February 2, 1922
Print (Hardback & Paperback)
644-1,000, depending on edition
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man(1916)
Ulysses is a novel by James Joyce, first serialized in parts in the American journal The Little Review from March 1918 to December 1920, then published in its entirety by Sylvia Beach on February 2, 1922, in Paris. It is considered one of the most important works of Modernist literature.
Ulysses chronicles the passage through Dublin by its main character, Leopold Bloom, during an ordinary day, June 16, 1904. The title alludes to the hero of Homer's Odyssey (Latinised into Ulysses), and there are many parallels, both implicit and explicit, between the two works (e.g., the correspondences between Leopold Bloom and Odysseus, Molly Bloom and Penelope, and Stephen Dedalus and Telemachus). June 16 is now celebrated by Joyce's fans worldwide as Bloomsday.
Ulysses totals about 265,000 words from a vocabulary of 30,030 words. Divided into 18 "episodes", as they are called in scholarly circles, the book has been the subject of much controversy and scrutiny since its publication, ranging from early obscenity trials to protracted textual "Joyce Wars." Ulysses's stream-of-consciousness technique, careful structuring, and experimental prose—full of puns, parodies, and allusions—as well as its rich characterizations and broad humour, have made the book perhaps the most highly regarded novel in the Modernist pantheon. In 1999, the Modern Library ranked Ulysses first on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.
Joyce's first acquaintance with Odysseus was via Charles Lamb's Adventures of Ulysses - an adaptation of the Odyssey for children, which seems to have established the Roman name in Joyce‘s mind. At school he wrote an essay on Ulysses as his 'favourite hero'. Joyce told Frank Budgen that he considered Ulysses to be the only all-round character in literature. He thought about calling Dubliners by the name Ulysses in Dublin, but the idea grew from a story in Dubliners in 1906, to a 'short book' in 1907,, to the vast novel which he began writing in 1914.
Antisemitism and religion
Leopold Bloom identifies himself as a Jew in the Cyclops episode, although his mother, Ellen Higgins, was Roman Catholic, and his father, Rudolph Virag, was born Jewish but converted to Protestantism. Leopold himself converted to Catholicism in order to marry Molly Bloom. He does not observe Jewish customs, but nevertheless displays his sometimes flawed awareness of them throughout the novel.
Don Gifford and Robert Seidman write that Irish antisemitism is one of the major themes of Ulysses. It was not as prevalent as in other parts of Europe, they write, but was nevertheless part of what they call "a bewildering maze of prejudice and intolerance" found in Ireland in 1904, where there was a small but ruling class of conservative and defensive Anglo-Irish Protestants, and a 90 percent majority of Roman Catholics, who as a community were "puritanical and censorious".
The antisemitism manifested itself in stereotypes of Jews as anti-Christian and in derogatory names for them, such as "Jewman". Nevertheless, the Jewish population of Ireland increased as a result of Jews moving from Eastern Europe. There were 472 Jews in the country in 1881 and 3,769 in 1901, amounting to 0.08 percent of the overall population.
Edward Raphael Lipsett, a Jew living in Dublin, wrote in 1906 that, "You cannot get one native to remember that a Jew may be an Irishman ... the idea is wholly inconceivable to the native mind ... The Jews understand the Irish little; the Irish understand the Jews less."
Martin Amis writes that Joyce portrays religion in Ireland in general as an ideology of unexamined cliché, identifying both antisemitism and Roman Catholicism as "fossilizations of dead prose and dead thought".
See also: Linati schema for Ulysses and Gilbert schema for Ulysses
Ulysses is divided into eighteen chapters or "episodes". At first glance much of the book may appear unstructured and chaotic; Joyce once said that he'd "put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant" in order to attain "immortality". The two schemata which Stuart Gilbert and Herbert Gorman released after publication to defend Joyce from the obscenity accusations made the links to the Odyssey clear, and also explained the work's internal structure.
Every episode of Ulysses has an assigned theme, technique and, tellingly, correspondences between its characters and those of the Odyssey. The episode titles and the correspondences were not included in the original text but are known from the Linati and Gilbert schema. Joyce referred to the episodes by their Homeric titles in his letters. He took the titles from Victor Bérard's two-volume Les Phéniciens et l’Odyssée which he consulted in 1918 in the Zentralbibliothek of Zürich. Bérard's book was the source of Joyce's idiosyncratic rendering of some of the Homeric titles: 'Nausikaa', the 'Telemachia'.
Part I: The Telemachiad
Episode 1, Telemachus
It is 8 a.m. on the morning of 16 June 1904 (the day Joyce first formally went out with Nora Barnacle). Buck Mulligan (a callous, verbally aggressive and boisterous medical student) calls Stephen Dedalus (a young writer first encountered in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) up to the roof of the Martello tower, Sandycove, overlooking Dublin bay. Stephen doesn't respond to Mulligan's aggressive and intrusive jokes. Stephen is focused on, and initially disdainful toward, Haines (a nondescript, anti-semitic Englishman from Oxford), whom Buck Mulligan invited around. Stephen's annoyance stems from the intrusion, as he was disturbed the previous night by Haines's moaning about a nightmare.
Mulligan and Dedalus proceed to look out over the sea, and Stephen is reminded of his deceased mother, for whom he is visibly still in mourning. This, and Stephen's refusal to pray at his mother's deathbed, remains an issue of some contention between the two. Stephen reveals that he once overheard Buck referring to his mother as "beastly dead." When faced with this, Buck makes a brief attempt to defend himself, but gives up shortly. He shaves and prepares breakfast, then all three eat. Buck then departs, and sings to himself, unknowingly, the song that Stephen once sang to his dying mother.
Later, Haines and Stephen walk down to the water, where Buck and his companions are swimming. We here learn that Buck has an absent friend from Westmeath who has a yet-unnamed girlfriend (later revealed to be Milly Bloom). Stephen declares his intention to depart, and Buck demands the house key and to be lent money. Departing, Stephen declares that he will not return to the tower tonight, citing Buck as a "Usurper."
Episode 2, Nestor
Stephen is teaching a history class on the victories of Pyrrhus of Epirus. The class is visibly bored, unconcerned with the subject and not disciplined. Before seeing the boys out of the classroom, Stephen tells the students a cryptic and impenetrable riddle about a fox burying his grandmother under a bush, which falls flat. One student, Sargent, stays behind so that Stephen can show him how to do a set of arithmetic exercises. Stephen indulges him, but looks at the aesthetically unappealing Sargent and tries to imagine Sargent's mother's love for him. Afterwards, Stephen visits the anti-semitic school headmaster, Mr. Deasy, from whom he collects his pay and a letter to take to a newspaper office for printing. Deasy lectures Stephen on the satisfaction of money earned and the importance of efficient money-management. This scene is the source of some of the novel's most famous lines, such as Dedalus's claim that God is "a shout in the street" and that "history is a nightmare from which I am trying to wake." He rejects Deasy's biased recollection of past events, which he uses to justify his prejudices. At the end of this episode, Deasy makes another incendiary remark against the Jews, stating that Ireland has never extensively persecuted the Jews because they were never let in to the country.
Episode 3, Proteus
In this chapter, characterized by its stream of consciousness narrative style, the action is presented to the reader through the prism of Stephen's interior monologue. He finds his way to the strand and mopes around for some time, mulling various philosophical concepts, his family, his life as a student in Paris, and again, his mother's death. As Stephen reminisces and ponders, he lies down among some rocks, watches a couple and a dog, writes some poetry ideas, picks his nose, and urinates behind a rock.
Part II: The Odyssey
Episode 4, Calypso
The narrative shifts abruptly. The time is again 8 a.m., but we have moved across the city to Eccles Street and to the second protagonist of the book, Leopold Bloom, a part-Jewish advertising canvasser. Bloom lives at No. 7 Eccles Street and is preparing breakfast at the same time as Mulligan in the tower. He walks to a butcher to purchase a pork kidney for his breakfast and returns to finish his cooking. He brings breakfast and the mail to his wife Molly, whose given name is Marion. He reads his own letter from their daughter, Milly. The chapter closes with his plodding to the outhouse and defecating.
Episode 5, The Lotus Eaters
Bloom now begins his day proper, furtively making his way to a post office (by an intentionally indirect route), where he receives a love letter from one 'Martha Clifford' addressed to his pseudonym, 'Henry Flower'. He buys a newspaper and meets an acquaintance, C. P. M'Coy; while they chat, Bloom attempts to ogle a woman wearing stockings, but is prevented by a passing tram. Next, he reads the letter and tears up the envelope in an alley. He makes his exit via a Catholic church service and thinks about what is going on inside it. He goes to a chemist, then meets another acquaintance, Bantam Lyons, to whom he unintentionally gives a racing tip for the horse Throwaway. Finally, Bloom visits the baths to wash for the rest of the day.
Episode 6, Hades
The episode begins with Bloom entering a funeral carriage with three others, including Stephen's father Simon Dedalus. They make their way to Paddy Dignam's funeral, passing Stephen and making small talk on the way. Bloom scans his newspaper. There is discussion of various deaths, forms of death, and the tram-line before arriving and getting out. They enter the chapel into the service and subsequently leave with the coffin cart. Bloom sees a mysterious man wearing a mackintosh during the burial and reflects upon various subjects. Leaving, he points out a dent in a friend's hat.
Episode 7, Aeolus
At the newspaper office, Bloom attempts to place an ad, while Stephen arrives bringing Deasy's letter about 'foot and mouth' disease. The two do not meet. Bloom notices a worker typesetting an article in backwards print, and this reminds him of his father reading the Haggadah of Pesach (written in Hebrew, read from right to left). The episode is broken up into short sections by newspaper-style headlines, and is characterized by a deliberate abundance of rhetorical figures and devices. Lenehan and Corley appear in this section.
Episode 8, The Laestrygonians
This chapter opens with Bloom walking down the street. He is handed a leaflet, advertising a visiting American evangelist reading, "Blood of the Lamb." Bloom walks over a bridge and tosses the leaflet into the water. He buys two cakes from a woman selling cakes and apples and throws them into the water, watching the gulls quickly snatch up the food. He notices another advertisement on the side of a boat. He thinks about other effective places for ads, such as a doctor's flyer about sexually transmitted diseases in a bathroom. Bloom then wonders if Boylan, who he suspects is having trysts with Marion, might have an STD.
Later, Bloom meets a former girlfriend, Josie Breen. She is now married to Denis who is paranoid, and not mentally stable. Mr. Breen received an anonymous postcard this morning, reading, "u.p.: up." Breen is subsequently attempting to respond with legal action. He asks Josie about Mina Purefoy and she tells him that she is in the hospital about to have a baby. Throughout the rest of the chapter, Bloom returns to the image of Mina giving birth, recalling Molly's pregnancy as well.
Bloom then walks past a group of police officers. This encounter reminds him of the time when mounted policemen chased a gaggle of anti-British medical students. Bloom feels it is likely that those students are probably now part of the institutions they were criticizing. He thinks about other turncoats, such as Carey of the Invincibles and house servants who inform on their employers.
As his walk progresses, Leopold passes an optician's, and thinks about eclipses. He holds up a finger to block out the sun, remembering the time, at night, when he walked with Molly and her lover, Boylan. He speculates that Molly and Boylan may have been touching.
Bloom then enters a restaurant, Burton's. Repulsed by the anti-social sentiments and manner of the patrons, he makes a hasty exit heading instead to Davy Byrne's.
Inside, Bloom is greeted by Nosey Flynn who enquires about Molly and her upcoming tour with Boylan, her manager. Bloom's mind turns to Molly, and her affair. He gives an order of a gorgonzola cheese sandwich and a glass of red wine (burgundy). Bloom then eats. Noticing two flies stuck on the window pane Bloom reminisces about a previous intimate moment with Molly on the Howth Hill: as Bloom lay on top of her, Molly fed him seedcake out of her mouth, and they made love. The reader will later hear this story from Marion's perspective in her soliloquy. Looking back at the flies, Bloom thinks sadly of the many dissimilarities between himself then, when he was happy with Molly, and now.
Bloom finishes his meal and heads to the outhouse.
Having left, Bloom goes forth to the National Library to look up the Keyes ad. Coming across a blind man, Bloom helps him across the road and meditates on how other senses of blind people must be heightened. Bloom suddenly spots Boylan across the street. Panicked, he sharply turns into the gates of the National Museum.
Throughout this episode, Bloom muses upon the concept of a parallax, which he does not fully understand. This can be considered self-reflexive, as the narrative of Ulysses, and the reader's perception, changes profoundly when shown the different characters' perceptions of the same events. The book itself uses parallax as a narrative device.
Episode 9, Scylla and Charybdis
At the National Library, Stephen explains to various scholars his biographical theory of the works of Shakespeare, especially Hamlet, which he claims are based largely on the posited adultery of Shakespeare's wife, Anne Hathaway. Bloom enters the library to look at some statues on exhibit, but does not encounter Stephen except briefly and unknowingly at the end of the episode. Buck Mulligan does see Bloom, however, and jokingly warns Stephen of Bloom's possible homosexuality.
Episode 10, The Wandering Rocks
In this episode, nineteen short vignettes depict the wanderings of various characters, major and minor, through the streets of Dublin. The chapter ends with an account of the cavalcade of the Lord Lieutenant, William Humble, Earl of Dudley, through the streets, where it is encountered by the various characters we have met in the episode. Neither Stephen nor Bloom sees the Viceroy's procession.
This chapter is unique in that it draws Homeric parallels to an incident that is described third-hand in the Odyssey. That is to say, the Wandering Rocks are spoken about in the Odyssey, but never experienced by its protagonist, Odysseus. This is perhaps why Joyce disembodies the narrative from the three main characters.
Episode 11, The Sirens
In this episode, dominated by motifs of music, Bloom has dinner with Stephen's uncle Richie Goulding at the Ormond Hotel, while Molly's lover, Blazes Boylan, proceeds to his rendezvous with her. While dining, Bloom watches the seductive barmaids Lydia Douce and Mina Kennedy and listens to the singing of Simon Dedalus and others.
Episode 12, The Cyclops
This chapter is narrated largely by an unnamed denizen of Dublin, although his style of speech is heavily modeled on John Joyce, Joyce's father. He runs into Hynes and they enter a pub for a drink. At the pub, they meet Alf Bergan and a character referred to only as the 'Citizen', who is largely modeled on Michael Cusack, founder of the Gaelic Athletic Association. Eventually, Leopold Bloom enters waiting to meet Martin Cunningham. The citizen is discovered to be a fierce Fenian and begins berating Bloom. The atmosphere quickly becomes anti-Semitic and Bloom escapes upon Cunningham's arrival. The chapter is marked by extended digressions made outside the voice of the unnamed narrator: hyperboles of legal jargon, Biblical passages, Irish mythology, etc., with lists of names often extending half a page. The episode title Cyclops refers both to the narrator, who is often quoted with 'says I', and to the Citizen, who fails to see the folly of his narrow-minded thinking.
Episode 13, Nausicaä
Three young women, Cissy Caffrey, Edy Boardman, and Gerty MacDowell, have come to the strand to watch a display of fireworks. The chapter opens by following Gerty's stream of consciousness as she daydreams of finding someone to love her. Eventually, Bloom appears and they begin to flirt from a distance. The girls are about to leave when the fireworks start. Cissy and Edy leave to get a better view, but Gerty remains. Bloom has made his way to the rocks of Sandymount Strand where he encounters the young beauty. Bloom becomes the romantic stranger to Gerty by watching her from a distance. She sees Bloom's troubled face and ponders over what terrible thing may have cast him out upon this rocky shore. It is here that Gerty becomes like the Virgin Mary, the beacon "to the storm-tossed heart of man" (346). Her romantic notions of marriage and passion become more abundant as she views Bloom.
Gerty becomes anxious for her friends to leave and inquires of the time as a subtle hint that they should be getting on their way. One of the girls approaches Bloom, asking for the time. Bloom discovers that his watch has stopped at half past four. Later the reader discovers that this is probably the time at which Bloom's wife, Molly, was committing adultery with Blazes Boylan. Bloom does not strike up a conversation with the girl but rather keeps his focus on Gerty who is now fully aware of her admirer. The girls decide that it is late and begin to leave. As they are packing up the children's things, Gerty begins to entice the stranger through the exploitation of her body.
At about this time the benediction at the church has drawn to a close and fireworks are set off. Everyone runs to see the fireworks except for Gerty and Bloom. Gerty, filled with passion, is enticed by the fireworks as she tilts her body backwards to see. As she moves back on the rocks she deliberately exposes herself fully to Bloom. At this moment a long Roman candle is shot off into the air. Gerty sees the long rocket as it goes "higher and higher" (Joyce 366) and leans back even further, exposing even more to Bloom. Gerty's sexual excitement grows as she is "trembling in every limb" (Joyce 366). The imagery of the long rocket corresponds with Bloom's manhood as he is masturbating to Gerty's display in time with the rocket. Finally the two reach their climax as the Roman candle explodes in the air and from it gushes out "a stream of rain gold hair threads" (Joyce 367).
Gerty then leaves, revealing herself to be lame, and leaving Bloom meditating on the beach. Gerty's display of her body is inset with allusions to the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament taking place across the street from the strand in a Catholic church. This is usually read as Joyce's playful punning on the ceremonial display of the 'Body of Christ' in the form of the Host coupled with Gerty's displaying her own body to Bloom (who is clearly acting out his own version of an Adoration). Gerty's final revelation of being 'lame' is also read as Joyce's opinion of the state of the Roman Catholic Church, especially in Ireland. The first half of the episode is marked by an excessively sentimental style, and it is unclear how much of Gerty's monologue is actually imagined by Bloom.
Episode 14, The Oxen of the Sun
Bloom visits the maternity hospital where Mina Purefoy is giving birth, and finally meets Stephen, who is drinking with Buck Mulligan and his medical student friends. They continue on to a pub to continue drinking, following the successful birth of the baby. This chapter is remarkable for Joyce's wordplay, which seems to recapitulate the entire history of the English language to describe a scene in an obstetrics hospital, from the Carmen Arvale
Deshil Holles Eamus. Deshil Holles Eamus. Deshil Holles Eamus.
to something resembling alliterative Anglo-Saxon poetry
In ward wary the watcher hearing come that man mildhearted eft rising with swire ywimpled to him her gate wide undid. Lo, levin leaping lightens in eyeblink Ireland's westward welkin. Full she dread that God the Wreaker all mankind would fordo with water for his evil sins. Christ's rood made she on breastbone and him drew that he would rathe infare under her thatch. That man her will wotting worthful went in Horne's house.
and on through skillful parodies of, among others, Malory, the King James Bible, Bunyan, Pepys, Defoe, Addison and Steele, Sterne, Goldsmith, Junius, Gibbon, Lamb, De Quincey, Landor, Dickens, Newman, Ruskin and Carlyle, before concluding in a haze of nearly incomprehensible slang, bringing to mind American English employed in advertising. Indeed, Joyce organized this chapter as three sections divided into nine total subsections, representing the trimesters and months of gestation.
This extremely complex chapter can be further broken down structurally. It consists of sixty paragraphs. The first ten paragraphs are parodies of Latin and Anglo-Saxon language, the two major predecessors to the English language, and can be seen as intercourse and conception. The next forty paragraphs, representing the 40 weeks of gestation in human embryonic development, begin with Middle English satires, the earliest form of English; they move chronologically forward through the various styles mentioned above. At the end of the fiftieth paragraph, the baby in the maternity hospital is born, and the final ten paragraphs are the child, combining all the different forms of slang and street English that were spoken in Dublin in the early part of the 20th century.
Episode 15, Circe
Episode Fifteen takes the form of a play script with stage directions and descriptions, with characters’ names appearing above their dialogue. The majority of the action of Episode Fifteen occurs only as drunken hallucinations.
The episode opens at Nighttown, which acts as Dublin's red-light district. Stephen and Lynch walk toward a brothel. Bloom attempts to follow Stephen and Lynch to Nighttown, but soon loses them. Here, the episode's first hallucination begins, in which Bloom is confronted by family members, such as Molly Bloom and his parents, and also by Gerty MacDowell, in regards to various offences.
Awakening from this hallucination, Bloom feeds a dog. This act leads onto another hallucination in which Bloom is questioned by a pair of Night-Wardens. From here, Bloom then imagines facing trial, accused of a variety of outlandish crimes, including forgery and bigamy, possibly alluding to a subconscious guilt over his marital duplicity. Bloom is accused and testified against by recognisable figures like Myles Crawford, and Paddy Dignam. Mary Driscoll states that Bloom made inappropriate advances towards her when she was under his employment. Shaking off this fantasy, Bloom is approached by Zoe Higgins, a local prostitute. Zoe tells him Stephen is currently in the brothel that she works in. Another fantasy ensues, in which Bloom gives a campaign speech. Attracting the attention and subsequent admiration of both the Irish and Zionists, and is subsequently hailed as the leader of "Bloomusalem." The hallucination turns more surreal and unpredictable when Bloom is accused of yet more outlandish offenses and for having rumoured sexual abnormalities. Bloom is then declared a woman, and spontaneously gives birth to eight children. Zoe then reappears, signalling the end of the hallucination, with only a second having actually passed since she last spoke.
After Bloom is led inside the brothel and sees Stephen, another hallucination begins with the arrival of Lipoti Virag, who lectures Bloom about sexual attitudes and conduct. Then, the owner of the brothel, Bella Cohen, appears, and is then credited as "Bello," who proceeds to dominate and humiliate Bloom. In this hallucination, Bloom proceeds to "die". After his "death" he converses with the nymph from the picture in the Blooms’ bedroom, who berates Bloom for his fallibility. Bloom, regaining a degree of triumphant confidence, stands up to the nymph, questioning her own sexual attitudes.
Bloom then returns to reality, finding Bella Cohen before him. Bloom takes his lucky potato from Zoe and Stephen pays for the services received, in his drunken state, paying far more than necessary. Seeing this, Bloom confiscates the rest of Stephen's money. Another hallucination starts, involving Bloom watching Boylan and Molly fornicate. Returning to consciousness, Bloom finds Stephen dancing to the pianola. Another hallucination then starts, this time Stephen's, in which the rotting cadaver of his mother rises up from the floor to confront him, a manifestation of his own guilt and lingering uncertainty over his role in his mother's death. Terrified, Stephen uses his walking stick to smash a chandelier. Bloom quickly repays Bella, who demands more than is fair for the damage, then runs after Stephen, worried for his safety.
Bloom quickly finds Stephen engaged in a heated argument, and Dedalus gets punched and knocked out. The police arrive and the crowd disperses. Bloom tends on and checks Stephen, as an apparition of Rudy, Bloom's deceased child, appears, underlining the parental feelings Leopold has built up toward the younger Stephen.
In short, this episode is the longest in the novel yet occurs within a rather short time-frame. Molly's letter from Boylan and Bloom's from Martha are reworked into a series of seductive letters ending in a trial. Bloom's sexual infidelities, beginning with Lotty Clarke and ending with Gerty McDowell, are relived and reconciled.
Part III: The Nostos
Episode 16, Eumaeus
Bloom and Stephen go to the cabman's shelter to eat. There they encounter a drunken sailor, as well as Lord John Corley.
Episode 17, Ithaca
Bloom returns home with Stephen, who refuses Bloom's offer of a place to stay for the night. The two men urinate in the backyard, Stephen departs and wanders off into the night, and Bloom goes to bed. The episode is written in the form of a rigidly organized catechism, and was reportedly Joyce's favourite episode in the novel.
Episode 18, Penelope
The final episode, which also uses the stream of consciousness technique seen in Episode 3, consists of Molly Bloom's Soliloquy: eight enormous sentences (without punctuation) written from the viewpoint of Bloom's wife.
The first sentence begins with Molly expressing annoyance and surprise that Bloom has asked her to serve him breakfast in bed, as it is he that usually does this for her, (such as in the fourth episode, Calypso). She then guesses that Bloom has had an orgasm today, and is reminded of his past possible infidelity with other women. In turn, she thinks of her afternoon spent with Boylan, whose conventional and masculine lovemaking technique provided a welcome change after a decade of celibacy and Bloom's strange lovemaking techniques.Yet, Molly feels Bloom is more virile than Boylan and remembers how handsome Bloom was when they were courting. Reminded of Josie and the mentally unstable Denis Breen's marriage, Molly feels that she and Bloom are lucky, despite the current marital difficulties.
In Molly's second sentence, she reflects upon her previous and current admirers: Boylan; the tenor Bartell D’Arcy, who she was kissed by in a church; Lt. Gardner, who died during Boer War. Molly then thinks about her husband's underwear fetish. She then thinks about seeing Boylan on Monday and their upcoming trip to Belfast alone. She then thinks of her career: concert singing, and Bloom's help. Thinking about her future meetings with Boylan, Molly decides that she must lose weight. She thinks about how Bloom should quit his advertising job at Freeman and get better paid work elsewhere, like in an office. But then remembers having to plead with Mr. Cuffe, a previous employer for Bloom's job back after he was fired, which was refused.
Moving onto the third sentence, Marion thinks of the time Bloom suggested she pose naked in exchange for money, and of pornographic imagery, which she associates with the nymph painting that Bloom used to explain the concept of metempsychosis earlier this morning. Her thoughts once again turn to Boylan and of her orgasm earlier.
Molly's fourth sentence begins with a train whistle and her Gibraltar childhood, her companions there, and recollections of how she had resorted to writing herself letters after they left, out of boredom and loneliness. Molly then thinks about how Milly sent her a card this morning, whereas her husband received a whole letter. She imagines that she may receive another love letter from Boylan, as she did earlier.
This line of thought leads to the next sentence, in which she recalls her first love letter, from Lieutenant Mulvey, whom she kissed under the bridge in Gibraltar. She later lost contact with him and wonders what he would be like now. Her thoughts turn again to her career, and she remains dismissive of silly girl singers. Molly wonders what path her career could have taken had she not married Bloom.
In her sixth sentence, Molly thinks again about Milly and how it was Bloom's idea to send Milly to Mullingar to learn photography, because he sensed Molly and Boylan's impending affair. She feels that Milly has become as Molly used to be. Molly senses the start of her period, confirmation that her tryst with Boylan has not caused a pregnancy. Events of the day spent with Boylan run through her mind.
In her seventh sentence, Molly climbs quietly back into bed and thinks of the times she and Bloom have had to relocate. Their financial situation makes Molly worry that Leopold may have wasted money on another woman, or on the Dignam family out of pity. Her mind then turns to Stephen, whom she met during his childhood. She predicts that Stephen is probably not stuck-up, and is most likely clean. Furthermore, she fantasizes about future sexual encounters with him, including fellatio. Molly resolves to study before meeting him so he will not look down upon her.
In her eighth sentence, Molly thinks of her husband's strange habits, how he never embraces her, instead kissing her bottom, like he did earlier. Molly speculates that the world would be much improved if it consisted of Matriarchal Societies, run exclusively by women. She thinks again of Stephen, and of his mother's death, and that of Rudy's death, she then ends this line of thought as it is making her depressed. Molly thinks about arousing Bloom in the morning, then revealing the details of her affair Boylan to make him realize his culpability. Molly then decides to procure some flowers, in case Stephen Dedalus decides to come around. Thinking of flowers, Molly thinks of the day she and Bloom spent at Howth, his marriage proposal, and her response, reaffirming her love for Leopold, even during a period of turbulence within the marriage.
The concluding period following the final words of her reverie is one of only three punctuation marks in the chapter, the others being after the fourth and eighth "sentences." When written this episode contained the longest "sentence" in English literature, 4,391 words expressed by Molly Bloom.
List of characters
Leopold Bloom - A 38 year old advertising canvasser in Dublin. Loves music and reading as well as thinking about science and explaining things to others. He is preoccupied with his estranged wife, Molly.
Marion (Molly) Bloom - Leopold Bloom's wife. Molly Bloom is 33 years old, chubby, good-looking, and flirtatious. She is a professional singer, managed by Blazes Boylan, with whom she begins having an affair. Although not well-educated, she is clever and opinionated. Molly is impatient with Bloom, especially about his refusal to be intimate with her since the death of their son, Rudy, eleven years ago.
Stephen Dedalus - The first protagonist introduced in Ulysses, Stephen's development from a zealously religious youth to a rebellious aspiring writer is traced in Joyce's earlier novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (in which Stephen was the protagonist). The Stephen of Ulysses is a brilliant, if often abstruse, failed exile - having returned to Dublin from Paris for his mother's death. His complex relationship with his mother (and with Ireland in general) forms the main internal conflict that Stephen deals with on June 16. As in the earlier work he appeared, Stephen is an autobiographical character, largely based on Joyce himself.
Malachi (Buck) Mulligan - A bawdy medical student and a friend of Stephen Dedalus. Mulligan is well-read and ridicules everything and everyone around him. He is well-liked by nearly everyone except for Stephen & Simon Dedalus and Leopold Bloom. Mulligan was based on Joyce's acquaintance and one-time roommate, Oliver St. John Gogarty.
Haines - A student at Oxford who studies Irish people and culture. He has been staying at the Martello tower where Stephen and Buck live.
Hugh ("Blazes") Boylan - Molly Bloom's manager. Boylan is well-known and well-liked around town. Boylan and Molly begin an affair during the novel.
Millicent (Milly) Bloom - Molly and Leopold Bloom's fifteen-year-old daughter, who does not actually appear in the novel but is only referred to. The Blooms recently sent Milly to live in Mullingar to learn photography.
Simon Dedalus - Stephen Dedalus's father. Until his wife died, Simon Dedalus was a fairly successful man but since then his home life has been in disarray. However, he is still admired by others. Simon is a good singer and story and joke teller. He is a heavy drinker. Simon is extremely critical of Stephen. The character of Simon Dedalus was based on Joyce's father, John Joyce.
A.E. - the pseudonym of George Russell, a famous poet of the Irish Literary Revival. People admire his wisdom and consult him for advice.
Richard Best - A librarian at the National Library.
Edy Boardman - One of Gerty MacDowell's friends.
Josie (née Powell) and Denis Breen - Josie and Leopold Bloom were interested in each other when they were younger. At that time, Josie was good-looking but her marriage has taken its toll on her and she is now haggard and worn out. After Bloom married Molly, Josie married Denis, who is mentally unbalanced and paranoid.
Cissy, Jacky, and Tommy Caffrey - Cissy Caffrey is one of Gerty MacDowell's best friends. She looks after her younger toddler brothers, Jacky and Tommy.
The citizen - An older Irish patriot, a champion of Irish nationalism. Though he has no official capacity, others look to him for news and opinions. He was formerly an athlete in Irish sports. He is belligerent, xenophobic and anti-semitic.
Martha Clifford - A woman with whom Bloom corresponds using the pseudonym Henry Flower.
Bella Cohen - A conniving brothel-mistress. She has a son studying at Oxford, whose tuition is paid by one of her customers.
Martin Cunningham - The leader of Bloom's circle of friends.
Garrett Deasy - Headmaster of the boys’ school where Stephen teaches. Deasy is a Protestant and a rabid anti-Semite. His letter to the newspaper about foot-and-mouth disease is the object of mockery among Dublin men for the rest of the day.
Dilly, Katey, Boody, and Maggy Dedalus - Stephen's younger sisters. They try to keep the Dedalus household running after their mother's death.
Patrick Dignam, Mrs. Dignam, and Patrick Dignam, Jr. - Patrick Dignam is a friend of Bloom's who died very recently, apparently from drinking. His funeral takes place on the day of the novel and Bloom and others raise money for the widow Dignam and her children, who were left with almost nothing.
Ben Dollard - A man known around Dublin for his superior bass voice. Ben Dollard's business and career collapsed a while ago.
John Eglinton - An essayist who spends time at the National Library. He attacks Stephen's theories about Shakespeare.
Richie, Sara (Sally), and Walter Goulding - Richie Goulding is Stephen Dedalus's uncle. Richie is a law clerk, who has been less able to work recently because of a bad back — a fact that makes him an object of ridicule for Simon Dedalus. Richie and Sara's son, Walter, is "skeweyed" and has a stutter.
Zoe Higgins - A prostitute in Bella Cohen's brothel.
Joe Hynes - A reporter for the Dublin newspaper who seems to be broke — he borrowed three pounds from Bloom and has not paid him back. He does not know Bloom well, but he appears to be good friends with the citizen in Episode Twelve.
Corny Kelleher - An undertaker's assistant.
Mina Kennedy and Lydia Douce - The barmaids at the Ormond hotel. Mina and Lydia are flirtatious and friendly to the men who come into the bar, though they tend to be scornful of the opposite sex when they talk among themselves. Miss Douce is bronze-haired and has a crush on Blazes Boylan. Miss Kennedy, who is golden-haired, is more reserved than the more outgoing Miss Douce.
Ned Lambert - A friend of Simon Dedalus, often found joking and laughing. He works in a seed and grain warehouse downtown.
Lenehan - A racing editor at a Dublin newspaper. Lenehan is a jokester and flirtatious with women. He is mocking of Bloom but respectful towards Simon and Stephen Dedalus.
Lynch - A medical student and old friend of Stephen. He is seeing Kitty Ricketts. Based on Joyce's one-time friend Vincent Cosgrave.
Thomas W. Lyster - A librarian at the National Library in Dublin and a Quaker.
Gerty MacDowell - A woman in her early twenties from a lower-middle-class family who suffers from a permanent limp. She is fastidious about her clothing and beauty regimen and she hopes to fall in love and marry.
John Henry Menton - A solicitor in Dublin who employed Paddy Dignam before he died. When Bloom and Molly were first courting, Menton was a rival for Molly's affections.
The narrator of episode twelve - The unnamed narrator of Episode Twelve is currently a debt collector, the most recent of many different jobs.
City Councillor Nannetti - A head printer for a Dublin newspaper and a member of Parliament.
J. J. O’Molloy - A lawyer who is now out of work and money. O’Molloy is thwarted in his attempts to borrow money from friends. He sticks up for Bloom in Barney Kiernan's pub in
Jack Power - A friend of Simon Dedalus and Martin Cunningham.
Kitty Ricketts - One of the prostitutes working in Bella Cohen's brothel. She is thin and her clothing reflects her upper-class aspirations.
Florry Talbot - One of the prostitutes in Bella Cohen's brothel. Florry is plump and seems slow but eager to please.