Hades and a Short Walk Through the City of the Dead

Ulysses_FuneralThis is a grim read for a Friday morning but at least it is a chapter with more elements in a reasonably straight forward manner. Straight forward for Ulysses that is, but still there is no real problem discerning the narrative – I’m almost beginning to enjoy it!

Before I forget, there are lines occasionally which seem to echo previous words, spoken or thought, but for the first time reader it’s sometimes difficult to locate and divine the meaning of the repetition, or if it even occurred at all. So before I wade through the facts and try to put them in proper order – could anyone tell me anything about the line “I do not like that other world she wrote”. It occurs at the end of Hades but I seem to recall it from an earlier chapter. It might only be my imagination but it’s not the only occurrence. The language and structure seem to lend a strange sense of synchronicity to my reading. Odd ideas and occasional words leap from the outside world and into my reading and vice versa reminding me of the struggle I made through Umberto Eco’s novel Foucault’s Pendulum where random words align to sinister purpose.

Anyhow, here we begin with a funeral cortège, and into the same carriage hop Stephen Dedalus, Martin Cunningham, Simon Power and Leopold Bloom – markedly coming up the rear. Our two main protagonists finally meet then though seem not to be particularly close – merely acquaintances perhaps. I’ve no idea what happens later except that it involves these two somehow. The struggle here for me is to connect all the people. Who is speaking to whom is getting easier to discern, but about what may be getting harder! For me this is the central difficulty – nothing and no-one is plainly described. We are expected to join the dots without any numbers to aid us apparently. While difficult I suppose, it’s not impossible! Bloom points out a figure (or two) – “Your son and heir”? I don’t follow precisely who is meant by that remark unless I take it literally (Stephen has a son?), but it prompts Stephen into a fairly angry response regarding Mulligan: “I’ll tickle his catastrophe” – a quality phrase I may take as one of my own in future! But Stephen has a son?! I imagined him a young bachelor for some reason. Another of the difficulties of being so far in and forming assumptions that turn out to be either flawed or just wrong!

Ulysses-Hades-1At the funeral itself, which seems ungodly quick, Bloom meditates further on the nature and qualities of the dead and of death. This leads to some fairly amusing flights of fancy as he imagines the different possibilities of burial available – how would you bury someone in the air! As in the end so is it in the beginning – and Bloom does not allow his musings on death to prevent his mind from wandering on the beginnings of life also. Sex and death make for uncomfortable bedfellows, but I find these musings perfectly natural and acceptable – it’s how I think at funerals. Blasphemous I know – but it must surely be common to us all.

Despite the name Hades and all the talk and morbid thoughts there is a remarkable humour running through the chapter. There is an amusing anecdote about the mistaken identity of a statue on a tomb and earlier Bloom himself attempts to recount a funny story the point of which escapes me but it has something I suspect to do with Jewishness and money and so may be at his own expense in some way.

The death of Bloom’s son Rudy is close by again, but now is revealed also the suicide of Leopold’s father. Simon Power puts his foot in it and is joined by Stephen both remarking that suicide is that most unforgivable of sins. Martin Cunningham tries to cover in some way for their combined lack of tact, he being the only one ‘in the know’. We also learn that Cunningham’s wife is a drunk as Leopold silently thanks him (I think).

We get a lot of names in this chapter and I feel the urge to write them down – just in case they become important: Ritchie Goulding, Ignatius Gallaher, Paddy Leonard, Ben Dollard, probably not – maybe Corny Kelleher, Ned Lambert, Mr. Hynes, John Henry Menton, John O’Connell, Tom Kernan, Blazes Boylan – certainly. Maybe some of them but equally maybe none of them will be revealed later on, but although Hades was a long chapter (seemed long on a Friday morning anyway) it was one of the more entertaining chapters and leaves me keen for more.



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10 thoughts on “Hades and a Short Walk Through the City of the Dead

  1. When Bloom speaks to Mr. Dedalus, he isn’t speaking to Stephen, but to Stephen’s father, who is about the same age as Bloom. They are in the carriage, looking out at Stephen and Mulligan. Bloom and Stephen haven’t officially met at this point in the story.

    Oh! And a little tidbit – some Joyceans argue that Joyce makes an appearance in this chapter as Macintosh. I’m really enjoying your work – thanks for undertaking such a tremendous task!

  2. Oy! Pardon me! They’re not looking out at Stephen and Mulligan, as you can see. His dad is merely inquiring whether or not the unsavory charlatan is with his son. So, you were definitely correct in thinking that Stephen is a young bachelor. He is.

  3. Your first major misread in the novel, Michael. Don’t be discouraged. These things happen often with first time read-throughs. Much better using the buddy system in reading this novel.

    The Dedalus in the carriage is indeed Simon Dedalus as anaphora points out. The events in this episode happen around the same time of day as the “Proteus” chapter so Bloom spots Stephen on the street just before the young man starts his walk on the beach.

    Simon Dedalus is a great character, much like Joyce’s own father, and will appear a few more times in the novel giving evidence of Stephen’s need for a different kind of father figure.

  4. Fantastic anaphora! Thanks for putting me straight – it makes a whole heap more sense now than it did, but I’ll probably have to re-read it with that idea fixed in my head. Of course the big clue was ‘Mr’ Dedalus – after all Mr Perridge will always be my dad, not me!

    This proves, if nothing else, that I am just reading the book ‘straight’ – without a safety net and I think the idea of making your own mistakes is a healthy one – and it has its funny side too – I wrote down the wrong name like Hynes “M’-I-n-t-o-s-h”!

    Nothing here to make me throw the book out of the window – yet!

  5. Thanks too Rob. Your comments throw up an interesting idea I think and one that is the central problem perhaps of this novel. Does one need to know ‘everything’ in order to appreciate the work or can it stand by itself for the everyman. Like looking at a painting in the Louvre do you need to know the life of the artist to appreciate the painting. The painter (and the author in our case) thought no other explanation was necessary other than what you could see in front of you (or could read). There is a mixed message about Ulysses – one that is an enjoyable ride along a country lane for everyone – the other that it is a dangerous motorway and only experienced drivers may use it.

  6. I do not like that other world she wrote”

    This is a reference to Bloom’s reading of Martha Clifford’s letter.

    She wrote “I call you a naughty boy because I don’t like that other world”

    His comment could have been written “I do not like that other world,” she wrote. I don’t think we ever become clear about what that other world or word is.

  7. You know, Frank, you bring up an interesting point here…

    Michael is using the ’22 text for his read through just as we’re using for the adaptation. There are things in the ’22 that may have been “corrected” in later editions. I’m not sure that “world” for “word” is one of them, but you get my point.

    Should we making these changes in the adaptation or stick firmly with the text of the ’22 and discuss it in the Readers’ Guide?

  8. The word/world thing will come up throughout the day. It’s Martha Clifford’s typo, not a ’22 error, and Bloom thinks occasionally about how interesting it is that the error is word for world. If you keep in mind that they are having a secret correspondence under assumed names, the “other world” could be simply seen as the actual world. [also, I’m not sure that you’ve come to this yet, but I think Bloom met Martha by placing an ad in the paper for a lady typist. How it is that you look for assignations by advertising for a typist is another fascinating question, but all the more reason for him to be amused by her typos.]

    The difficulty of “joining the dots” certainly doesn’t get easier. When I teach Ulysses I compare this experience to being lost without a tour guide in a foreign city where you don’t speak the language–you need to keep your eyes open for clues, but you can’t be trying to retain everything you hear…

    But I think the better analogy may be playing a video game. Noone expects to make it all the way through a complicated video game on the first try. You have to fail hundreds and hundreds of times to make it through a game… and while there are guides to help you get through, the most satisfying knowledge is gained the hard way. And noone (I think) bothers to stop to take notes on who the different characters are, which way the hallways go, what monsters are behind which doors… you just know that as you play over and over again you’ll learn it.

    a great post at any rate. I think you’ll like Aeolus and Lestrygonians…

  9. The word/world ‘error’ is never clarified. Ulysses takes place in the now so unless we come upon Martha Clifford meditating on her error we will never know.
    One of my favourite Odyssian speculations is that Martha Clifford works as Blazes Boylans secretary and we meet her, if it is she, very briefly later on.
    Joyce amused, mused that his book would keep the Professors busy forever. You have just come upon one riddle that can be brooded on for eternity with the certainty that it is insoluble.

    Have fun!

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