At Dillon’s auction rooms, the lacquey rings the bell. Dilly Dedalus waits outside for her father. Simon emerges and Dilly asks him for money. He hands over a shilling he borrowed from Jack Power. Dilly suspects he has more money, but Simon walks away from her.
The viceregal cavalcade has begun its cross-town journey.
Tom Kernan passes the spot where the patriot Robert Emmet was hanged, and thinks of Ben Dollard singing “The Croppy Boy.” Kernan spots the viceregal cavalcade, but waves too late.
Stephen looks at jewels in a shop window, then browses a bookseller’s cart. His sister Dilly approaches him and asks Stephen if a French primer that she just bought is good. Stephen considers Dilly, who has his eyes and his quick mind but who is caught in the desperate situation at their family home. Stephen is caught between an impulse to save Dilly and the others and an impulse to escape from them completely.
Bob Cowley greets Simon Dedalus and they discuss Cowley’s debt to Reuben J. Dodd, the moneylender. Ben Dollard arrives with advice about Cowley’s debt.
Martin Cunningham, along with Jack Power and John Wyse Nolan, conducts a collection for the Dignam children. Nolan ironically notes Bloom’s generous five-shilling donation. Cunningham, Power, and Nolan meet up with John Henry, the assistant town clerk, and John Fanning, the subsheriff. The viceregal cavalcade passes them.
Buck Mulligan and Haines sit in a coffeeshop, where Parnell’s brother is playing chess in the corner. Haines and Mulligan discuss Stephen—Haines thinks Stephen is mentally off-balance. Mulligan agrees that Stephen will never turn out to be a true poet, because he has been damaged by Catholic visions of hell.
Tisdall Farrell walks behind Almidano Artifoni in a zigzag and collides with the blind man that Bloom helped at the end of Episode Eight.
Dignam’s son, Patrick junior, walks homeward carrying porksteaks. He passes other schoolboys and wonders if they know of his father’s death. He thinks of his father’s coffin being carried out and the last time he saw his father, who was drunk and going out to the pub.
The progress of the viceregal cavalcade (containing William Humble, Earl of Dudley and Lady Dudley, among others) is tracked, from the viceregal lodge in Phoenix park to the Mirus bazaar. It passes many of the people we have seen so far in the chapter. Most of them notice, and some salute the cavalcade.
Episode Ten, “The Wandering Rocks,” serves as an interlude between the first and last nine episodes. The technique of the episode is somewhat filmic. The episode as a whole renders the sense of a wide view of the entire city of Dublin, with figures moving throughout, while the nineteen subsections, and the cut-aways within them, function as quickly changing close-ups. Accordingly, much of the episode is focused on exteriors—appearances and movements. Few characters are granted more than a line or two of interior monologue. The “Wandering Rocks” of The Odyssey were apparently boulders that shifted position in the mist and could capsize a ship (Odysseus never actually sailed through them). Joyce’s “Wandering Rocks” in Episode Ten are represented by textual traps for the reader. The most common type of trap is the one- or two-line interpolations that suddenly describe action happening elsewhere. These textual traps make the narrator seem particularly masterful or obtuse.
The episode is framed on each end by an extended progression—Father Conmee’s trip to a suburban school at the beginning, and the viceregal cavalcade’s progress from Phoenix Park to the Mirus bazaar at the end. Both are on altruistic errands—Conmee is trying to get Dignam’s son into Jesuit school for free, and the Earl of Dudley is presiding over the Mirus charity bazaar to benefit Mercer’s Hospital. Individually, they represent the power of religious and -governmental institutions.
We get a closer view of Stephen’s family in this episode. Stephen is not currently sleeping at home, where his sisters, Maggy, Katey, Boody, and Dilly, struggle to provide subsistence for themselves and the rest of the family since their mother has died. Stephen’s run-in with Dilly at the bookseller’s stall shows Stephen experiencing remorse about his family, especially because Dilly shows a spark of intellect similar to his own. Yet he has just received a paycheck today, and it has been and will be spent on drink, like his father’s money. Stephen refuses to succumb to his conscience and be dragged back into the despair of his family’s poverty and misery.
Bloom and Stephen, though they do not meet, are further aligned in this episode. We see both men browsing a bookseller’s cart (both, interestingly, look at books about sex). Both men do not see the viceregal cavalcade at the end, though most of the other characters do. We see other characters gossiping about Stephen and Bloom, specifically referencing their artistic sensibilities. McCoy tells Lenehan that Bloom has a refined, artistic side, while Buck tells Haines that, though he will never be a poet, Stephen will write something in ten years. This schematic alignment of Stephen and Bloom prepares us for their climactic meeting to come and prepares us to see their “relationship” as potentially something other than father-son.