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Episode Six: “Hades”

Summary Episode Six: “Hades”

The cemetery caretaker, John O’Connell, approaches the men and tells a good-natured joke. Bloom wonders what it would be like to be O’Connell’s wife—would the graveyard be distracting? He admires the neatness of O’Connell’s cemetery, but he thinks it would more efficient to bury bodies vertically. He thinks about the fertilizing power of dead bodies and imagines a system by which people would donate their bodies to fertilize gardens. Thinking of O’Connell’s jokes, Bloom recalls the joking grave diggers in Hamlet. However, Bloom thinks, one should not joke about the dead during the two-year mourning period. In the background, O’Connell and Kelleher confer about tomorrow’s funerals.

The men assemble around the grave, and Bloom wonders who the man in the macintosh is—he is the unlucky thirteenth member of the party, and he was not in the chapel for the service. Bloom thinks of his own funeral plot with his mother and son in it already. He thinks of the horror of being buried alive and how telephones in coffins would prevent it.

The reporter, Hynes, asks Bloom for his full name. Bloom asks him to mention McCoy’s name, as well, as McCoy had requested in Episode Five. He asks Bloom for the name of the unfamiliar man in the macintosh, but Bloom does not know it. Bloom watches as the grave diggers finish. Bloom strolls through the cemetery, thinking that the money spent on luxurious graves could be given to charities for the living and that gravestones would be more interesting if they explained who the person was. He thinks of his upcoming visit to his father’s grave. He sees a rat and thinks of a rat eating a corpse. Bloom is happy to be leaving the cemetery, since he has been thinking about necrophilia, ghosts, hell, and how a graveyard visit makes one feel closer to death. He passes Menton on the way out and tells him his hat has a ding in it. Menton snubs him.

Analysis

Much of Episode Six is concerned with Bloom’s relative isolation within a social group. Bloom is positioned as a latecomer, an outsider, and an anomaly in the cab with Dedalus, Cunningham, and Power; in the chapel service; and in the cemetery in relation to Menton and other attendees of Dignam’s funeral. Bloom’s exclusion is vaguely implicit: Bloom is invited to step in the cab last, and he is not referred to by his Christian name. He is not bantered with, and Hynes (to whom Bloom has lent money) admits to not knowing his Christian name. It is not clear how much Bloom recognizes his own exclusion. For example, the third-person narrator characterizes Cunningham as rude when he interrupts Bloom, yet Bloom himself thinks minutes later about Cunningham’s capacity for sympathy. Aside from the imperious John Henry Menton, the other men’s exclusion of Bloom does not take a vicious form—he is merely not as close to the men as they are to each other and is treated accordingly.

The men’s attitude toward Bloom seems pointed only when it is implicitly connected to his Jewishness or to Molly. When the other men spot Reuben J. Dodd, their animosity for him as a moneylender merges with their anti-Semitism, and Bloom is implicitly excluded from their sentiments, both because of his Jewishness and because he has never had to borrow money. Bloom again feels vaguely attacked when Power, seeing Boylan, asks Bloom if he will be accompanying Molly and Boylan to the concert in Belfast and refers to Molly, less than respectfully, as Madame.

Bloom’s thoughts in Episode Six do not focus on this social exclusion. Instead, Episode Six parallels Episode Three’s thematic focus on fathers and sons. In Episode Three, we saw Stephen thinking for the first time about his father, Simon Dedalus, and about fathers in general, rather than solely about his dead mother. Here in Episode Six, we not only see Simon’s view of his son Stephen, but we also see Bloom’s thoughts move away from Molly and Milly to center on memories of his dead father and son and to thoughts about paternity generally. Here we learn explicitly that Bloom’s father committed suicide several years ago, and Bloom’s thoughts about him dovetail with thoughts about his son, Rudy, who died several days after birth. Bloom’s thoughts on paternity extend easily in this episode from the personal to the general—he views other fathers and sons, such as Simon Dedalus and Dignam’s young son, with an eye of understanding and sympathy. While Stephen, in Episode Three, seem to willfully isolate himself from his father, Bloom here suffers from his own father-son isolation—he has no means by which to continue his family line. Without a patriarchal history or future—the foundation of epics like The Odyssey—Bloom seems remarkably vulnerable in Episode Six.