Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Lecture Seven--Hades
(from "Joyce's Ulysses" by Professor James A.W. Hefferman of Dartmouth College)


This chapter is called “Hades” because it reenacts Ulysses’s
journey to the realm of Hades, Who was lord of the dead in Greek
mythology. As Bloom and several other men ride to the cemetery
for the burial of Paddy Dignam, we are reminded ofthe various
references to death that have already occurred in the novel,
beginning with Stephen’s thoughts about his dead mother in
chapter 1. Because Bloom now thinks again of his dead son, Rudy,
and of his dead father, the chapter as a whole seems a memento
mori, a reminder that “in the midst of life, we are in death.” Yet in
spite of all the signs of death around him and his memories ofthe
dead, Bloom is resolutely life-affirming and, like Ulysses, he
returns from the realm of the dead to the World of the living at the
end ofthe chapter. Hence, its basic message reverses the apothegm
quoted above. “In the midst of death,” this chapter shows, “we are
in life.”


I. ln telling the story of a burial, this chapter highlights the theme of
death, which has already been introduced in previous chapters and
which takes a prominent place in virtually all great epics, including The
A. Previous chapters include various references to death.
1. Stephen talks with Mulligan about his dead mother in chapter 
2. Chapter 2 includes discussion of bloody warfare. 
3. ln chapter 3, Stephen sees a dead dog and thinks about a
drowned man. 
4. In chapter 4, Bloom briefly remembers the death of his infant son. 
5. In chapter 5, Bloom thinks of his dead father.
B. Death is a prominent feature of epic poetry, including Homer’s.
1. Nearly all great epics of Western literature include a trip to the
2. In Homer’s Odyssey, Ulysses goes to the underworld and
meets the shades of various Greek heroes. He also talks to the
shade of his own man, Elpenor, who died after getting drunk
and accidentally jumping off the roof of the palace of Circe,
the enchantress.
II. Various characters in this chapter correspond to figures in the Hades
episode of The Odyssey.
A. Paddy Dignam, who drank himself to death, is the counterpart of
Homer’s Elpenor. 
B. The shade of Agamemnon, the Greek king killed by his wife and
her lover, is recalled by the grave of Charles Stewart Parnell,
Ireland’s uncrowned king, who was politically destroyed by the
revelation of his affair with a married woman. 
C. John O’Cormell, the cemetery caretaker, recalls Hades, lord of the
D. Cerberus, the dog who guards the Lmderworld, reappears in the
doglike Father Coffey.
III. ln addition to recalling several characters from Ulysses’s visit to the
underworld, this chapter also re-creates the action of the Homeric
A. Just as Ulysses sails northwest to reach the land of the
Cimmerians, so do the mourners travel by carriage to a cemetery
northwest of central Dublin. 
B. The mourners also cross two rivers and two canals that together
recall the four rivers of Hades. 
C. .lust as Ulysses retums to the world ofthe living at the end ofthe
Homeric episode, so does Bloom walk back out through the
cemetery gates at the end of this chapter.
IV. Paradoxically, this chapter about death reveals-through the eyes of
Bloom-the irrepressibility of life. Reversing the apothegm that “inthe
midst of life, we are in death,” the chapter affirms that “in the midst of
death, we are in life.”
A. Bloom’s sighting of Stephen makes him think not just of Rudy’s
early death but also of the moment when he was conceived.
1. As the funeral carriage starts off, Bloom catches sight of
Stephen heading to Sandymount Strand, where he walks and
meditates in “Proteus.” 
2. Though Simon Dedalus simply rages at Mulligan for
corrupting Stephen, Bloom thinks of the son that Rudy might
have become. 
3. He also recalls the moment of Rudy’s conception, when the
sight of two dogs “at it” prompted Molly to ask him for “a
a. Darcy O’Brien thinks this makes their sexual act “bestial
and obscene.” 
b. But Bloom is celebrating the sudden explosion of life
here: “How life begins,” he says to himself.
B. Bloom also reveals his unabashed love of life in his thoughts about
the sexual ripening of his daughter, Milly. '

V. Nevertheless, Bloom must struggle to preserve his commitment to life
against painful thoughts.
A. The sight of Blazes Boylan reminds him of what Boylan is
planning with Molly. 
B. Mr. PoWer’s tactless denunciation of suicide reminds him of his
father’s death. 
C. The sight of a child’s coffin reminds him of Rudy’s death and his
own possible responsibility for that death.
1. Bloom thinks of an ancient Jewish belief that a child’s health
reflects the virility of his father. 
2. lf he sees himself as responsible for Rudy’s death, this could
explain why he cannot bear to have another child and, hence,
has not had sex with Molly since Rudy’s death.
VI. No matter how hard he tries to be pan of the group of Christian
mourners, Bloom is made to feel isolated because of his Jewishness

A. Bloom is not allowed to identify himself with the others’ aversion
to a Jewish moneylender, nor to finish his funny story about the
1. When Simon Dedalus curses the moneylender, Martin
Cunningham says that “nearly all of us” have borrowed from
him-implicitly excluding Bloom. 
2. When Bloom tries to tell a funny story about the moneylender
to show that he is one ofthe boys~or one of the goys-
Cunningham steals the punchline.
B. A newspaperman who knows Bloom well enough to borrow fiom
him tactlessly asks him for his “Christian name,” then misspells
the sumame in the newspaper.

VII. Rejecting the Christian doctrine ofthe afterlife, Bloom tinnly believes
in the indestructibility of life on earth.
A. Christian burial is guided by the doctrine of the resurrection, the
belief that all good Christians who die will one day rise again and
go to heaven, just as Christ himself did. 
B. Though Bloom rejects the Christian doctrine of the resurrection, he
believes that life on earth continues indefinitely.
1. Corpses fertilize the ground, as exemplified by giant poppies
in Chinese cemeteries. 
2. Bloom thinks that a telephone should be putzinto each coffin
in case the corpse is still living. 
3. He also believes that gramophones should be used to preserve
the voices of the dead. 
4. He’s delighted to see a fat old rat scratching the pebbles
beside a crypt.
Vlll. Just as Ulysses returns to the World ofthe living after his visit to the
underworld, so Bloom happily steps out of the cemetery at the end of
this chapter.
A. He repeatedly affirms his faith in life against everything that
conspires to kill it. 
B. Unlike Simon Dedalus, who wants tojoin his wife in death, Bloom
emphatically wants to live.

Supplementary Reading:
Adams, “Hades,” in Hart and Hayman, pp. 91-114.

Questions to Consider:
l. Why does Bloom reject the doctrine of the resurrection?
2. ln a chapter devoted to the burial of Paddy Dignam, why do we leam
almost nothing about Dignam himself? Why, for instance, do we hear
not one word ofa eulogy for him?

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