Ulysses

by: James Joyce

Episode Sixteen: “Eumaeus”

Summary Episode Sixteen: “Eumaeus”

Bloom silently excuses Stephen’s impolite and possibly unstable behavior on account of his drunkenness or his difficult homelife. Bloom thinks again about the providence of their meeting, and imagines writing a Titbits piece entitled “My Experiences in a Cabman’s Shelter.” Bloom’s eyes wander the evening Telegraph, including an item about Throwaway’s Gold Cup victory and one about Dignam’s funeral, in which Stephen’s name and “M’Intosh” are listed as attendees and his own name is misspelled as L. Boom. Stephen looks for Deasy’s letter.

Conversation in the shelter switches to Parnell and the possibility that he is not dead but merely exiled. Bloom thinks of the time he returned Parnell’s dropped hat to him in a crowd. Bloom meditates on the theme of the long-lost returned or an impersonator claiming to be the long-lost. Meanwhile, the keeper aggressively blames Kitty O’Shea—Parnell’s married mistress—for Parnell’s downfall. Bloom’s sympathies are with O’Shea and Parnell—Kitty O’Shea’s husband was obviously inadequate.

Bloom shows Stephen a picture of Molly. Bloom silently hopes Stephen will abandon his prostitute habit and settle down. Bloom considers himself similar to Stephen, remembering his own youthful socialist ideals. Bloom, his head full of plans for them both, invites Stephen to his house for a cup of cocoa. Bloom pays the bill for Stephen’s uneaten fare, and he takes Stephen’s arm, as Stephen still seems weak. They begin walking home and chat about music, then usurpers and sirens. Stephen sings an obscure song for Bloom, who considers how commercially successful Stephen could be with his vocal talent. The episode ends with a streetsweeper’s view of the two men walking arm in arm into the night.

Analysis

The third-person narrative of “Eumaeus” is full of overused foreign phrases, clichés, and bungled sayings. It depicts the writing of a bourgeois person attempting to convey a sense of “culture” and failing through lack of literary talent or perhaps late-night fatigue. Accordingly, the fluid persona of the narrator more often picks up Bloom’s consciousness than Stephen’s, as Bloom in this episode is concerned with keeping up “educated” conversation with his tired partner and conveying a somewhat distinguished persona himself. The error-ridden and banal narrative is the main device by which this climactic meeting of Bloom and Stephen is rendered anticlimactic. Their fated father-son coming-together, which in another book would perhaps be rendered as a perfect union of consciousnesses and souls, is here as boring as the narrative that describes it. Stephen is still drunk and dazed and remains silent for most of the opening of Episode Sixteen. Bloom, far from being the idealized father figure that Stephen needs, appears hypocritical and naggingly overprotective.

Episode Sixteen, “Eumaeus,” is the first part of the three-episode postlude of Ulysses that is referred to as the “Nostos,” which implicitly likens Bloom’s night to Odysseus’s homecoming to Ithaca. Odysseus disguises himself as an old man to surprise and defeat the usurpers gathered at Ithaca. Before entering the court, Odysseus reveals himself to his son, Telemachus, at the hut of Eumaeus, a swineherd. Because Odysseus returns in disguise, Episode Sixteen is thematically concerned with disguise and false identities. The two main characters, besides Stephen and Bloom, of Episode Sixteen—the keeper of the cabman’s shelter and the sailor D.B. Murphy—are shady characters whose true identities are in question. The keeper is rumored to be the legendary “Skin-the-Goat” Fitzharris who drove the getaway vehicle for the Phoenix Park murderers. And Bloom immediately suspects that Murphy, too, is not who he claims to be. Bloom’s meditations on the theme of the long-lost returned, or an impersonator returned in his place, reunite the Odyssean theme of the wanderer returned with the theme of disguise-impersonation. Interestingly, it is not Bloom, who is referred to as a “landlubber,” but D.B. Murphy (away at sea for seven years), who seems parallel to Odysseus here. This analogy, however, is hardly to be trusted in an episode so concerned with imposters.

Related to its preoccupation with false identities, Episode Sixteen also continues the meditation on rumor and gossip throughout Ulysses. In Episode Sixteen, we see the ability of gossip to both exclude people and create a community, as Bloom—until now a subject of rumor—participates in gossip, partially in an attempt to fraternize with Stephen. Rumor further intersects with history in “Eumaeus.” The historical event of the Phoenix Park murders (in which the British chief secretary for Ireland and the under-secretary were assassinated in Phoenix Park by a group calling themselves the Irish Invincibles) still generated confusion and rumor more than twenty years later, in 1904. While the Phoenix Park murders offer an example of historical events engendering rumor, the case of Parnell demonstrates rumor engendering historical events. Charles Stuart Parnell, a prominent and effective Irish leader, was on the verge of accomplishing home rule for Ireland when news broke of his long-standing affair with the married Kitty O’Shea. Parnell’s career was ruined (as were Ireland’s short-term chances for home rule) when he was persecuted by the Irish Catholic Church and public. Though the shadow of Boylan and Molly’s affair constantly hangs over him, Bloom sympathizes with the adulterous couple, perhaps because he associates himself with Parnell, another civic-reformer and gentleman.