REPORT ON JAMES JOYCE'S ULYSSES
EPISODE 10--THE WANDERING ROCKS (219-255)
At "five to three" the episode of the Wandering Rocks opens and flows through the maze of Dublin on a calculated trip until 4 p.m. Being the middle of Ulysses, and practically the middle of June 16, 1904, the Wandering Rocks "has absolutely no relation to what precedes or follows" (Tindall 179). In other words, what occurs is a theme summary, or an intermezzo within the novel's movement toward conclusion. This episode also "may be regarded as a small-scale model of Ulysses as a whole" (Gilbert 225). It consists of eighteen parts (with one coda), and though certain sections can be connected with corresponding episodes (parts 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 16, 18), in the same context some parts are too vague to reflect a comparison (parts 3, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15, 17). Also noteworthy is that all these sub-sections can be connected in one way or another with the river or blood being the organ that ties the substance of the body on the trek through the self.
The first, and most lengthy section of this episode, begins with Father Comnee, the Jesuit rector of Clongowes Wood College, putting away his watch while walking through the city toward Artane in the northeastern outskirts of Dublin. He stumbles upon a "one legged sailor" begging and contemplates for a moment the sailor's fate: "If [he] had served [his] God as [he] had served [his] king [God] would not have abandoned [him] in his old days" (219). Later in his walk Father Conmee muses over all the lost souls who missed the word of God and "of the millions of black and brown and yellow souls that had not received the baptism of water when their last hour came like a thief in the night" (223). Father Conmee sees this as a waste, one less notch in the bed post of the Roman Catholic Church, one more suicide out of, or one less solider in the army of God that the Pope commands. Remember Joyce's commentary is at times done through sarcasm, and Ulysses is a comic book.
From here Father Conmee's train of thought switches to the history of the area, almost romanticizing the first Countess of Belvedere and whether she had or had not been faithful to her husband's brother, the second Hamlet allusion of this section. The section closes with Father Conmee blessing two young lovers coming out of the bushes flustered, whereas here, we have romanticism having the final say over religion.
Other sections include Corney Kelleher, after examining a coffin, strolling through Dublin. Katey and Boody Dedalus pass a one legged sailor, and later in section four they discuss whether they got any money for their brother Stephen's books. They did not. In section five Blazes Boylan picks out a fruit basket to be sent from Thornton's shop to Molly's residence by tram. The betrayer and lothario within Boylan ogles the fruit girl, just as Bloom flirts with Martha a flower girl. In the sixth section Stephen is speaking with Almidano Artifoni the music teacher and misses the tram. The seventh section focuses on Blazes Boylan's secretary Miss Dunne and her doodles and daydreams. In the next section Ned Lambert explains "the most historic spot in all Dublin" to a visitor and later complains of the cold he has made worse by attending Paddy Dignam's funeral in the Hades episode of that morning (230). The tenth part is the famed section when Bloom grazes through certain passages of Sweets of sin (which later in the day Bloom recalls at certain points). The first and third books that Bloom picks up, The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk and Tales of the Ghetto, are ironically books that, firstly gave rise to Anti-Catholic sentiment, and lastly in Tales of the Ghetto consist of stories of anti-Semitic persecutions. This is the ring and connection Joyce is preparing the reader for with the later connection of Stephen and Leopold Bloom. In the eleventh section Dilly Dedalus greets her father Simon, who demeans and mocks her posture. She does get one shilling and two pence out of him, but intertwined with foul drunken remarks.
The thirteenth section is a return to Stephen's trek through Dublin, while thoughts of Catholicism cloud his inner compulsion. We can relate this section to that of Portrait where "blood will have blood," and again Hamlet enters his interior-dialog. In the fifteenth section, John Wyse Nolan, speaking with Martin Cunningham, says "I see Bloom put his name down for five shillings" towards the Dignam orphans (246) and concludes that "there is much kindness in the Jew"(246). Section sixteen consists of Buck Mulligan and Haines discussing Stephen's mental imbalance: "wandering Aengus I call him" (249). Aengus is the Irish god of youth, beauty and love, in other words driven by emotion and unstable.
The final section or the coda seems to be the final synopsis of the episode as a whole. Each character mentioned throughout this episode is either seen, ignored, or missed (but mentioned). In the final section the lord and lady (William Humble and Lady Dudley) are driven through the streets of Dublin on their way to Mercer Hospital.
There is no literal parallel between Joyce's Wandering Rocks and Homer's text. When Odysseus was given the choice of two routes by Circe, he chose Scylla and Charybdis over the Wandering Rocks. This becomes Joyce's step out of and above Homer as he goes where even the "birds cannot pass" (223). Joyce therefore chooses both paths as a summary of the immovability in Homer's Wandering Rocks, and as his conclusion to the dead ends of Dublin.
Here in the Wandering Rocks episode we not only see an overview of the stagnation of Joyce's Ulysses, but as in typical Joycean fashion, a relation to Dubliners and most of Joyce's writings up to this point. Joyce's Wandering Rock has become an iceberg, moving, melting, and reforming to solidify another angle of avoidance in crossless paths that constantly cross.
Blamires, Harry. The New Bloomsday Book: A Guide Through Ulysses. New York:
Gifford, Don. Ulysses Annotated. Berkeley: U of California P, 1989.
Gilbert, Stuart. James Joyce's Ulysses. New York: Vintage, 1958.
Joyce, James. Ulysses. New York: Vintage International, 1990.
Tindall, William York. A Reader's Guide to James Joyce. New York: Syracuse