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Episode Eleven begins with a jumbled prelude of phrases—fragments,
it turns out, of the text to come. Episode Eleven also uses a technique
s-imlar to Episode Ten, whereby sections of text that describe events
happening in another location interrupt the narrative at hand.
The Ormond Hotel barmaids, Lydia Douce and Mina Kennedy, strain
to see the viceregal cavalcade out the window, then gossip and giggle
over their tea. Meanwhile, Bloom is walking past shop windows nearby.
Simon Dedalus enters the Ormond bar, followed by Lenehan, looking
for Boylan. The barmaids serve them drinks and discuss the blind
piano tuner who tuned the Ormond piano earlier today. Dedalus tests
out the piano in the saloon. Boylan arrives and flirts with Miss
Kennedy while he and Lenehan await the wire results of the Gold
In the meantime, while buying notepaper to write to Martha, Bloom
has noticed Boylan’s jaunty car on Essex Bridge. Mindful of Boylan’s
fast-approaching four o’clock rendezvous with Molly, Bloom decides
to follow the car to the Ormond Hotel. Outside the hotel, Bloom
runs into Richie Goulding and agrees to have dinner with him inside—Bloom
plans to survey Boylan. They sit down in the dining room.
Boylan and Lenehan, leaving, pass Bob Cowley and Ben
Dollard on their way in. In the dining room, Pat the waiter takes
Goulding’s and Bloom’s drink orders. Bloom hears the jingle of Boylan’s
car pulling away and nearly sobs with anxiety. In the saloon, Dedalus and
Dollard reminisce about past vocal concerts and the time Dollard
had to borrow evening clothes from the Blooms’ second-hand clothing
shop for a performance. The men discuss Molly appreciatively. In
the dining room, Bloom, too, is thinking about Molly, as Pat serves
Interspersed with these passages are the jingle of Boylan’s
car and updates on its progress toward the Blooms’.
Ben Dollard sings “Love and War,” and Bloom recognizes
it from the dining room. He thinks of the night that Dollard borrowed evening
wear from Molly’s shop. In the saloon, Dedalus is encouraged to
sing “M’appari,” the tenor’s song from Martha.
Goulding reminisces about opera performances. Bloom thinks sympathetically
about Goulding’s chronic back pain and unsympathetically about Goulding’s
tendency to lie. In the saloon, Dedalus begins to sing “M’appari.” Goulding
recognizes Dedalus singing. Bloom thinks of Dedalus’s vocal talent,
wasted by drinking. Bloom realizes the song is from Martha—a
coincidence, as he was just about to write to Martha Clifford. Touched
by the music, Bloom reminisces about his first fateful meeting with
Molly. The song ends to applause. Tom Kernan enters the bar.
Bloom muses on the Dedalus-Goulding falling-out. Ruminating on
the melancholy lyrics of “M’appari,” Bloom thinks about death and
Dignam’s funeral this morning. Bloom thinks to himself about the
mathematics of music, and how Milly has no taste in music.
Bloom begins writing a letter to Martha. He covers the
page with his newspaper and tells Goulding he is answering an advertisement. Bloom
writes flirtatious lines and encloses a half-crown. Bloom feels bored
with the correspondence.
A recurring “tap” begins here—it is the tap of the blind
piano tuner’s walking stick. He is returning to retrieve his tuning
Bloom watches Miss Douce flirt at the bar. Cowley plays
the minuet of Don Giovanni. Bloom thinks about
the omnipresence of music in the world, women’s singing voices,
and the eroticism of acoustic music. He imagines that Boylan is
just arriving to meet Molly. Indeed, Boylan is now knocking on the
Tom Kernan requests “The Croppy Boy” (a nationalist song about
a young member of the 1798 rebellion tricked
and hanged by a British man disguised as his confession priest).
Bloom prepares to leave—Goulding is disappointed. All are quiet
for the song. Bloom watches Miss Douce and wonders if she notices
him looking at her. Bloom hears the line about the Croppy Boy being
the last of his race and thinks about his own stunted family line.
Bloom continues watching Miss Douce, who is running her
hand around the phallic beer-pull. Bloom finally rouses himself.
He bids Goulding goodbye, checks his belongings, and dodges out
to the hallway before cheers erupt at the end of the song.
Bloom walks toward the post office, feeling gassy from
the cider. He regrets making a five o’clock appointment to meet
Cunningham about the Dignams’ insurance. Bloom thinks skeptically
that the Croppy Boy should have noticed that the priest was a British
soldier in disguise.
Back at the Ormond, someone mentions to Dedalus that
Bloom was there and just left—they discuss Bloom and Molly’s vocal
talent. The blind piano tuner finally arrives to retrieve his tuning
Bloom spots Bridie Kelly, a local prostitute with whom
he once had an encounter. He avoids her by looking in a shop window
at a picture of Irish patriot Robert Emmet and his famous last words. Bloom
reads the speech to himself, while farting under the cover of a
noisily approaching tram.
In the Odyssey, Odysseus orders his men
to tie him to the mast of his ship and to plug their own ears so
that they will not succumb to the beautiful song of the sirens and
be diverted to their deaths. Odysseus chooses to be bound and to
keep his ears unplugged because he cannot bear the idea of not hearing
the sirens’ music. Episode Eleven of Ulysses accordingly
focuses on music. The episode takes place around four o’clock and
onward in the afternoon, at the Ormond bar-restaurant where Simon
Dedalus, Ben Dollard, and Bob Cowley entertain the small afternoon
dinner crowd with opera love songs and a nationalist ballad. The
narrative style reinforces the focus on music. The opening section
of disjunctive phrases work as a sort of musical overture or warm-up.
The interspersed “jingle” of Boylan’s car, combined with the recurring
“tap” sound of the blind piano tuner’s cane, provide a sort of underlying
rhythm section to the episode proper.
The sirens themselves are in part represented by the beautiful, flirtatious
barmaids. Bloom is enticed by their charms, especially toward the
end of the episode, when he stays longer than intended, watching
Miss Douce. The sirens are also represented, though, by Simon Dedalus,
Ben Dollard, and Bob Cowley in the saloon. Their renditions of longing
love songs hold the entire bar and dining area in thrall. Bloom’s
mind is captivated by the emotional songs, and whenever there is
a break in their performance, Bloom longs again for the music to
distract him from thoughts of Molly and Boylan. Yet Dedalus, Dollard,
and Cowley are each past their prime and represent the descent into
death. Unmarried or widowed, they represent Bloom’s worst fears
about himself as the last of his family line. Just as Ulysses and
his men escape, so does Bloom ultimately resist the pull of the
music at the end of the episode by rejecting its increasingly sentimental
verses and leaving before the self-congratulatory ending of “The
The technique of the third-person narrative changes with
Episode Eleven to become self-conscious and playful. As we began
to see in Episode Ten, the narrative seems to be arranging bits
of “objective” reporting to create specific meaning, as when Bloom walking
is juxtaposed with the old “fogey” that the barmaids laugh over
in the opening scene of the episode, to maliciously suggest Bloom’s
unattractiveness. The narrative now calls attention to itself as
one big text, with its purposeful repetition of earlier narrative phrases.
The narrative makes the borders of disparate episodes, characters,
and monologue-narrative bleed together.
Parts of Stephen’s interior monologue inexplicably re-emerge here
in Episode Eleven; names become a source of humor as the two men
who order tankards of beer are labeled “tankards,” and the overflowing
feelings introduced by Dedalus’s song are rendered by a series of
composite names such as “Siopold.” The narrative itself is becoming
increasingly part of the plot, rather than the transparent medium
that communicates the plot. This prepares us for upcoming episodes
in which the tone of the narrative will dictate what exactly can
be said and what cannot—forcing us to analyze this interference and
evaluate how the narrative style effects our understanding of the
The “Sirens” episode is generally seen to represent a
turning point in Bloom’s attitude toward Boylan and Molly’s impending affair.
Bloom coincidentally sees Boylan for the third time today. Instead
of hiding, as he has done on the previous two occasions, Bloom resolves
to follow Boylan and even to enter the Ormond hotel and watch his
movements. Though the two men do not actually have a confrontation
in Episode Eleven, the emphasis on the off-stage drama of Molly
and Boylan’s rendezvous, combined with the love-and-war themed songs,
lends a climactic feel to the episode.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Ulysses!