Ulysses

by: James Joyce

Episode Seven: “Aeolus”

Summary Episode Seven: “Aeolus”

The episode parallels the aftermath of Odysseus’s visit to Aeolus, the god of the winds in the Odyssey. One of Odysseus’s men disobeys him, opening a bag of winds that then blows them off-course. In the “Aeolus” episode of Ulysses, wind is represented by the windy rhetoric used in journalism and oratory. The newspaper-room setting of the chapter, the episode’s headlines, and the men’s own inflated speech, together with the conversation about rhetorical and journalistic triumphs, all support the theme of the episode. Additionally, within the headlines and within the general text of the episode, over sixty different rhetorical figures (such as hyperbole, metonymy, chiasmus) are demonstrated.

Episode Seven also recalls one of Joyce’s earlier works—the short-story collection, Dubliners. Several Dubliners characters appear here (Lenehan, Ignatius Gallaher), and the sense of futility and paralysis of Dubliners filters into this episode depicting mid-day idleness, disappointment, and frustration. Just as Odysseus’s ship was blown off-course by the winds released from the bag, several characters are thwarted in their individual quests. Bloom does not get the Keyes ad in the paper, O’Molloy does not get a loan from Crawford, Stephen never makes it to meet Buck at the Ship pub at noon. If rhetoric is a means for making arguments and convincing listeners, it gets short shrift here. Few comprehensive connections are made in this episode—points and arguments trail off or are swallowed in the noise of the newspaper pressrooms. Instead, language works to obscure and divide: inside jokes, cryptic remarks, and stage-whispered comments abound.

Episode Seven is the first episode in which Stephen and Bloom actually cross paths (at the very end of the episode). Notably, Stephen ignores Bloom, while Bloom, father-like, notes Stephen’s newer boots and, with disapproval, that Stephen has muck on his shoes and is leading the way to the pub. Bloom’s and Stephen’s separate but equal time in the episode invites comparison between their appearances in the Freeman offices. Bloom fails in his task of securing the Keyes ad for three months, while Stephen succeeds in getting Deasy’s letter printed. Stephen has the center of the room, physically and symbolically, while Bloom remains unseen on the outskirts, bumped more than once. Bloom is jokingly referred to as a representative for the art of advertising, while Stephen is treated like a near-equal by the men and is even offered the chance to write for the paper. We also notice the two men’s differing approaches to the domain of public expression. Bloom, as we have seen, has a pragmatic approach to the art of writing, oratory, and advertising. In Episode Four, we saw him consider writing fiction himself, in part to make money by it. Stephen, though flattered by the newspapermen’s high expectations for him, will not waste himself on their type of writing—he will remain focused on his art, his poetry.