Ulysses

by: James Joyce

Episode Seven: “Aeolus”

Summary Episode Seven: “Aeolus”

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.

Analysis

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.