Episode Seven takes place in the Freeman newspaper offices. New-spaper-like headlines break the episode up into smaller passages. Without the headlines, the episode reads much the same as previous episodes have.
In Dublin’s city-center, tramcars, postal carts, and porter barrels simultaneously roll to their destinations. Bloom is in the back office of the Freeman getting a copy of his Keyes advertisement. Bloom walks through the printing rooms to the Telegraph offices, which are under the same ownership as the Freeman. He approaches the foreman, City Councillor Nanetti, who is Italian by birth and Irish by choice. Nanetti is speaking to Hynes about his report of Dignam’s funeral. Hynes owes Bloom three shillings, and Bloom tries to tactfully remind him about it, but Hynes does not catch on.
Over the noise of the presses, Bloom describes the new design for the Keyes ad: two keys crossed, to evoke the independent parliament of the Isle of Man and thus the dream of Irish home-rule. Nanetti tells Bloom to get a copy of the design and to secure three months advertisement from Keyes. Bloom listens for a moment to the sound of papers shuffling through the printer, then walks toward the staff offices. Bloom watches the men typeset backward and thinks of his father reading Hebrew, from right to left. Bloom enters the Evening Telegraph office, where Professor MacHugh and Simon Dedalus are listening to Ned Lambert, who is mocking Dan Dawson’s overwrought patriotic speech, reprinted in the morning newspaper. J.J. O’Molloy enters and the doorknob bumps Bloom. Bloom remembers O’Molloy’s past as a promising lawyer—O’Molloy now has money troubles.
Lambert continues to mock Dawson’s speech—Bloom agrees with the criticism but reminds himself that such speeches are well-received in person. Crawford enters, greeting MacHugh with mock disgust. Dedalus and Lambert leave for a drink. Bloom uses Crawford’s telephone to call Keyes. Lenehan enters with the sports edition and proclaims that Sceptre will win today’s horserace. We hear Bloom on the phone—he seems to have missed Keyes at his office. Re-entering the room, Bloom bumps into Lenehan. Bloom tells Crawford that he is headed out to settle the Keyes ad—Crawford could not care less. A minute later, MacHugh notices from the window that the newsboys are following Bloom, mimicking his jerky walk. Lenehan imitates it too.
O’Molloy offers MacHugh a cigarette. Lenehan lights their cigarettes, waiting to be offered one. Crawford jokes with MacHugh, a Latin professor, about the Roman Empire. Lenehan tries to tell a riddle, but no one listens.
O’Madden Burke enters with Stephen Dedalus behind him. Stephen hands Deasy’s letter to Crawford. Crawford knows Deasy and comments on Deasy’s ornery late wife, which helps Stephen understand Deasy’s view that women are responsible for the sin of the world. Crawford skims Deasy’s letter and agrees to publish it. MacHugh is arguing that the Greeks and the Irish are similar because they are dominated by other cultures (Roman and British, respectively) yet retain a spirituality that those cultures do not have. Lenehan finally tells his riddle. Crawford comments on the gathering of many talents in the room (literature, law, etc.). MacHugh remarks that Bloom would represent the art of advertising, and O’Madden Burke adds that Mrs. Bloom would add vocal talent. Lenehan makes a suggestive comment about Molly.
Crawford asks Stephen to write something sharp for the paper. Crawford recalls the great talent of Ignatius Gallaher, who reported on the 1882 Phoenix Park murders (the British chief secretary and under-secretary were killed). This recollection sparks many individual stories about the murders and the Invincibles, the group who claimed responsibility. Some of them were hanged, but others remain alive, such as Skin-the-Goat, a character who will appear later in Ulysses. Meanwhile, MacHugh answers the telephone. It is Bloom, but Crawford is too preoccupied with the conversation to speak with him.
O’Molloy tells Stephen that he and Professor Magennis were speaking of Stephen. They are curious about Stephen’s opinion of A.E., the mystical poet. Stephen resists the urge to ask what Magennis said about him. MacHugh interrupts to describe the finest example of eloquence—John F. Taylor’s speech at the Trinity College historical society debate over the revival of the Irish tongue. MacHugh re-enacts the speech, which equated the British, who threaten to culturally overwhelm the Irish, to the Egyptians, who threaten to completely assimilate the Jews.
Stephen suggests they adjourn to a pub, and Lenehan leads the way. O’Molloy holds Crawford behind to ask him for a loan. Stephen walks outside with Professor MacHugh and tells MacHugh a cryptic parable of two old virgins who go to the top of Nelson’s pillar to see the views of Dublin and eat plums.
While Stephen tells his story, Crawford finally emerges outside and Bloom, on his way in, attempts to accost him on the front steps. Bloom wants approval for two month’s renewal of the Keyes ad instead of three. Crawford turns this offer down flippantly and returns to his conversation with O’Molloy. He cannot lend O’Molloy any money.
Ahead, Stephen’s story continues: the women, giddy at the top of the pillar, eat their plums and spit the seeds over the side. Stephen laughs—the story is apparently over, but the listeners are confused. Stephen names his story “A Pisgah Sight of Palestine” or “The Parable of the Plums.” MacHugh laughs knowingly. Meanwhile, the trams and other vehicles all across the city continue to roll.
Episode Seven, “Aeolus,” is the first episode in which the text seems conscious of itself as a text. The newspaper-like headlines break up the otherwise-familiar text and suggest to the reader that an outside editor, author, or arranger is responsible for them. We are no longer involved in a one-on-one relation with the plot of Ulysses—someone is filtering this information for us.
The episode parallels the aftermath of Odysseus’s visit to Aeolus, the god of the winds in the Odyssey. One of Odysseus’s men disobeys him, opening a bag of winds that then blows them off-course. In the “Aeolus” episode of Ulysses, wind is represented by the windy rhetoric used in journalism and oratory. The newspaper-room setting of the chapter, the episode’s headlines, and the men’s own inflated speech, together with the conversation about rhetorical and journalistic triumphs, all support the theme of the episode. Additionally, within the headlines and within the general text of the episode, over sixty different rhetorical figures (such as hyperbole, metonymy, chiasmus) are demonstrated.
Episode Seven also recalls one of Joyce’s earlier works—the short-story collection, Dubliners. Several Dubliners characters appear here (Lenehan, Ignatius Gallaher), and the sense of futility and paralysis of Dubliners filters into this episode depicting mid-day idleness, disappointment, and frustration. Just as Odysseus’s ship was blown off-course by the winds released from the bag, several characters are thwarted in their individual quests. Bloom does not get the Keyes ad in the paper, O’Molloy does not get a loan from Crawford, Stephen never makes it to meet Buck at the Ship pub at noon. If rhetoric is a means for making arguments and convincing listeners, it gets short shrift here. Few comprehensive connections are made in this episode—points and arguments trail off or are swallowed in the noise of the newspaper pressrooms. Instead, language works to obscure and divide: inside jokes, cryptic remarks, and stage-whispered comments abound.
Episode Seven is the first episode in which Stephen and Bloom actually cross paths (at the very end of the episode). Notably, Stephen ignores Bloom, while Bloom, father-like, notes Stephen’s newer boots and, with disapproval, that Stephen has muck on his shoes and is leading the way to the pub. Bloom’s and Stephen’s separate but equal time in the episode invites comparison between their appearances in the Freeman offices. Bloom fails in his task of securing the Keyes ad for three months, while Stephen succeeds in getting Deasy’s letter printed. Stephen has the center of the room, physically and symbolically, while Bloom remains unseen on the outskirts, bumped more than once. Bloom is jokingly referred to as a representative for the art of advertising, while Stephen is treated like a near-equal by the men and is even offered the chance to write for the paper. We also notice the two men’s differing approaches to the domain of public expression. Bloom, as we have seen, has a pragmatic approach to the art of writing, oratory, and advertising. In Episode Four, we saw him consider writing fiction himself, in part to make money by it. Stephen, though flattered by the newspapermen’s high expectations for him, will not waste himself on their type of writing—he will remain focused on his art, his poetry.
This book needs a No Fear for it! But if there were a No Fear made, it should be made in a different way from the others; some lines just need to be put into context. For example, I can't tell if one character is thinking or talking.
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