Davy Byrne is curious about Bloom. Flynn begins gossiping: he reports on Bloom’s career, his participation in the Freemasons, how rarely he is drunk, and his refusal to sign his name to any contracts. Paddy Leonard, Bantam Lyons, and Tom Rochford enter and order drinks. They discuss Lyons’s Gold Cup race bet. Bloom walks back through the bar and out. Lyons whispers that Bloom gave him the tip.
Out on the street, Bloom remembers to head toward the National Library to look up the Keyes ad. Bloom escorts a blind man across an intersection. Bloom thinks of how the other senses of blind people are heightened, like touch. He wonders what it would be like to be blind.
Bloom suddenly spots Boylan across the street. Panicked, he ducks into the gates of the National Museum.
Bloom is primarily alone in Episode Eight, “Lestrygonians.” He does not have any errands to run yet; he is merely strolling the city street and looking for lunch. In Episode Four, we were first introduced to Bloom as a preparer and eater of food, and, most notably in the opening lines, a meat lover. Yet, now, outside his own home, the prospect of getting and eating food is more overwhelming and problematic. Episode Eight corresponds to Odysseus’s visit to the island of cannibals in the Odyssey. Under this thematic menace, the meat-loving Bloom opts not to eat at the Burton, where men shove meat into their mouths, and heads instead to Davy Byrne’s for a vegetarian lunch.
The episode opens outside a candy shop, and food pervades Bloom’s thoughts and serves as a tie-in with many other disparate topics. Thoughts of food connect with thoughts of pregnant women, from Molly’s hunger for certain foods while pregnant to Mina Purefoy, currently in labor with many other mouths to feed at home. Food connects with sex, in Bloom’s memory of making love with Molly years ago on a hill as she fed him a seedcake out of her mouth, and in his thoughts of aphrodisiacal food. Food connects with politics as Bloom thinks of the lavish dinners used to make political converts and of the horror of eating in a communal society. Food connects with creativity as Bloom wonders if what A.E. and other poets eat effects their poetry. Finally, food ties into Bloom’s conception of types of “home.” Bloom repeats to himself the Plumtree’s ad he saw this morning in Episode Six (“What is a home without Plumtree’s potted meat? Incomplete. With it an abode of bliss.”), thus connecting this sinister-sounding meat product with marital bliss.
Finally, food connects with religious sacrifice. Religious sacrifice is connected to Bloom being cast as a Christ figure in the first lines of the episode, in which Bloom mistakenly reads his own name in the words blood of the lamb on an evangelist throwaway. Through a chain of further associations, Bloom is presented as a Christ-like martyr. His humanitarian acts that frame Episode Eight reinforce this alignment—Bloom produces Banbury cakes to feed thankless seagulls, and he helps a blind man across an intersection. If Bloom is set up as the sacrifice in this cannibalistic chapter, we might say that he is sacrificed to other Dublin men. Beyond the menacing eaters of the Burton, the men at Davy Byrne’s—first Nosey Flynn, then Bantam Lyons and company—exercise power over Bloom. Their gossipy dialogue eats up the narrative of Bloom’s inner consciousness as he goes to the outhouse. Instead of following Bloom’s thoughts, we are suddenly presented with others’ thoughts about Bloom, many of which are fallacious.
Episode Eight contains Bloom’s thoughts of the word parallax. Bloom has problems understanding this word, as Molly had problems with metempsychosis this morning. Parallax is an astronomical term that roughly refers to the way in which an object seems to be positioned differently when viewed from a different vantage point. Though Bloom does not quite understand this concept, it will continue to appear, and it offers a key to one of the ways in which Ulysses works. As the novel continues, our thoughts and opinions about events and people will become continually revised as we hear about the same events and people from a different character—thus Ulysses features three main characters instead of only one.