Molly smells Bloom’s kidney burning and he runs downstairs to save it. Bloom sits down to eat and rereads Milly’s letter. She thanks him for her birthday present and mentions a boyfriend, Bannon. Bloom thinks of Milly’s childhood and of his son Rudy, who died several days after birth. He thinks about Milly becoming a woman and being aware of her own attractiveness. Since Milly has mentioned Boylan in her letter, he thinks of Blazes Boylan’s confidence and feels helpless and regretful. He thinks of visiting Milly.
Bloom fetches a copy of the magazine Titbits and heads toward the outhouse to relieve himself. Bloom thinks of plans for his garden. On the toilet, Bloom reads the story Matcham’s Masterstroke by Philip Beaufoy. Satisfied with the regularity of his bowel movement, he finishes the story and thinks he could write a story and be paid for it. He could write about a proverb or about Molly’s chatter. Bloom wipes himself with part of the story. He reminds himself to check the funeral time in the paper. Hearing the church bells, he thinks with pity about Dignam.
Episodes One, Two, and Three constituted a prologue centering on Stephen as a Telemachus figure. With Episode Four, the morning begins again—it is 8:00 A.M., and this chapter takes place simultaneously to Episode One as we begin the adventures of “Odysseus,” Leopold Bloom. Joyce subtly emphasizes this simultaneity by having both Stephen and Bloom notice the same cloud move briefly over the sun. Thematic correspondences also emphasize the simultaneity: both Stephen and Bloom prepare breakfast for others; both are dressed in mourning; both are dispossessed of their homes (Buck takes charge of the tower, Molly and Boylan will take over the Bloom house); both leave without their house keys.
Aside from these thematic correspondences, Episode Four also serves to set up differences between Bloom and Stephen. Whereas Stephen resentfully helped serve breakfast to Haines in Episode One, Bloom solicitously prepares his wife’s and his cat’s breakfasts before his own. The movements of Bloom’s body are foregrounded while Stephen’s body was virtually absent from Episode One’s narrative. Finally, Stephen’s last word in Episode One—“Usurper”—was theatrically bitter, while Bloom’s last line in Episode Four—“Poor Dignam!”—is sympathetic and mundane.
The character differences between Bloom and Stephen are most clearly evident in their respective thought processes. As we see in Episode Three, a concrete thing turns into an abstract thought in Stephen’s consciousness, and these abstractions often lead back to Stephen himself. Bloom, however, perceives details by putting them in a larger context outside himself. Thus when Bloom walks past Larry O’Rourke’s pub, the establishment spurs thoughts of comparative establishments and of the larger trend of small-time pubowners in Dublin. Whereas Stephen’s trains of thought take him further and further from reality, Bloom checks himself when his imaginings become unrealistic, as with his colorful mental image of walking around the globe. When the cloud passes over the sun in Episode One, Stephen quickly descends into depressive thoughts and is only (partly) revived by the intervention of Buck. Bloom’s thoughts also turn depressingly to death when the same cloud passes over the sun on his way back from the butcher’s, yet Bloom pragmatically and deliberately revives his optimism. Finally, whereas Stephen’s thought processes focus on philosophical or aesthetic problems and terms, Bloom’s mind is practically curious and he answers his questions with practical experience and science.
Bloom begins his daily wanderings with his trip to the butcher’s. Bloom’s wandering sets him in relation to both Odysseus and the tropic figure of the Wandering Jew. Bloom’s attitude toward Judaism, however, is presented as ambivalent at best. He shows practical and romantic interest in the movement for a Jewish homeland and in the newspaper ads for start-up plantations in Palestine. Yet he purposely does not return a glance of implied solidarity from the Jewish butcher and he does not follow Jewish dietary restrictions. The nature of Bloom’s Judaism is not fully revealed in Ulysses—instead, Joyce shows that judgments about Bloom’s Judaism reveal more about the other characters than they reveal about Bloom himself. Bloom is also clearly aligned with Irish identity through various details in Episode Four, such as his Irish-language personal place name, “Slieve Bloom,” and his potato talisman.