Lecture Twenty -- Eumaeus
(from "Joyce's Ulysses" by Professor James A.W. Hefferman of Dartmouth College)
This chapter takes its name from the kindly old swineherd in
Homer’s epic who graciously receives Ulysses just alter he reaches
Ithaca. Even though the swineherd takes him for a stranger
because he pretends to be one, Eumaeus treats him hospitably and
sincerely expresses his desire for Ulysses’s return. In Eumaeus’s
shelter, Ulysses and Telemachus are joyfully reunited. In chapter
16 of Ulysses, Eumaeus appears as the keeper of a cabman’s
shelter where Bloom and Stephen go to talk and refresh
themselves after Bloom guides Stephen out of Nighttown. In what
has been called a style of exhaustion--a language clotted with
newspapery clichés--the chapter explores the theme of return. A
sailor named D. B. Murphy, a would-be modern Ulysses, says he’s
heading home to his wife, and Bloom muses on the fantasy that the
long-dead Parnell might make a miraculous return of his own.
Meanwhile, Stephen and Bloom achieve fleeting moments of real
communication but more often stumble into misunderstanding--
especially when Bloom tries to play the role of a conventional
I. After picking up a drunken, half-conscious Stephen and guiding him
out of Nighttown, Bloom takes him to a cabman’s shelter, where the
two sit down and talk. Because they (and we) are by now exhausted,
this chapter is fittingly written in a style of exhaustion that recycles
clichés from the daily newspaper.
A. The familiar language of the daily paper runs in grooves of cliché.
1. Bloom sees himself writing a newspaper article about the shelter. Thinking he might write something “out of the common groove,” he unwittingly slides into a cliché.
2. Having adopted styles far removed from the everyday style of the newspaper, Joyce parodies this style to show how quickly it can run out of steam.B. The entire chapter speaks in a voice of exhaustion.
II. By showing us that newspapers are often unreliable and woefully
incomplete, this chapter helps us see anew why Stephen feels
compelled to reject joumalism in favor of literature.
A. Dignam’s obituary is both inaccurate and incomplete as a record of his funeral.
1. It is riddled with factual errors, such the misspelling of Bloom’s name.
2. It fails to tell us many things about the funeral that we learn from chapter 6 of this novel, and of course, it fails to tell us anything of what Bloom thinks when he reads the obituary itselfB. When Bloom paternally advises Stephen to write for the newspapers, he echoes Myles Crawford, the newspaper editor,who is eager for Stephen to join his press gang. But this is clearly not what Stephen wants to do.
III. In the figure of D. B. Murphy, who claims to have sailed around the
world, Bloom seems suddenly confronted by a genuine Voyager worthy
of a newspaper article: the true modern counterpart of Homer’s
A. Claiming to have been “sailing about” for seven years, Murphy says his wife is waiting for him in Carrigaloe, on the south coast of Ireland.
B. Unlike Bloom, who has scarcely ever set foot in a boat, Murphy tells tales of fabulous adventures at sea.
C. In telling these stories, Murphy resembles Ulysses pseudangelos,the false messenger. Ulysses pretending to be a stranger from Crete when he meets Eumaeus.
IV. But just as the cabman differs from Eumaeus, so Murphy differs
radically from Ulysses, and this chapter tests our understanding of just
what makes Bloom fundamentally Ulyssean.
A. Aside from keeping a shelter where Stephen and Bloom talk, the cabman shares nothing with Homer’s kind-hearted Eumaeus. Heserves undrinkable coffee and inedible buns.
B. Though Murphy tells fantastic tales about his travels, Bloom displays the shrewdness of Ulysses when he doubts the truth of the tales.
C. Also, Bloom’s thoughts on the theme of the returning traveler help us see anew what makes Bloom fundamentally Ulyssean.
1. Murphy’s statement about the wife waiting for him makes Bloom think of sailors who came home to find their wives remarried--their places usurped.
2. When the cabman speculates that the paper might one day report the return of Parnell, Bloom mentally reviews the whole history of Parnell’s affair with Kitty O’Shea in ways that let us see the links between Parnell and Ulysses and Bloom himself as victims of usurpation.
a. Superficially, Parnell was himself an adulterous usurper who displaced the husband of Kitty O’Shea and, thus, played the role of Blazes Boylan--hardly a man Bloom admires.b. But Bloom sees Parnell as a man victimized by the “siren charms” of an English woman, detained, as Ulysses was, by seductive femininity in the course of his travels.c. Also, Bloom sees Parnell as a man politically usurped by members of his own party, who deserted and betrayed him, making his return to Ireland disastrous.
V. Though Bloom shrewdly observes that Stephen too has been victimized
by desertion, Bloom’s well-meaning fatherly advice to him falls on
A. In place of the great recognition scene between Ulysses and Telemachus, Stephen and Bloom have fleeting moments of understanding.
1. At the beginning of the chapter, for instance, Bloom’s mention of the friend who deserted Stephen in Nighttown clearly strikes a sensitive nerve.
2. Like Bloom, Stephen knows what it means to be desertedB. But more often they misunderstand each other.
1. As a lover of food, Bloom is dumbfounded to learn that Stephen has had no dinner for more than 24 hours.
2. Having no idea of what Boylan means to Bloom, Stephen asks Bloom to seek Boylan’s help on behalf of a deadbeat.
3. Bloom misunderstands what Stephen means by the word “simple” as applied to the soul.
4. Bloom ardently urges Stephen to become a singer, blithely assuring him that the pursuit of a singing career would still leave him “heaps of time to practice literature in his sparetime.”
VI. for all their misunderstandings, the two men sometimes do achieve
A. Recalling his argument with the citizen, Bloom reports he told the citizen that “Christ was a jew . . . like me, though in reality l’mnot.”
1. Though not a practitioner of Judaism, he has identified himself with the Jewish people--as the heir to Judaism through his father.
2. Stephen recalls that Christ was likewise “from” the Jews in his heritage.B. Sitting in the cabman’s shelter, Bloom finds at last a sympathetic listener, and in return, he offers something like paternal support--especially when he invites Stephen to “lean on me” as they leave the shelter.
Bruns, “Eumaeus,” in Hart and Hayman, pp. 363-83
Lawrence, Odyssey of Style.
Questions to Consider:
1. When he tells Stephen about his argument with the citizen, what does Bloom hope to get from Stephen?
2. If Pamell was a notorious adulterer, why does Bloom admire him--or feel any kinship with him?