mary."

MacDowell considers Bloom as a dark and lonely stranger and the narrator suggest that "even if he [Bloom] was a Protestant or Methodist she [MacDowell] could convert him easily if he truly loved her." Ironically, Bloom is a Jew who is far beyond the pale of MacDowell's religious preferences. Even though MacDowell is unaware of Bloom's Jewish heritage, her expression of benevolence as an avatar of the Virgin is the closest that Christianity comes to including Bloom within its fold. The motif of the Virgin Mary is complicated by the simultaneous references to Sandymount's church tower, the Martello tower and Mary's beacon-like strength. These phallic symbols of strength are intermittent in Bloom's display of his flagging potency and Mary becomes a tower that is also female, offering "pure radiance, a beacon ever to the stormtossed heart of man, Mary, star of the sea." As Mary, MacDowell offers the traditional female succor to a hero in need while asserting towered strength and power over the emasculated and elderly Bloom. MacDowell's invocation to the "holy virgin of virgins" is ironic given Gerty's sexually corrupt behavior and preference for phallic imagery. As a beacon-like virgin who saps Bloom's masculinity and youth, MacDowell foreshadows Bella/Bello who appears as "Circe" in a Nighttown brothel, but the sincerity of MacDowell's love and concern for Bloom allows her to successful apply her Christian idea of "Mary, the refuge of sinners," to the Jewish stranger.

The power of MacDowell's "love" for Bloom is supported by the refrain of his love song: "Tell me, Mary, how to woo thee." Mary appears in Bloom's musical register despite his ignorance of Christian themes and his immediate reference to "those lovely seaside girls" supports the idea that Bloom is not consciously aware of Gerty's somewhat deliberate transition into an avatar of the Virgin Mary. While Bloom's previous references to love songs inevitably focused on his wife's betraying act of adultery, Bloom's wooed "Mary" and the "lovely seaside girls" smother Bloom's thoughts of adultery to a mere flicker. While Bloom does briefly consider his relationship with Molly, his paced and ordered thoughts have conspicuously lost the agitated preoccupation and distress that marked his earlier feelings of exclusion. "Mary" and the "lovely seaside girls," even in Bloom's contrived musical form, express Joyce's argument for love as the facilitator and preserver of human relationships.

A few direct allusions to Dante's Divine Comedy appear in "Nausicaa" and these may be Joyce's method of confirming the chapter's unmistakable thematic reliance upon the final cantos of Paradiso, which are commonly referred to as an Ode to Love. In Dante's "Ode," the Virgin's offering of love and mercy matches an explosion of music starry lights. Joyce includes these elements in the fireworks, beacon-lights, hymns and love songs of "Nausicaa," the last of Ulysses' numerous seaside chapters. As night ends and Bloom prepares to return to Dublin's urban locales, the image of the merciful Virgin seems especially apt. MacDowell offers Bloom the one interlude of respite between the terrors of Kiernan's pub in "The Cyclops" and Bloom's taxing guardianship of Stephen during the chronology of the next three chapters. As Joyce's prototypical young Irish woman, MacDowell's efforts as a "refuge of sinners" and "comfortress of the afflicted" propels the theme of love while suggesting that maternity, "Irishness" and "Catholicism" are indeed, "consubstantial." In "Nausicaa," Joyce's typically heated satire of the church has cooled and MacDowell is permitted her Catholic symbols and religious piety. Gerty can perform religious healing on a human level even as Joyce questions the Catholic Church's legitimacy. The potency of "Mary" should remind the reader of Stephen's Sandymount memories of his mother, Mary Dedalus as the sum of the thematic debate again corroborates the comparative strength of maternal love as opposed to the paternal. Even as Bloom prepares for his paternal mission, he is only sustained on account of MacDowell's maternal intervention and the sincerity of Bloom's desire for a son is undercut by his unproductive spilling of his seed.

Chapter 14: The Oxen of the Sun


"The Oxen of the Sun" begins no earlier than 10 pm and ends at approximately 11pm. After the "Nausicaa" episode, Bloom finally arrives at The National Maternity Hospital to visit Mina Purefoy who has been in labor for three days. Because Bloom is concerned that Purefoy has not been able to deliver the child, he waits in the hospital before briefly seeing Mrs. Purefoy, whose husband, Theodore, is not present. After a brief discussion with one of the midwives, Bloom decides to wait outside the maternity room, until he has received word that, with the aid of Dr Horne and midwives, Mina Purefoy has given birth to a healthy son.

While Bloom is waiting for information regarding Purefoy's labor, he meanders into a darkened waiting room where he encounters Stephen Dedalus, who is sitting at a long table, drinking absinthe in the company of several other young men who are also drinking. Apparently, Stephen¹s acquaintances, including Buck Mulligan, are mostly medical students and interns at the hospital. When Bloom sits at the drinking table of the younger men, he is initiating the first union between the novel's principal characters (Bloom and Dedalus). Buck Mulligan is a menacing presence in the hospital and Bloom consciously assumes a paternal role, fearing that Mulligan has laced Stephen's drink with a harmful substance.

Even after Bloom joins the conversation of the semi-inebriated men, Mulligan remains as bawdy and irreverent as before, making crass references to contraception, sexual intercourse, masturbation and procreation. And Bloom¹s paternal aura seems to only extend to Stephen, who he singles out as the one decent character in the group. Repeatedly, the young men are cautioned to lower the volume of their laughter and profanity. After Stephen separates from Mulligan at the chapter's end, Bloom worries for Stephen's safety and he decides to follow Stephen who has departed for "Baudyville," alongside his friend Vincent Lynch; presumably, the young men intend to visit a brothel.


The Oxen of the Sun were the golden cattle of the sun-god Helios, whose herd freely grazed the sea-side pastures of one of the coasts where Ulysses' crew takes refuge from the stormy seas. In The Odyssey, several members of Ulysses' crew decide to slaughter and roast a few of the oxen, despite Ulysses' repeated warnings. The sun-god Helios is enraged and while he spares Ulysses and the temperate members of his crew, those who have taken part in the slaughter of the sacred flock are destroyed. Joyce's "Oxen of the Sun" chapter engages a thematic question of life versus death, with the sun as the igniting force behind life and the destruction of the cattle as a testament to the destruction that death brings. Dublin's National Maternity Hospital is the setting of the chapter and provides the appropriate context for discussions of birth and dying. Joyce does makes a few references to cattle. The diseased Irish cattle, which Deasy has crusaded for, may be slaughtered in the port of Liverpool. The name of Mina Purefoy's doctor is Horne, a pun on the horns of a bull and the multiple births occurring in the cramped hospital quarters resemble a barnyard scene, complete with a manger.

The principal mother of the chapter, Mina Purefoy, shares her first name with the barmaid Ms. Kennedy whose gold-hair is a reference to the color of the sun as well as the sacred cattle. The birth of Purefoy's "golden child" is also a pun on the words son and sun. The imagery of wool and cattle in regards to Purefoy's newborn son identifies him with Helios' sacred herd while also suggesting that the Purefoy heir may play a messianic role. Amid references to Bullock harbor and the "bullockbefriending bard," the refrain "bullyboy" is repeated applied to the newborn Purefoy, indicating his vigor as well as his congruity with the sacred cattle. "Bullyboy" is one of the few positive bestial references in a novel replete with negative ones. In a day of death and dying, the birth of the healthy young Purefoy is a contrast to the Bloom's dead newborn, presenting a long-awaited response to the novel's ubiquitous expressions of decay and infertility.

Joyce develops the "bullyboy" as a messianic parallel to the Oxen of the Sun, by constructing Mrs. Purefoy as a Virgin Mary-type character. The image of a manger is presented in the narrative even though there are no mangers in the hospital and the absence of Purefoy's husband simulates the exclusive link between the Virgin and the newborn Christ. While is unsurprising that Joyce's thematic treatment of "life and death" relies upon a construction of maternity as the source of life, it is worth noting that the birth of the "bullyboy," like the birth of Christ, reveals the conspicuous absence of a human paternal unit. Instead, Bloom's thoughts of his dead son Rudy suggest paternity's comparative irrelevance and even as Bloom is drawn to Mina as a source of life, the intoxicated young men at his table are mocking and disrespectful in their humorous philosophizing on conception, pregnancy and contraception. In particular, Mulligan's sordid humor is the epitome of "slaughter," for Joyce, as he humorously ponders various violations of life's sacredness.

"Oxen of the Sun" is one of the more difficult chapters to read as Joyce employs another anonymous narrator who is both omniscient and physically absent from the setting of the chapter. Concentrating on the theme of birth, the prose of the chapter is artificially into nine different sections to emulate the nine months of gestation. Early on in the chapter, it becomes clear that each of the nine sections corresponds to a phase in the birth or evolution of the English language. "Oxen of the Sun" opens with a Celtic chant of broken sentences before progressing into various forms of Old and Middle English. As the sentence structure and syntax proceeds chronologically, the chapter assumes a more narrative tone relying upon narrative structures that chronologically correspond to the various syntactical forms of the English Language. During the Old English sections of the chapter, Joyce's narrator emulates the form of Beowulf and other Anglo-Saxon epics. Later on, "Oxen of the Sun" becomes a morality tale of Everyman and again, appears fashioned after Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. As the tension between Stephen and his friends increases and Bloom becomes more alarmed at Mulligan's distasteful humor, the narrative shifts to "modern" versions of the English language, bearing stylistic relationships with Dickens and various Victorian writers. As a debilitated Stephen makes his exit, the language of empire degenerates into dialect and urban slang, the arc from birth to death having come full circle.

The affected narrative style of "Oxen of the Sun" is the source of continuous humor. The opacity and intended "distance" of the narrator's Old English does very little to obscure his insults. At times, the narrator's joy in mocking the characters is just as unflinching as the commentary of the narrator in "The Cyclops," though this narrator lacks the sinister traits of his counterpart. While engaged in a parody of Beowulf, the narrator regards the "wound" of the hero, Bloom, and we later learn that this wound is a mere bee-sting. To express his disapproval of the young men's conversation, the narrator names them as Sirs, whose bawdy displays testify to the intended irony of the narrator's superficial compliment. Later, the young men are regarded as knights sitting at King Arthur's round table if not a fraternity of warriors, gathered in a mead hall. These hyperbolic descriptions have the dual purpose of indicating chronological shifts in the narrative's structure and reminding us that Stephen and his friends are getting drunk in a Maternity Hospital, one of the least likely venues for such activity. When Joyce parodies the famous "morality plays" of Europe's Middle Ages and early Renaissance, the narrator renames many of the characters, giving them names that offer some sort of biographical information, if not character assessment. An intern named Dixon is renamed "learningknight," Lenehan is described as an unimpressive "franklin," Sir Leopold comes to regard Stephen's friends as wastrels just as he is renamed "Calmer" to Stephen's "Boasthard."

The narrator's hyperbolic excesses can be most easily detected in the depiction of Buck Mulligan whose sordid comedy is cast as wholly evil. The Old English narrator parodies himself by referring to Mulligan as Punch Costello, but the harmless (and rather accurate) moniker is replaced by the phrase "child of Lilith," and the Satanic connotations of Lilith juxapose Mulligan with the messianic "bullyboy." Mulligan's subsequent names, "patron of abortions" and "spawn of a rebel," prevent the reader from considering Mulligan's humor as harmless impropriety. The morality tale, featuring "Calmer" and "Boasthard," presents Mulligan as "Killchild" because of his unnecessarily ardent adulation of birth control. Mulligan is renamed "Carnal Concupiscence" after he argues that men should masturbate rather than marry, and he later distributes business cards that read "Mr Malachi Mulligan. Fertiliser and Incubator," in order to advertise his fictitious scheme to live on a compound of women with whom he will fornicate. Mulligan is wholly uninterested in the potential for procreation through sex even as he argues that his role as "Fertiliser and Incubator" will justify his sexual excesses.

At times, Mulligan's unnecessary and immature cruelty resembles Citizen. Mulligan refers to the morning milkmaid whom he calls "Mother Grogan," exclaiming "there's a belly that never bore a bastard." Mulligan's reduction of procreation to its status as an inconvenient side-product of shallow and lust-driven sex, is not the full extent of his offense. Additionally, the young medical student revels in the details of death, corruption, perversion and destruction. Buck spends several minutes discussing incest and he affects the seriousness of a moral philosopher while telling a riddle after which the audience must decide between balancing the life of a pregnant woman against the life of her unborn child. Our final images of Mulligan make explicit references to Homer's "Oxen of the Sun" as Mulligan relishes a story of once eating pre-born calves from living cows. Mulligan is indicted for his intentional and unprovoked efforts to violate the sacredness of life and in satirical praise of Mulligan's numerous songs and alleged visions, the narrator name him Malachi Roland St. John Mulligan.

Bloom's attempts to "rescue" Stephen reflect his concern for Dedalus' physical condition as well as his realization that Stephen's acquaintances would eventually produce in him, their same sacrilegious and crass manners. When Purefoy finally gives birth, Bloom struggles to pull Stephen away from the drunkenness of the table so that he might consider the "miracle" which has just taken place. Suggesting to Stephen that the sincere celebration of birth and life is a necessary characteristic of a true artist, Bloom asserts that "one must have a cold constitution and a frigid genius" to resist rejoicing at the news of Purefoy's birth, considering the fact Purefoy has innocently and patiently suffered three days of intense pain. Bloom's invitation to Stephen is countered by Mulligan's refrain, "O lust our refuge and our strength," a corrupted reference to the Virgin Mary.

The scene in the Maternity Hospital pits Bloom against Mulligan, both of whom intend to influence Stephen, whose lack of maturity becomes glaringly apparent. Stephen appears as alternately fearful and boastful, and the depiction of "young Stephen orgulous of Mother Church" confirms our suspicion that Stephen is irritated by Mulligan's blasphemy because he has been unable to sever his own connections with the Roman Catholic Church. Even as the narrator examines Stephen's emotional "youth" and lack of rigor and independence, both the anonymous observer as well as Bloom agree that Stephen is decent soul who lacks the depraved sensibilities of his acquaintances. Even though Stephen tries to emulate them, his conscience prevents him from fully reveling in their humor.

Despite Bloom's exhausting display of paternal affection and his unspoken thoughts of his son of eleven days, buried "on a fair corselet of lamb's wool," the chapter's tone hints that Bloom and Dedalus will be unable to forge a permanent relationship. While Stephen remains obsessed with questions of paternity, his Hamlet-ghosts and Telemachus-like voyages inevitably return to the image of his dead mother. Stephen's most obvious departure from his two antecedents is his preference of the maternal to the paternal. Despite the chapter's multi-tiered argument against paternity, Bloom continues on his mission. Bloom's overtures to the intoxicated Dedalus are mostly ignored, though not because Stephen intends to disrespect Bloom. The tragic sense of Bloom's condition is heightened by our realization of what Bloom does not know: that he is thinking of his son, while Stephen is thinking of his mother. Bloom is explicitly described as a desperate figure who, "[having] no manchild for an heir looked upon his friend's son and was shut up in sorrow."

The chapter makes reference to "our mighty mother" in addressing the midwives of Mina Purefoy, and we should recall the "birthcable" that Stephen considers as the unifying factor of humanity. Mina Purefoy is similarly constructed as the symbol of a fruitful union between Ireland and the Roman Catholic Church, in contrast to the "sireland." And Purefoy's Virgin Mary imagery is further developed in the parallel between her three days of labor and the three days spanning Christ crucifixion, burial and resurrection. The female is present at the "womb" and at the "tomb" and Molly's thoughts in "Penelope" similarly identify "the aged sisters" who "draw us into life...over us dead they bend."

In contrast, "Nobodaddy," a God-like figure who lacks personal aspects of mercy, epitomizes Joyce's ideas of fatherhood. While the Virgin Mary is elevated, God is punned as a mere "disseminator of blessings" and Stephen recalls his earlier thoughts that fatherhood is fleeting and inconsequential. Mulligan's joke, that he will become a hired fertilizer/incubator, underscores the inconsequentiality of fatherhood. Even Bloom comes under attack as the narrator judges him: "thou has sinned against my light lust." Bloom's sin against the "light" is his masturbation, spilling his seed rather than attempting to create life. There is little hope for the Bloom-Virag line as the narrator notes Bloom's solemnity: "There is none now to be for Leopold, what Leopold was for Rudolph." This is a double-damnation as "Rudolph" is the name of Leopold's father and the name of his son.

Bloom's paternal efforts are transfigured into more of a Christ-like, messianic outreach than fatherly guidance, in part because Bloom is too "different" and too much of a misfit to breach the divide he shares with Stephen. While he cannot claim Stephen as an heir, he is able to play the role of the "Kind Kristyann" who helps Stephen, the "yung man hoose frend tuk bungellow kee." This voice comes from the street, one of the "Nighttime" voices. Occurring at the end of the chapter's "evolution" of the English language, this slang (which closely resembles T.S. Eliot's approximations of black American dialects) expresses ambiguous emotions of Anglo-American Modernists who welcomed the end of Victorian sensibilities, all the while dismayed by the inevitable "culture chaos" of language without structure.

The (European) Modernist response to the rise of "Black English" as being "outside" of the culture is especially poignant in this Joycean context considering that Joyce is a self-exiled Irish writer "outside" of the British culture. Joyce's protagonist, Bloom, is even more "excluded" than the young melancholy Stephen, because Mr. Bloom is an apostate Jew living beyond the pale of orthodox Judaism at the same time that his questionable "Jewishness" makes him a "dark horse" in Catholic Ireland. Finally, the Messiah to which Bloom aspires, is similarly a rejected beneficent character, expelled to the wilderness before an ultimate rejection by his kinsmen and execution by foreigners. Despite the intended opacity of the conclusion's "Black English," this passage provides one of the clearest depictions of Bloom and Stephen.

The narrator explains that Young Stephen needs a place to "lay crown of his hed 2 night," and the alert reader should recall Joyce's earlier employments of the crown pun. Dedalus is Joyce's parallel to the princes Telemachus and Hamlet, and his first name, Stephen, is as Greek as his last name, Dedalus, deriving from the Greek word for crown, Stephanos. The "night" voice humorously refers to Martello as a "bungalow," but in spite of his foreign anonymity and distance, the black street speaker easily identifies the "key" as Stephen's primary concern (and recurring motif), even as the young Dedalus is drunk and clueless. The allusion to Mulligan-the-usurper as Stephen's "frend" is as (intentionally) ironic as the plea to the "Kind Kristyann," Bloom. At the conclusion of "The Cyclops," Bloom "ascended" into heaven, having realized his Elijah/Throwaway potential. Beginning in "Nausicaa," the anonymous narrators initiate Bloom's "Christianization," after a stressful day as an identifiable outsider. While the characters of Ulysses retain their knowledge of Bloom's Jewishness, the narrators allow Bloom to develop messianic imagery, all the while underscoring the fact that, unlike other literary heroes, he is a forgiven failure. Even as his act of masturbation is chained to his immediate desires for an heir, his ambitions to be a Messiah are limited by his depiction as being a "Kristyann" instead of Christ, a facilitator instead of a savior.

Chapter 15: Circe


Bloom follows Stephen and Lynch out of the maternity hospital as they head to Bawdyville, a brothel in the red-light district of Dublin that Joyce refers to as Nighttown. The reader is presented with grisly scenes of street urchin and deformed children, rowdy British soldiers and depraved prostitutes. Bloom follows the young men by train but he gets off at wrong stop and has initial difficulty keeping track of them. He is then accosted by a stranger who refuses to let him pass and a "sandstrewer" runs him off the road.

As Bloom progresses deeper into Nighttown with the hopes of finding young Stephen, the frenetic pace of the red-light district provokes several hallucinations in Bloom and his secret thoughts and hidden fears are played out before us. A sober Bloom is greeted by the spirits of his dead parents as well as the image of his wife Marion (Molly) who speaks to him in "Moorish." The farce continues when Bloom's bar of lemon soap begins to speak and Mrs. Breen, the wife of the lunatic Denis, appears in the road and flirts with Bloom before mocking him for getting caught in the red-light district. Bloom is suddenly in a courtroom, charged with accusations of lechery. Several young girls recount sordid stories of his Bloom, the conspicuous voyeur, and the courtroom's roll includes various characters from earlier in the day including Paddy Dignam and Father Coffey, who presided over Dignam's funeral.

The narrative abruptly shifts when Bloom finally arrives at Bella Cohen's brothel. When Bloom finds Stephen inside, he immediately seeks to protect the young man from being swindled. Stephen continues his own descent into drunken madness and Bloom holds Dedalus' money to avoid any further losses. Stephen's despairing hallucinations reach their climax when he encounters the vengeful ghost of his mother who begs him to return to the Roman Catholic Church. Dedalus breaking his symbolic chains to past by smashing Cohen's cheap chandelier with his walking stick. Chaos ensues when Bella Cohen tries to overcharge Stephen for the damage and Bloom must defend Stephen's interests. Again, as they are leaving the brothel, Bloom comes to the defensive when Private Carr assaults Stephen. Carr attacks the intoxicated young man despite Bloom's insistence that Stephen is incapable of protecting himself. Stephen has lost his glasses, his hand wounded and he immediately faints after Carr's blow. Vincent Lynch deserts Dedalus in Nighttown and Bloom directs Stephen towards shelter. In the final scene of "Circe," Bloom is distracted by the vision of his dead son, Rudy, not as a newborn infant but at the age that he would have been had he lived.


Homer's Circe was an enchantress famed for her beauty as well as her powerful spells. Ulysses visited Circe and after inviting his crew to dine at her table, she turned may of them into swine and led them to her pen where they were joined by her other male victims. Ulysses and his more temperate sailors had to struggle to overcome Circe's powerful charms. Joyce's Circe is Bella Cohen, who runs a brothel in Nighttown in order to pay for her son's tuition at Oxford. The masochist tint of Cohen's brothel emphasizes female domination, lust, gluttony and the bestial nature of man. Bella's enchantress-like function is reaffirmed in the copious pig and bondage imagery of the "Circe" episode. While the ancient Ulysses overpowered Circe, Bloom immediately succumbs to hallucinations. In his major sexual hallucination, Bloom enjoys the transformation of "Bella" to "Bello" as he is "transformed" into a feminized beast. The brothel functions as a sty and both the prostitutes and their patrons are chained to sordidness of Nighttown at the same time that they each suffer under the burdens of memory. Stephen breaks Cohen's chandelier in an effort to ward off his mother's ghost and Stephen's nostalgic and religious obsessions are as "enchanting" and harmful as Bloom's sexual preoccupations with masculinity and virility. Stephen and Bloom are completely vulnerable in Nighttown, as if they are hypnotized or under a spell and both must re-assert themselves.

"Circe," which reads as a play, is easily the longest of Ulysses' chapters. The Joycean hallucinations are as motivated by the logic of dreams as they are by his excessive puns and references to the Bible, to Shakespeare, to music as well as to the previous fourteen chapters of the novel. In Bloom's "Nighttown" hallucinations, earlier events are recounted with the details mixed up. In "Nausicaa," Bloom noted that Gerty MacDowell's attempt at a flirtatious strut looked more like a limp; in "Circe," MacDowell is a limping street urchin. Even though Bloom's mother, Ellen Higgins Bloom, is Jewish, she carries religious symbols and calls upon the "sacred Heart of Mary" in a manner that resembles Stephen's dead mother, Mary Dedalus. Both the Dedalus and Virag family ghosts chastise their living sons who have departed from the religious orthodoxy of their youth.

The "Circe" chapter bears testament to the Modernist Joyce's reliance upon the writings of Sigmund Freud. In particular, Joyce's argument that Bloom's dreams reveal his repressed sexual fears and desires is very Freudian. In Bloom's sado-masochistic hallucination, the brothel becomes a startling place: Bella Cohen becomes a large man named Bello and Bloom becomes a female pig who enjoys being debased and fettered. The extremes of Bloom's hallucination provide insight into his servility in Molly's presence. Towards the end of Bloom's hallucination we find the humorous cheering of bystanders who proclaim the unparalleled sexual prowess of Blazes Boylan. Given the sexually explicit language of the scene, it is little surprise that Ulysses was banned in the United Kingdom and United States when it was first published in 1922.

Stephen's tormenting hallucinations are far less humorous than Bloom's and with his dead mother's ghost in pursuit, Stephen's behavior resembles the madness of Prince Hamlet. All around him, Stephen hears corrupted versions of the love songs that he sang to his mother and just as he has rejected paternity, Stephen must now reject his mother and declare his independence. As soon as Stephen smashes Bella Cohen's chandelier, his mother's ghost vanishes.