Ulysses
Ulysses
by James Joyce
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Ulysses Episode 4: Calypso Summary

  • We're back to 8am, but now we're at 7 Eccles Street in Northwest Dublin, the home of Mr. and Mrs. Leopold Bloom.
  • We begin with an elaborate list of all the different types of food that Leopold likes to eat. It begins, "Mr. Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls" (4.1). This morning, kidneys in particular are on his mind, and even the cold morning air makes him feel hungry.
  • Bloom is preparing breakfast for his wife, Molly. As he makes toast, he thinks about her exact likes and dislikes.
  • A cat comes around the leg of the table, and Bloom begins talking to it. The cat mews. Bloom asks if it wants milk, and thinks about what he might look like from the cat's perspective. Bloom teases the cat about being afraid of the chickens.
  • Bloom pours milk for the cat. He considers the oft-heard rumor that if you cut off a cat's whiskers, they can't chase mice or make their way in the dark.
  • Bloom thinks about where he will get breakfast food and decides to go to the butcher Dlugacz's. As the cat laps at the milk Bloom wonders at how rough a cat's tongue is.
  • Bloom carefully makes his way upstairs, tells Molly he is going out, and asks if she wants anything for breakfast. She grunts at him that she does not want anything.
  • Bloom hears Molly turn on the bed springs and thinks about how she was raised in Gibraltar, and what a hard case her father, old Tweedy, is. He wonders at a time old Tweedy made a killing by gathering together all the copies of a rare stamp, and thinks that he and his military buddies must be in league together to make money.
  • Bloom peeks inside his hatband to make sure it has a certain white slip of paper in it before he heads out.
  • Realizing he doesn't have the latchkey, Bloom leaves the door ever so slightly ajar so that he can get in when he comes back.
  • Bloom crosses Eccles Street and admires the steeple of George's church. He considers the common wisdom that black either reflects or refracts heat (he can't remember the word).
  • He thinks about how if you kept traveling around the world in front of the sun you would never grow old.
  • Bloom falls into a daydream and imagines a city gate on these travels manned by old Tweedy. He imagines the sights and sounds of the orient as he crosses through them, all provided by a book on Bloom's shelf at home by Frederick Thompson.
  • Bloom thinks that the way Thompson describes the orient is probably not at all how it actually is. He considers a quote from Arthur Griffith about how the Freeman journal had a clever phrase about the Bank of Ireland being in a building that used to be Parliament before Ireland signed the Act of Union which merged it with England. (Note: you'll notice the fight for Irish independence is a recurrent theme in the book.)
  • Bloom passes by a couple of grocers, and thinks about the quality of the neighborhood there. He sees Larry O'Rourke leaning against a sugarbin, and recalls hearing him argue with Simon Dedalus (Stephen's father) about the outcome of the Russo-Japanese war. O'Rourke ended up being right.
  • Bloom decides to stop and discuss a man named Dignam, whose funeral is today. When he sees the helpers in the shop, who come from the west of Ireland, he wonders how they support themselves in Dublin. He thinks they are drunks and can't imagine that any of them will go on to succeed.
  • Bloom continues walking and observes the sights and sounds of Dublin. He stops at the butcher Dlugacz's window and eyes all the meat that he has on display. When Bloom goes to the counter to check out with his kidney, he finds himself next to his neighbor's daughter. He admires her hips as the butcher wraps up her sausages.
  • Bloom picks up a cut page and looks at an ad for a farm on the shore of the Tiberias looking for Jewish workers. He thinks of Moses Montefiore, known for standing up for Jewish rights in England. He remembers working for Joseph Cuffe at the cattlemarket when he was younger. He focuses on not eying his neighbor's daughter.
  • She finishes checking out and wanders outside. Bloom thinks that he can catch her if he checks out quickly and walk by her nice backside. He thinks what a nice thing it is to see in the morning, but then thinks of how she is dating some Dublin policeman and how her backside is intended for him and not for Bloom.
  • Bloom pays for his kidney, and walks back out into Dorset Street. He reads about an opportunity to purchase tracts of land from the Turkish government in a newly established Zionist colony, and how he might pay for it if he were to buy.
  • Bloom thinks of olives and then oranges, which gets him thinking about an old neighbor of his named Citron. (Citron means "lemon" in French.) He recalls talking with the neighbors about property values in their neighborhood. He sees someone that he recognizes in the street, but decides not to say anything to him.
  • A cloud comes over the sun, and Bloom thinks about the Dead Sea and how the Jews had to wander all over the world from "captivity to captivity" (4.60).
  • (Note that in Part One we've already seen several examples of anti-Semitism [Haines, Mr. Deasy], and Bloom's Jewishness will grow into a major theme in the book.)
  • Bloom feels gloomy as he turns into Eccles Street, and thinks that he must try to begin doing "Sandow's Exercises" again. He thinks how much he would like to be curled up in bed beside Molly.
  • A dash of sunlight comes down the road, and he has a memory of his daughter Milly running toward him.
  • Bloom finds two letters and a card inside the door. When Molly calls for him, Bloom is examining one addressed to his wife: "Marion."
  • He goes to the bedroom, and Molly asks whom the letters are for. Bloom has received a letter from Milly, and Molly got a card and a letter. As Bloom puts the blinds up, Molly slips the letter under her pillow.
  • Molly reads her card from Milly. Molly tells Bloom to hurry up with tea and to make it extra hot.
  • Bloom prepares the tea and unwraps the kidney he has bought.
  • He then opens his letter, and skims over it as he thinks about a variety of different things, the last of which is "Blazes Boylan's seaside girls" (4.85).
  • Bloom pours his tea, and thinks of a necklace that he gave to Milly when she was only five. He works her name into a poem by Samuel Lover.
  • Bloom thinks of Professor Goodwin, the man who accompanies Molly while she is singing, and one time when Milly found a little mirror that he keeps in his hat. They all laughed, and he thinks of how beautiful his daughter was even then.
  • Bloom takes breakfast up to Molly in bed. She comments on how long it took him to make breakfast.
  • Molly gets up in bed and pours herself tea. Bloom sees the edge of the torn letter under her pillow and asks whom it was from. She tells him it was from Blazes Boylan, her manager. Boylan wanted to tell her that he would bring the program for their show that evening. She tells Bloom what they will be singing.
  • Molly asks when Dignam's funeral is and Bloom tells her. She then begins pointing around the room indicating for him to get something for her. Bloom can't tell what she is looking for, but then realizes that it is a book that has fallen against their chamberpot.
  • Molly has a word that she wants to ask him: metempsychosis.
  • Bloom tells her that it's Greek and means the transmigration of souls, and Molly says "O rocks! Tell us in plain words" (4.116). We get the first glimpse of Molly as the down-to-earth female presence in the book.
  • Bloom smiles at her and examines the book that she is reading, one about a girl who is a circus performer and is abused by the head of the circus. He thinks about metempsychosis, and wonders if Dignam's soul has found a way to live after death.
  • Molly was disappointed with the book because there was nothing smutty in it. She asks for one by Paul de Kock and notes what a nice name he has. She pours more tea into her cup.
  • Bloom thinks that he must renew a book, and then thinks of the word for metempsychosis: reincarnation.
  • Bloom takes another crack at explaining metempsychosis: people keep on living in another body after death. When Molly doesn't respond, he thinks that he might try an example.
  • Bloom notes the Greek picture The Bath of Nymph hanging over their marriage bed, and how they got it from a cheap London penny-weekly (local newspaper). He compares Molly to the goddess Calypso in the painting.
  • Bloom again tries explaining metempsychosis, but Molly notes that something is burning. He realizes he has left the kidney on the stove and slips Molly's book in his pocket as he rushes down to get it.
  • He takes the kidney off the stove, and prepares tea for himself. He gives the burned pieces to his cat, and takes out Milly's letter and reads it to himself.
  • Milly's letter thanks him for her birthday present, tells about how well she is doing in the photo business, describes a picnic they had, and asks Bloom to say hello to a young student who will be at an upcoming concert. She apologizes for her sloppy writing.
  • Bloom thinks of how Milly is now fifteen and remembers the midwife, Mrs. Thorton, who helped deliver her.
  • He remembers how Mrs. Thorton knew that their younger child, Rudy, wouldn't live right from the start. He recalls that Rudy would be eleven if he were alive. (Rudy's death is a minor detail here, but as the book goes on, we'll see that it looms large in Bloom's thought.)
  • Bloom eats the kidney alone in the kitchen, and remembers a row he had with Milly in a café about her birthday present. He wonders whether or not this young student is good enough for her. He remembers a time that he found her pinching her cheeks to try to redden them, and another where they went on a little cruise around Dublin bay. He sings Boylan's song (different than Blazes Boylan) to himself.
  • Bloom imagines his wife up in bed, and thinks that he cannot prevent what will happen (What will happen? Hint: It has something to do with Blazes Boylan and adultery.). He thinks that he may make time to visit Milly.
  • The cat finishes cleaning her fur and goes to the door for Bloom to let her out. He suddenly feels a loosening in his bowels, and grabs a copy of the penny-weekly Titbits to read. He opens the door to the garden, but the cat goes bounding upstairs to be with Molly.
  • Bloom observes his garden and thinks about how he will re-do, re-manure the whole thing and plant lettuce. But then he thinks about the drawbacks of gardens and remembers being stung by a bee.
  • As he walks across the garden, he wonders where his hat is and if he will have time to take a bath this morning. He thinks about Dlugacz and wonders if he has a hidden agenda.
  • Bloom kicks open the outhouse door and sits at stool. He reads a prize story in the paper, and contemplates writing one of his own. He remembers one morning when he jotted down everything Molly said to him while she was dressing. He recalls the different times that she said things to him.
  • Bloom thinks of the first time that Molly must have slept with Blazes Boylan, after a late bazaar dance. They had briefly discussed Boylan afterward, but neither of them said anything.
  • Bloom tears away half of the prize story and wipes his behind with it. He checks his trousers to make sure they didn't get dirty (which would embarrass him at the funeral).
  • As he comes out, he hears the bells going in Westwinster, sounding the quarter hour.
  • The chapter closes with his last thought: "Poor Dignam" (4.165)!

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