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—A nation? says Bloom. A nation is the
same people living in the same place.
See Important Quotations Explained
—A nation? says Bloom. A nation is the
same people living in the same place.
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
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.
The men briefly discuss Nannetti, who is running for
mayor, and the citizen denounces Nanetti’s Italian origins. The
conversation switches to sports: Hynes alludes to the citizen’s
role as a founder of the Gaelic sports revival. Bergan mentions
a recent boxing match from which Boylan profited. Bloom talks about
lawn tennis while everyone else discusses Boylan. A sports journalese
passage describes an Irish-English boxing match. Bergan brings up
Boylan’s and Molly’s upcoming concert tour. Bloom is distant, and
the narrator guesses that Boylan is sleeping with Molly.
J.J. O’Molloy and Ned Lambert enter. Conversation switches
to Denis Breen’s madness—Bloom ponders Mrs. Breen’s suffering, but no
one else is sympathetic. The citizen, involved in a conversation about
Ireland’s troubles, begins making anti-Semitic and xenophobic remarks
while looking at Bloom. Bloom ignores him.
John Wyse Nolan and Lenehan enter. Lenehan tells the
narrator about the Gold Cup race. Throwaway, an outside horse won—Lenehan,
Boylan, and Boylan’s “lady friend” lost money on Sceptre. The cit-izen
continues declaring the exploitation of Ireland—he longs for the
day when Ireland can respond to the wrongs England has committed
against it with force.
Bloom contends that persecution perpetuates nationalistic hatred.
Nolan and the citizen quiz Bloom about his own nationality. Bloom
claims Irish nationality by birth and Jewish allegiance. Nolan suggests
that the Jews have not properly stood up for themselves. Bloom responds
that love and life are better options than force and hatred. Bloom
leaves to go find Cunningham. The citizen ridicules Bloom’s call
Lenehan tells everyone Bloom probably went to cash in
on his Throwaway bet (see Episode Five for this misunderstanding).
The narrator visits the outhouse, thinking disparagingly about Bloom’s stinginess.
He returns inside to find everyone gossiping about Bloom.
Cunningham, Power, and Crofton arrive. A Renaissance-style passage
describes the greetings. Cunningham asks for Bloom, and the new
arrivals quickly become involved in the Bloom-gossiping. Cunningham
reveals Bloom’s Hungarian origins and original family name, Virag.
The citizen sarcastically suggests that Bloom is the new Messiah
for Ireland. He jokingly suggests that Bloom’s children are not
his own, then alludes to Bloom’s femininity. Cunningham calls for
charity toward Bloom and toasts a blessing to all present. A passage
describing the blessing ceremony follows.
Bloom re-enters the pub breathlessly to find that Cunningham has
arrived. Cunningham, sensing that the room is turning belligerent,
escorts Bloom, Power, and Crofton out to their car. The citizen follows,
yelling jibes about Bloom’s Jewishness. The narrator is disgusted
with the citizen for making a scene. Bloom, held back by Power,
lists off famous Jews, including, finally, Christ. The citizen grabs
a biscuit tin and throws it after the car. A long passage provides
an exaggerated description of the impact of the tin. A biblical passage
describes Bloom as Elijah in a chariot ascending into heaven.
Episode Twelve corresponds to the adventure in which Odysseus and
his men become trapped in the cave of Cyclops, a one-eyed monster.
Cyclops seems to be represented by both the narrator and the citizen.
The narrator’s biased first-person (“I”) viewpoint renders him Cyclops-like.
But it is the citizen who is the most clear representation of the
belligerent, one-eyed monster. The citizen’s one-eyed quality is
his particularly uncompromising, narrow-minded, and xenophobic brand
of Irish nationalism. In contrast to the citizen’s one-eyed presence,
Bloom remains distinctly two-eyed—able to consider more than one
side of an issue and to reconcile two viewpoints by compromise.
Bloom’s ability to be moderate in the face of the citizen’s
excessiveness is part of what makes him a target for the men in
this episode. Bloom stands out in several ways. He does not drink,
and thus refuses the friendly economy of standing drinks and having
drinks bought for him. He repeatedly turns the easy-going bar conversation
serious with his intellectual superiority. Yet Bloom seems to have
been targeted before even entering the bar. As the episode continues,
Bloom alone stands up to the citizen’s excessive viewpoints, and
Bloom’s eccentricities (and rumors about his personal affairs) become
synonymous with his Jewishness to the other men, as the atmosphere
becomes increasingly anti-Semitic.
Episode Twelve, “Cyclops,” represents the climax of all
the public chapters of Ulysses—all the tensions
that have been building around Bloom in the other social episodes
come to a head. Here, also, for the first time, we do not get any
interior monologue from either Stephen or Bloom. Instead of our
usual third-person narrator, a first-person, unnamed narrator gives
a biased view of events at Barney Kiernan’s with his own satiric
commentary. In addition to the narrator’s first-per-son commentaries,
thirty-two interspersed passages of inflated prose recall a variety
of styles. These interpolations are unique so far in Ulysses because
they seem to change the setting of the episode—they depart from
Barney Kiernan’s to describe scenes as diverse as a court trial,
a parliamentary session, and a public hanging. They give us a sense
of what is to come in the novel, specifically the dream-like sequence
of Episode Fifteen. Though the styles and settings of the thirty-two
passages differ, they are similar in their hyperbolic quality. None
of the scenes are realistic—all are exaggerated to hilarious degree,
some containing lists that span more than half a page. They render
their subjects laughable, and in their affiliation with the citizen’s
own inflated, excessive, unstoppable rhetoric, they render him laughable
The citizen here represents a particular kind
of Irish nationalism that bases itself on an idea of racial purity.
The citizen’s “us-versus-them” logic allows him to sustain his single-minded,
one-eyed personal and national mission. The citizen is able to recognize
the brutality and moral bankruptcy underlying the British Empire,
yet he cannot recognize these same qualities in Irish society. Here,
the hyperbolic passages step in to reinforce the satire, as when
prose resembling that of a newspaper’s society page describes a
Dublin crowd’s glee and sentimentality at a public hanging. Similarly,
the citizen’s blindness will not allow him to see that just as Bloom
does not buy drinks for the crowd, neither does the citizen himself.
But Bloom’s refusal to stand drinks is codified as a Jewish trait
and used to mark him as different and inferior. Against this one-eyed
perspective stands the fluid symbolism of Ulysses itself,
in which Bloom figures as an Irishman, a Jew, and a Greek (Odysseus).
The symbolism of Episode Twelve increasingly uses Christian imagery
to depict Bloom as a Christ-figure or an Elijah-figure, as others
seek to crucify Bloom or sacrifice him as a scapegoat. These analogies
further suggest an underdog figure victorious in the end. This representation
connects with the symbolism of the Gold Cup horserace in which Throwaway,
the underdog horse that Bloom supposedly tipped Bantam Lyons to,
comes from behind to win the race against Sceptre, the horse on
which Lenehan and Boylan have bet. Because Bloom is distanced from
Sceptre, the phallic and violent connotations of the horse’s name
reinforce his position as a non-violent, effeminate, self-sacrificing
Ace your assignments with our guide to Ulysses!