Ulysses

by: James Joyce

Episode Twelve: “Cyclops”

—A nation? says Bloom. A nation is the same people living in the same place.

(See Important Quotations Explained)

Summary

An unnamed, first-person narrator describes the events of his afternoon. In addition to the first-person narration, the episode contains over thirty passages in prose that parody—through hyperbole—Irish mythology, legal jargon, journalism, and the Bible, among other things.

The narrator meets Joe Hynes on the street, and agrees to get a drink at Barney Kiernan’s pub so Hynes can tell the citizen about the foot-and-mouth disease cattle meeting. A passage in the style of old Celtic sagas describes the marketplace they walk past as a land of plenty. Arriving at the pub, they greet the citizen and his dog, Garryowen. The citizen is described at length, mock-heroically.

Alf Bergan enters, laughing at Denis Breen, who is walking by outside with his wife. Bergan tells the story of Breen’s “U.p: up” postcard and orders a Guinness from the bartender. The beverage is lovingly described. The citizen notices Bloom pacing outside and wonders with hostility what he is doing—he refers to Bloom as a freemason.

Talk switches to Paddy Dignam. A seance at which Dignam’s soul appears is described. Bob Doran (a character from Dubliners) rails loudly at the cruelty of God to take Dignam away. The narrator disgustedly notes that Doran is on his annual drinking binge.

Bloom enters—he is supposed to meet Martin Cunningham. Hynes tries to buy Bloom a drink, but Bloom politely refuses. The subject of hangings is raised, and Bloom speaks pedantically about capital punishment. The citizen dominates the conversation, recalling hanged Irish nationalists. The narrator watches Bloom and thinks scornfully of Molly—the narrator knows a fair amount about the Blooms, thanks to Pisser Burke, who has a connection to them. Bloom is trying to make a fine point about hangings, but the citizen interrupts him with narrow-minded nationalistic sentiments. A passage of journalistic prose describes the public spectacle of a martyr’s hanging.

Hynes orders another round. The narrator is bitter that Bloom will not drink nor buy rounds. Bloom explains he is meeting Cunningham to visit Mrs. Dignam. Bloom launches into an explanation of the insurance complexities.