In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus finally arrives home after a long and precarious journey. Once in Ithaca, he reunites with his son Telemachus at the place of a friendly swineherd named Eumaeus, who was always loyal to him.
Chapter sixteen of Ulysses mostly takes place in a cabman’s shelter run by Skin-the-Goat Fitzharris.
And the reader immediately realizes: Fitzharris is a parallel for Eumaeus in the Odyssey, and the cabman’s shelter is the swineherd’s hut.
While in Homer’s epic we know Eumaeus as the man who helped slaughtering some of Penelope’s suitors, Skin-the-Goat on the other hand is rumored to have some involvement in the Phoenix Park Murders that were discussed in the Aeolus chapter.
Call-backs to previous chapters are a fairly common theme in this chapter, and all of the later chapters. It’s almost as if every paragraph in this book creates a theme, and by the end of the book, each page becomes an echo chamber with all of these themes bouncing around and developing.
For instance, we revisit the mistakes in The Evening Telegraph that we saw in the Hades chapter. We see the Rosevean ship that Stephen observed in the Proteus chapter, and so many other similarities that bring us back to the very beginning of the book.
Chapter Sixteen: Eumaeus
This chapter picks up with Bloom’s “heroic” rescue of Stephen Dedalus from “nighttown” in the Circe chapter.
While the second part of the chapter is mainly composed of the interesting dialogues between Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus, the first part is mostly about Bloom observing Stephen and looking out for him.
Bloom notices how Stephen is overly generous person while watching him lend money to Corley, justifying it with the fact that the latter has nowhere to sleep, even though Stephen himself has no place to sleep either.
Bloom gets even more shocked as Corley asks Stephen if he heard of any job openings, and watches Dedalus encouraging Corley to take his own job at Mr. Deasy’s office.
That in fact seems to be the big revelation in this chapter as Stephen announces that he is resigning from his job.
What will he do next? Maybe a new adventure is awaiting him.
Or maybe, at the end of Circe, he has finally made this decision after freeing himself from the nooses that were hanging around his neck!
“The wanderer” seems to be a dominant theme in this chapter aside from the obvious the developing rapport between Bloom and Stephen, almost portrayed as a father-son relationship once again.
Return of the Wanderer.
Stephen and Bloom meet a sailor that identifies himself as W.B Murphy.
The sailor recounts how he traveled the world and the seven seas while his belligerence and constant exaggeration almost reminds the reader of the mysterious narrator of the Cyclops chapter. It also is reminiscent of someone else…keep reading.
The sailor shows them two tattoos one with the number sixteen and one with a friend of his called Antonio, who he claims was eaten alive by voracious sharks.
The two men wonder if Murphy is lying or exaggerating as he shows them a postcard meant for him while addressed to another name “Senor A. Boudin.”
The important part of the story however is that W.B Murphy is a sailor that has just arrived home to after a long odyssey and looking forward to see his wife again.
And the question arises:
*Who is the real Odysseus?
Is it Leopold Bloom despite the fact he did not see much of the world?
Or is it W.B Murphy the mysterious sailor who has allegedly traveled extensively and now is back looking to see his wife again?
Or is it Parnell who we still don’t know if he will ever make it back home or not?
Neil’s take was that Murphy is the more literal Odysseus character—the seafaring adventurer--in the modern world. He is a throwback, whereas Bloom is the modern-day Odysseus. What’s your take?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments but meanwhile, here’s the recording of the entire session 17 of the Steemit Book Club:
We’ve posted this posting a little late, after we’ve done SBC call #18, so I’m afraid and excited that it’s time to announce:
THE FINAL ULYSSES SBC CALL
“We Made It”
Steemit Book Club, Session 19
Book: James Joyce, Ulysses (Preferably Gabler Edition)
Reading Assignment: Chapter Eighteen (“Penelope”)
Date: Monday, February 6th
Time: 6 p.m. PST / 9 p.m. EST / 2 a.m. GMT / 11 a.m. (Tuesday) UTC
Phone: (800) 719-6100 or (218) 339-7800, access code 629-1831#
Web audio link (and location for international call-in
Chat: #steemit-book-club channel on steemit.chat
See you there, and congratulations to the few remaining brave souls who made it through the book! Maybe YOU are the real Odysseus here.
P.S. Note that the Comments section of this post will also serve as a discussion forum for the current reading.