Posted by: Lisa Hill | November 8, 2009

Ulysses, by James Joyce (disordered thoughts of an amateur #7)


Chapter 7: Aeolus

Ok, now we’re getting into the tricky stuff.  In chapter 7, otherwise known as Aeolus, Leopold Bloom is in a newspaper office, trying unsuccessfully to lodge an advert.  He’s an advertising man, remember, though he really doesn’t fit the mould of the ad men we see in American sitcoms.  Indeed, it’s really hard to imagine an ad man at the turn of the century, when you remember those dreary old newspapers, solid with text in long columns, punctuated only occasionally with quaint ads for corsets or quack medicines.  We can hear the constant clack of the presses and the narrative is presented in abrupt slabs of text under newspaper headlines.  It’s not a bit like the preceding chapters and the reader’s first reaction is total confusion.  (Probably more so back in 1922 when Ulysses was first launched on an unsuspecting public.)

This jolt into modernism is a precursor to other parodies of text styles later on in the novel.  From my previous reading I recall that Joyce later parodies the Catholic Catechism, for example, and here the text parodies a newspaper.   I’m not very familiar with journalism of the period, but it seems to me that the ‘headlines’ wouldn’t get past an editor today: they’re too long-winded.  To get the joke, you need to identify the motifs of the winds, which brings me to….

So how does this relate to Homer’s Odyssey, eh?

Well, it’s the winds…as in Book 10…

For in Book 10 Odysseus breaks his journey in Aeolia, where Aeolus is Warden of the Winds.  He gives Odysseus a hand by trapping the unfavourable winds in a bag, but alas, when Odysseus nods off at the tiller, his men, who are a bit dim and should know better by now, open the bag and let the winds out because they think the cap’n is holding out on them and has some treasure in the bag.  Blown back to Aeolus, Odysseus gets no more help from the Warden, who is understandably not very impressed.

You have to be wide awake (or have crib notes left in the margins from your university days) to notice the way gusts of wind  blow into the newspaper office, but it’s not hard to pick up on the hot air of gossip, innuendo and nostalgic Irish blarney.  (Not quite the same thing, I agree, but foul winds of a different sort and let’s not quibble.) 

They always build one door opposite another for the wind to.  Way in.  Way out. (p119)

There’s paper strewn by the wind (p120); wind to get off Bloom’s chest (p123) and reminiscent of Odysseus’s boat blown back by the winds, words go backwards, not just those of the typesetters, (p124) but also in palindromes  (p138).  Scent moves on the air (p124), there are zephyrs on p 125, and cheques written on gale days (of which there are plenty in Dublin). Money worries are in the wind (p126) and debts of honour reaping the whirlwind (p127). Newspapermen ‘veer about when they get wind of a new opening‘; and Mr Dedalus ‘gives vent to a hopeless groan’ as he impatiently blows out his moustache. (p127). On p129 there’s a hurricane blowing (except there probably isn’t, so this is an example of hot air too), and a mocking kite on the breeze (p131).

Ok, we’ve got the point about the wind, and being blown back to where you were before i.e. nowhere.  What else happens?  The first ‘meeting’ of Leo Bloom and Stephen Dedalus, that’s what, and this is mighty significant because this is a father/son relationship as in Odysseus and Telemachus, even though they only pass each other by at this stage.  Stephen hands over Deasy’s letter from Chapter 2 so the schoolmaster gets to pontificate in the press, and they want Stephen to write for them.  Why? Does he represent the fresh winds of change, eh? And (let’s play amateur shrink for a moment) if there are autobiographical aspects to the characterisation of Stephen, is this respect from the elders something Mr J would have liked for himself? Having abandoned the moribund literary scene of Dublin for Paris, is Mr J satirising its old fogies and the windy rubbish they produce?

There are keys too.  Remember how Mulligan took the key in Chapter 1 and Bloom left his key behind when he went down to get his kidneys back in (um) Chapter 4?  In Aeolus, Bloom fancies a symbol for his client Alexander Keyes: it’s two crossed keys which also represents home rule for Ireland. But there’s a problem with the design and Bloom goes off to the library to find what he’s looking for, and everyone else goes to the pub.  He is indeed an outsider, isn’t he?

The trouble is, there’s a lot that just doesn’t make sense.  Those crazy rhymes in Italian under the headline ‘RHYMES AND REASONS’  on p139, for example,  – something to do with wind (vento), but what, and to what purpose? All of a sudden there are references to people and characters we don’t know (though we might, maybe, if we were Irish in the 1920s) and a lot of word play. This is obviously one of those chapters that will turn out to have hidden significance, but I need to read on to find out what they are.

Or maybe not.  Maybe I need to re-read it and skulk around online a bit to find out who some of those characters are.  Knowing Mr J as I do by now, I suspect that some of that talk and gossip in the newspaper office must be about writers or politicians or historical figures. I shall dip into it again before starting next month’s chapter, and will be back if I discover anything else worth noting. ..

As before, 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 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.)

PS I am indebted to Jo from Twentieth Century World Literature for explaining that the ‘RHYMES AND REASONS’  on p139 are lines are ‘from Dante’s Inferno and are translated as:

“If the King of the Universe were our friend, we would pray him for thy peace: seeing that thou hast pity of our perverse misfortune. Of that which it pleases thee to speak and to hear, we will speak and hear with you, while the wind, as now, is silent for us.”

The rest of the Rhymes and Reasons section is a continuation of this part of the Inferno and the other Italian words are direct quotes from that work.’

I haven’t read Dante’s Inferno yet. Belum, as they say in Indonesia, indicating that it is something that will be done.  It’s there on my TBR, but I confess here to what may be a foolish ambition: When I started learning Italian for my last trip to Europe, I decided that I’d like to learn Italian properly when I retire and one day read the Inferno as near to the original as is possible…

Page references here are to my battered old copy of the Penguin Ulysses, 1979 ISBN 014003000x (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. Good stuff, Lisa! Thanks!

    2. The coolest thing I ever heard about Bloom’s job was from my college lit prof:
      He has the perfect job for a man in the age of Einstein: he sells pieces of space for pieces of time.

    3. Lisa, I enoy your ramblings. Very nice. Reading Ulysses for the first time. I am through Chapter 9.
      Tough worthwhile reading. I am studying all the rhetorical techniques in Aeolus…unbelievable.
      Came across the LibraryThing site and your disordered thoughts…They are good, helpful, fun-to-read and I suppose you have moved on in your reading…Joycean no?

      • Hi John, it’s nice to meet another fan of James Joyce!
        I haven’t finished Ulysses yet – I read about a chapter a month and will soon be posting my ramblings about Circe (Chapter 15). But when I do finish, I am very tempted to have a go at Finnegan’s Wake. Perhaps it’s naive to think ‘how hard can it be?’ but I’d still like to try it, especially now that there’s so much available online to help if I turn out to be out of my depth.

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