Posted by: Lisa Hill | October 17, 2009

Ulysses, by James Joyce (disordered thoughts of an amateur #6)

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia


Chapter 6: Hades

It strikes me afresh as I read on in Chapter 6 (Hades) that Joyce is as observant as an artist with his imagery.  I really felt quite pleased with myself when I picked up on the brief allusion to ‘the hugecloaked Liberator’s form’  on p95.  Not knowing anything much about Irish history I would never have known what this referred to had I not been listening to an audio book of Jill Blee’s The Liberator’s Birthday en route to work each day.  This tells the story of sectarianism in the 1850s Ballarat Goldfields, using a somewhat Bloomsian technique: one day in a saloon, the day that the Catholics celebrated the birthday of Daniel O’Connell, the Liberator who campaigned to have Irish Catholics take their place in the British Houses of Parliament.   (I’m up to the part where the Orange and the green are having a dust-up, just like those saloon fights you’ve seen in American westerns.)  Anyway, the statue that Joyce refers to is the one at the left, and there is apparently one of Parnell at the other end of the street.   

And I shall see them both next year when I visit Dublin for the first time!!  

The colours black and white feature in this chapter, as Bloom makes his way to Paddy Dignam’s funeral: black for mourning, of course, but the white images are arresting, not least because only some of them are ghostly:  

  • The old woman peeping out through the window at the carriage, ‘nose whiteflattened against the pane’ (p88)
  • Molly wearing the ‘cream gown with the rip she never stitched’ (p90)
  • the ‘white disc of a straw hat’ flashing past from a doorway as the mourner’s carriage picks up speed (p94)
  • ‘White horses with white frontlet plumes’ …’in a hurry to bury’ and the ‘whitelined deal box’ as they carry a child’s coffin to the graveyard (p97)
  • Funereal statuary: ‘Silent white shapes at the stonecutters’ (p101) and ‘Dark poplars, rare white forms.  Forms more frequent, white shapes thronged amid the trees, white forms and fragments streaming by mutely, sustaining vain gestures on the air. (p 102) By inference, also the joke about the drunks in the graveyard mistaking a statue of Jesus for their friend Terence Mulcahy. ‘ Not a bloody bit like the man, says he.  That’s not Mulcahy, says he, whoever done it’. (p109)

These allusions link to Homer’s Ulysses and his journey to the Underworld.  Ulysses descends to the realm of the dead, and seeks the advice of the Shades.  Bloom meditates on birth, death and human frailty, and his own losses.  The narrative style (I discover from pencilled notes in the margins of my copy) is incubism, a variety of interior monologue in which a character broods over things.  Well, Bloom does a fair bit of brooding (as one does, at a funeral) but he’s not above pondering a trip to the theatre that night (p93); having some practical thoughts about improving the tramway system (p100) and recycling coffins to be less wasteful (p115).  

Still, there are allusions to many different kinds of deaths:  

  • Bloom’s dead baby son, Rudy
  • memories of his father’s suicide, after Mr Power’s tactless remarks (p98, and p103 when Martin Cunningham tackles him about it)
  • his musings about the death of Prince Albert, and his view that Queen Victoria’s grief was shallow because she wore violets in her bonnet (p104)
  • infanticide – for which there is no mercy (p98)
  • murder:  how people love to read about it and how the ground remains forever contaminated by it (p102)

 holy waterI don’t understand why images of water figure so often in a chapter based on Hades.  Fire, flames, ashes, heat, would make sense to me!  But no, references are made to  

  • ‘the grand canal’ (p91) Is this an allusion to Venice and its waterways, or just a Dublin canal ??
  • ‘a raindrop spat on his hat’  (p92)
  • Bloom’s bath, when he frets about the whereabouts of that incriminating letter (p93)
  • ‘water rushed roaring through the sluices’  and the ‘weedy waterway’ in the Royal Canal (p101)
  • Holy water from the altar boy’s bucket – how droll to see the expensive vessels described in such prosaic terms (p106)

The multiple references to gas make more sense.   On p92 there is the gasworks, on page 105 we learn that Molly swells with gas after eating cabbage (too much information, Poldy!) and about sheep bursting after eating clover.  It’s on p109-110  that the references to the gas of graves makes the link to Bloom’s musings about decomposition of the body clear.   

sacred heartThe organ of the body that features in this chapter is the heart.  Paddy Dignam died of a heart attack (p97), and there are references to arteries (p100); to blood vessels (p103); a broken heart ‘pumping thousands of gallons of blood every day’ (p107) and (surely the most bizarre iconography of  the Catholic Church), the Sacred Heart of Jesus (p115) .  Bloom is bemused:  

The Sacred Heart that is: showing it.  Heart on his sleeve.  Ought to be sideways and red it should be painted like a real heart.  Ireland was dedicated to it or whatever that.  Seems anything but pleased.  Why this infliction?  Would birds come then and peck like the boy with the basket of fruit? (p115)  

We meet Stephen Dedalus’s father in this chapter.  (And I thought he was dead, in Chapter 1, oh dear.)   Compared to his bloodless companions, Martin Cunningham and Mr Power, Mr Dedalus is a ‘noisy selfwilled man’ with an ‘angry moustache’ (p90), and he’s not best pleased with his son’s friendship with that ‘Mulligan cad’. (p89)  Bloom’s poignant reminiscences about little Rudy then make sense of his previous thought that women are ‘glad to see us [men] go we give them such trouble coming’ (p89).  

Once again, I refer serious readers of this chapter to Notes on James Joyce’s Ulysses  written by Gerry Carlin & Mair Evans; Wandering Rocks and if desperate,  Ulysses for Dummies. (Thanks to Brendan at the JoycePortal for this.)  

Page references here are to my battered old copy of the Penguin Ulysses, 1979 (which uses the 1960 Bodley Head edition, which was the 10th edition and has different page numbers to its predecessors.)  

Links to my disordered thoughts for other chapters are below.  NB Page references to anything before Chapter 11 are to my 1979 Penguin, and after that are to my Penguin 2000 reprint.  

  • Intro  
  • Chapters 1,2,3  (Telemachus, Nestor, Proteus)
  • Chapter 4   (Calypso)
  • Chapter 5   (The Lotus Eaters)
  • Chapter 6   (Hades)
  • Chapter 7   (Aeolus)
  • Chapter 8   (Lestrygonians)
  • Chapter 9    (Scylla and Charybdis) 
  • Chapter 10  (Wandering Rocks) 
  • Chapter 11  (Sirens)
  • Chapter 12  (Cyclops)
  • Chapter 13   (Nausicaa)
  • Chapter 14   (Oxen of the Sun)
  • Chapter 15   (Circe)
  • Chapter 16   (Eumaeus)
  • Chapter 17   (Ithaca)
  • Chapter 18   (Penelope)

  • Responses

    1. Thanks to Jo at 20th century fiction, I now know what I should have remembered before, that the allusions to water remind us of Ulysses’ journey to the Underworld, and the sea god Poseidon who is hindering his journey home. If I’d looked up the Cliff Notes, I also have found that “the four rivers of the Greek Hades are paralleled by the four rivers that the men cross on the way to the cemetery: the Dodder, the Liffey, the Grand Canal, and the Royal Canal.” (See
      Thanks, Jo!


    2. […] there’s only one link you click on here today – make it this one from the unlikely sounding AnzLitLovers! This is the kind of in-depth dissection of an individual chapter (Hades in this case) that […]


    3. […] Chapter 6   (Hades) […]


    4. […] Street, where I saw the monument to ‘the liberator’ that I had identified in Chapter 6 of Ulysses. Here it is, ‘the hugecloaked Liberator’s form’  where Leopold Bloom sauntered along his […]


    Please share your thoughts and join the conversation!

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

    You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

    Google photo

    You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

    Connecting to %s

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


    %d bloggers like this: