James Joyce's Ulysses
Where It's Always June 16, 1904
The corresponding chapters of the Odyssey tell the story of Odysseus’s return to his homeland of Ithaca – thus nearly ending his long journey. After learning from Athena that he is indeed back in his homeland, he consults with her and assumes the guise of an old beggar. Using the false identity of a weathered sailor from Crete, he visits the home of Eumaeus, his swineherd, and regales to him tales of the sea.
He also makes claims that he has known the soldier Odysseus from the field of battle, a story which Penelope, Telemachus, and the still-loyal servants of Odysseus have heard many times over the years. Odysseus departs and later meets with his son, and reveals his identity to both him and Eumaeus. After gathering allies and making ready to confront his wife’s suitors, Odysseus finally leaves for his palace to right all that has gone wrong in his absence.
The “Eumaeus” chapter of Ulysses attempts to follow this story as accurately as it can. To accomplish this, Joyce created a schematic for each chapter that he tried to follow. He divided this schematic into various sections: for this chapter, they included the art (navigation), the organ (nerves), the prominent symbol (sailors), the techniques (old narrative, relaxed prose), and the sense (the ambush on home ground) that his own work should adhere to in order to be Homerically accurate. The characters in the “Eumaeus” chapter of Ulysses all correspond, through plot elements, to similar characters from the Odyssey. Some characters, however, exhibit traits that link them to more than one character, as will be demonstrated in the following slides. Leopold Bloom, for example, plays the role of both Telemachus and Odysseus throughout this chapter. In the “Eumaeus” chapter of Ulysses, while walking the streets of Dublin, Bloom is constantly on the lookout for desperadoes waiting to ambush those who walk the streets at night. Similarly, in the corresponding chapters of the Odyssey, Telemachus was seen to be wary of the attempts of his mother’s suitors to murder him, and he avoids an ambush that they set for him. However, at the end of the “Eumaeus” chapter of Ulysses, the reader sees Bloom preparing to leave for home and to Molly, knowing that Blazes Boylan, his wife’s suitor, will probably be there waiting for him. In this, he is similar to the hero Odysseus, who, in the corresponding chapters of the Odyssey, prepares to head to his home and to his wife. He leaves knowing full well that her suitors will be there waiting for him.
Stephen Dedalus plays roles that are just as complex as those played by Leopold Bloom. In this chapter, Dedalus plays the role of both Eumaeus and Telemachus.
In the “Eumaeus” chapter of Ulysses, Stephen is seen giving in to Corley’s pathetic begging, even though he has heard stories like his every other night. This is paralleled in the corresponding chapters of the Odyssey when Eumaeus gives Odysseus a handout of food and shelter, even though he had the claim that he knew the whereabouts of Odysseus so many times before.
Stephen can be seen back in the role of Telemachus further on in the chapter, however. In the corresponding chapters of the Odyssey, Odysseus and Telemachus are finally united after both of their long journeys are nearly ended. Similarly, in this chapter of Ulysses, Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus are finally united in meaningful interaction with one another, at a point where the long journey that is June sixteenth is nearing its end.
D.B. Murphy only represents one character, but he represents dual sides of him. Not only does he display characteristics of sailor-Odysseus, but characteristics of beggar-Odysseus as well. In the Odyssey, Odysseus is seen, under the guise of a beggar, telling false tails of the sea to Eumaeus in order to uphold the illusion that he is a Cretan vagabond. Similarly, Murphy tells falsified tales of the sea to the crowd at the cabman’s shelter – he does so in order to uphold the illusion that he has seen and done wondrous things throughout his voyages on the sea. Another fact that likens Murphy to Odysseus is that neither of them have been home to see their wives in over seven years. Murphy was too busy living the life of a sailor to come home, just as Odysseus was too busy living the life of a sailor. Corley, who readers might remember from his shady role in Joyce’s Dubliners, only represents one character, but he represents it pretty damned well. Corley is likened to Beggar- Odysseus. Unlike Murphy, Corley doesn’t resemble Odysseus by telling tales of the sea; he does so by being a beggar, plain and simple. This is further supported when Stephen, in his role as Eumaeus, gives Corley a bit of a handout. Like Corley, Fitzharris only represents one character from the Odyssey, but he also represents it accurately - he represents Eumaeus the swineherd.
In the corresponding chapters of the Odyssey, Eumaeus is presented as a sheepherder or swineherder, depending on translation. This corresponds with how in the “Eumaeus” chapter of Ulysses, Fitzharris is nicknamed “Skin-the-goat,” a name which stinks of herd animals just as much as Eumaeus probably did.
Also in the corresponding chapters of the Odyssey, Eumaeus provides both food and shelter to Odysseus when he needed it most: near the end of his journey. In the “Eumaeus” chapter of Ulysses, Fitzharris is the man who owns the cabman’s shelter, the place where Bloom and Dedalus obtain both food and shelter as they too reach the end of the day.
Yet further evidence can be found in the discourse between the characters of the Odyssey, which reveal that Eumaeus is still loyal to the Greek hero Odysseus, even though he is thought to be long gone. Similarly, in the “Eumaeus” chapter of Ulysses, discourse between the characters shows that Fitzharris is still loyal to the Irish hero Parnell, even though he too has been long gone.
The similarities between this chapter of Ulysses and the corresponding chapters of the Odyssey are many. And as most readers will realize, they are more apparent than many other of Joyce’s chapters.