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by James Joyce

Ulysses Episode 8: Lestrygonians Summary

  • At 1pm Bloom is making his way to Davy Byrne's pub. He passes a confectionary store, Lemon & Co., and a young Y.M.C.A. boy shoves a throwaway in his hand. It is by an American evangelist.
  • Bloom skims the throwaway, which asks him if he was washed in the blood of the lamb. He first mistakes "blood" for his own name before realizing what it actually says. Bloom thinks about the crucifixion, and imagines how one might fix it so that it looked like Christ was hanging in someone's bedroom in the middle of the night.
  • Bloom sees one of the Dedalus daughters, Dilly, pawning off old furniture, and wonders how Simon Dedalus is holding the house together. (Hint: He's not.)
  • Bloom thinks, "Home always breaks up when the mother's gone" (8.9). He observes Dilly, and is shocked by how tattered her clothing is.
  • Bloom thinks of going on a tour of a brewery as he crosses O'Connell Bridge. He observes the seagulls and throws them a paper ball. When they don't chase it, he thinks that they are cleverer than people give them credit for.
  • Bloom makes up a brief ditty in his head and thinks about how poets play with the similarities of sounds, but Shakespeare wrote in blank verse.
  • Bloom buys some cakes from an apple woman and throws them to the seagulls. They gobble them up hungrily, but Bloom is offended that they show no sign of thanks.
  • As he continues walking, he thinks about good places to put ads around the city. He thinks about putting ads about sexually transmitted diseases in men's bathrooms and wonders if Boylan has an STD.
  • Bloom thinks about the meaning of the word "parallax" (difference in how an object appears seen from two different points of view). He remembers Molly crying "O rocks!" when he tried to explain metempsychosis, and goes on thinking about her rude wit and smiling.
  • A group of men appear before Bloom wearing sandwich boards for Wisdom Hely's that read: H.E.L.Y.S. This gets Bloom thinking when he worked at Hely's, and how they rejected his ideas for ads. He suspects the only reason is that they didn't come up with them on their own. Bloom thinks of other clever ideas for ads.
  • He remembers a nun that he met, and observes that at least nuns still eat well. Bloom gets caught up with the idea of butter due to his appetite.
  • As Bloom crosses Westmoreland Street, he remembers going to the annual Glencree fund-raising dinner and how good Molly looked in her dress.
  • Bloom thinks that they were happier back then, and then recollects fondly a time he walked home from a concert with Molly on a windy night. He remembers her staying up in front of the mirror taking the pins out of her hairs for hours.
  • Bloom suddenly bumps into an old flame (girlfriend), Josie Breen. He explains that he's dressed in black on account of Dignam's funeral, and decides to make a play for her sympathy.
  • (Note that both Bloom and Dedalus are dressed in black today.)
  • Bloom asks after her husband, and she begins telling him how bizarre he is. She tells him about a nightmare her husband had where he thought the ace of spades was walking up the stairs, and how someone sent him a postcard with the abbreviation U.P. on it, which has almost driven him mad with anger. Today, he's planning to take legal action.
  • (We'll see and hear a lot more about Breen's madness as the book goes on.)
  • Bloom tries to pay attention, but he keeps thinking of food and observing Mrs. Breen's body, trying to calculate whether or not it has changed since he was involved with her.
  • Bloom asks about Mrs. Beaufoy, but Mrs. Breen mishears him and thinks that he says Mrs. Purefoy. She delivers the news that Mrs. Purefoy is giving birth today and that she's in the lying-in hospital with Dr. Horne.
  • Bloom gets a real kick out of watching Cashel Farrell walk outside the lampposts like a madman, and tells Mrs. Breen to watch. She thinks that soon her husband will be like that and then sees him and runs off to tend to him.
  • Bloom continues to observe Farrell as he walks along. He wonders who might have played the practical joke on Mr. Breen with the U.P. card.
  • As he passes the Irish Times, he recalls placing an ad there for a female typist that began his correspondence with Martha Clifford. The other candidate was Lizzie Twigg, but she was a disciple of George Russell and thus seemed too literary. Bloom thinks back to Martha's letter that morning.
  • Bloom thinks about strong women that he has known, and then pities Mrs. Purefoy. He thinks about the difficulties of childbirth and how hard it must be to breastfeed for so long.
  • Bloom tries to imagine what it must feel like to have a child trying to kick it's way out of your womb when its head is too big.
  • (We are beginning to see how Bloom's imagination gives him a special ability to empathize with people.)
  • He recalls God's curse on women after Eve: the pains of childbirth.
  • Bloom recalls seeing Molly and Mrs. Moisel both pregnant at the same time with their bellies sticking out. He thinks about the experience of the doctors constantly delivering babies in the hospital and what decent men most of them are.
  • Bloom watches a flock of pigeons up over the Irish house of parliament and then a bunch of constables walking Indian file out College Street. He remembers seeing a bunch of constables chase down protesting medical students in the street. Bloom had to duck into a pub to avoid getting hit. He thinks cynically that most of the protestors are now part of the institutions they were protesting against.
  • Bloom thinks about other turncoats, like James Carey who blew the whistle on the Invincibles (group that committed the Phoenix Park murders), and slaveys who get bribed to inform on their employers.
  • He remembers James Stephens's idea for Sinn Fein: work in circles of ten so a man can only betray his group.
  • Bloom thinks that Arthur Griffith is a squarehead and recalls some of his theories about how to approach the problem of Home Rule.
  • As a cloud moves over the sun, Bloom's thoughts turn to the cycles of things: the trams coming in and then going out, the policeman marching into town and then out, Dignam dying and Mina Purefoy giving birth, the constant exchange of properties in cities. He cynically thinks that it is all useless, that "No one is anything" (8.137).
  • Bloom thinks of how dull and gloomy he feels at this time of day.
  • He sees John Howard Parnell, the brother of Charles Stewart, passing by. He thinks that this is a big coincidence and observes their similarities.
  • Behind him Bloom hears a man talking about a twoheaded octopus. The man and a younger woman pass by. It's George Russell, and the young woman might well be Lizzie Twigg. Bloom thinks that this is an even greater coincidence than seeing Parnell's brother, and wonders what his nickname, A.E., stands for.
  • Bloom thinks about different types of dietary habits. He observes how tattered the young woman's clothing is. He wonders if the poetical mindset has something to do with one's diet.
  • Bloom sees some field glasses in "Yeates and Son," and checks the prices.
  • He looks up into the sun, and puts his hand up over his head, blotting it out with his little finger. He thinks about the eclipse that is coming that year and goes back to thinking about the idea of "parallax" (the way a thing looks from different points of view).
  • (This is a major idea in Ulysses and we get into a bit in the 'Analysis' section.)
  • Bloom thinks that he could go to Dunsink's observatory and flatter the astronomer professor Joly into explaining the idea of parallax to him. He imagines that if he just walked in and blurted out his question then they would escort him out.
  • Bloom remembers walking under the moon one night with Molly and Boylan and how close the two of them were. He wonders if they were touching.
  • As Bob Doran passes by Bloom staggering drunk, Bloom thinks about the reasons that men drink: "to say or do something or cherchez la femme" (8.158). (Note: cherchez la femme, is French for "look for a woman.")
  • Bloom again thinks back to earlier times and wonders if he was happier then or now. He thinks about sex with Molly and how he "could never like it again after Rudy" (8.160). He recalls some of the dirty words of Martha's letter and thinks that he can write her a return letter in the library.
  • Walking down Grafton Street, Bloom observes a woman's fat ankles. He passes Brown Thomas and admires their silks. He reminds himself that he has to go back to pick up Molly's lotion, and thinks that maybe he will give it to her for her birthday.
  • Bloom feels the pang of his hunger, and "with hungered flesh obscurely, he mutely craved to adore" (8.168).
  • Bloom slips into Burton restaurant and is overwhelmed by the variety of smells there. He watches the men at the bar and thinks that they look like animals at the trough. He's so disgusted that he decides he can't eat there and heads out the back door thinking to himself that he'll grab a snack at Davy Byrne's.
  • As Bloom heads to Davy Byrne's, he observes a local soup kitchen. Bloom thinks about the logic of being a vegetarian. As he enters Davy Byrne's, he thinks of what a moral pub it is.
  • Nosey Flynn is in the pub and strikes up a conversation with him, but Bloom is quite focused on his order.
  • As he considers various orders, he thinks about the effect a man's digestion has on his mood and how it's quite possible peace and war depend on a man's eating habits.
  • Bloom orders a cheese sandwich.
  • Flynn asks after Molly. As Bloom is explaining how they're going to set her singing tour up like a company with shares and profits, Flynn asks if that was Blazes Boylan's idea. Bloom is reminded of Boylan's visit to Molly and looks up at the clock, which says that it is nearly 2pm.
  • As Flynn goes on admiring Boylan and telling Bloom about his betting habits, Bloom silently observes that Flynn has a fat face. He watches some mucous gather on the tip of his nostril and waits to see whether or not it will fall into his glass. (Notice how Bloom's perception of Flynn is shaped by the fact that Flynn brings up Boylan, whom Bloom dislikes.)
  • Flynn tries to hit Davy Byrne up for a betting tip for the Gold Cup, but Byrne says he isn't mixed up with that stuff.
  • Flynn tells Byrne about a tip that Lenehan has on the race. Bloom considers whether or not to tell them about the misunderstanding, but decides against it. He goes on observing Flynn's disgusting physical demeanor.
  • Bloom thinks of Molly and thinks ahead to 6pm, but he thinks by then the act will already be done. He starts thinking about different types of dietary habits. He thinks about how dumb fish are for not figuring out they're getting hooked and thinks he wouldn't mind being a waiter in a nice hotel, tending to all the ladies there.
  • Bloom sees two flies stuck in the windowpane. The glow of wine on his palate (roof of his mouth) makes him think back to Molly and the time that he proposed to her at Howth's Head. He remembers rolling in the grass with her and kissing her passionately, with she pushed a piece of seedcake from her mouth to his with her tongue.
  • Then, jarringly, he thinks of the contrast between himself then and now. He sees the flies stuck in the windowpane again.
  • Bloom thinks of how curves are associated with beauty. He wonders if the statues of goddesses have private parts under their skirts, and thinks that next time he is at the library he'll pretend to drop something so he can look up and see.
  • Bloom feels the urge to pee and leaves the bar to do so.
  • Byrne begins asking about Bloom whom he recognizes but doesn't know. He's curious why Bloom is in mourning, but Flynn did not even notice. Flynn suggests to Byrne that Bloom is a Freemason (not true, but a recurrent rumor in the book) and goes on about what a fine spiritual order it is.
  • Byrne yawns loudly, and says that Bloom seems to be a decent guy, that he's never seen him have too much to drink for all the times he has come into the pub.
  • Flynn confirms this, says that Bloom keeps his watch by him when he's drinking to make sure he doesn't take too much.
  • They agree that Bloom has his good points, though Flynn points out that Bloom won't put his name to contracts, which was a common stereotype about Jews at the time.
  • Paddy Leonard and Bantam Lyons come into the bar and make a ruckus as they order their drinks. They discuss the Gold Cup race. Meanwhile Tom Rochford makes himself a concoction to take to calm down his dyspepsia (i.e., indigestion).
  • As Bloom walks out of the pub, Bantam Lyons points out that Bloom is the one who gave him the tip.
  • Bloom walks toward Dawson Street and thinks about finding something to clean his palate (again, roof of his mouth). He thinks of an invention Tom Rochford is working on and wonders if anything will come of it. He thinks of some lines in the opera Don Giovanni that he cannot remember, as well as a rumor he heard that if you swallow a pin it can come out of the ribs years later.
  • His thoughts again return to Molly, and he tries to command himself not to think of her.
  • At the road crossing, Bloom sees a blind stripling (young man). He offers to help him cross and guides him across the street.
  • Bloom observes the man closely. He sees that he has stains on his coat and assumes that he must slobber his food. Bloom tries to imagine what it would be like being blind. He thinks that maybe they see things in their forehead like a kind of weight. He thinks of the condescending attitudes that people have towards the blind, and how for this blind man all of Dublin must be a swirl of smells.
  • As Bloom passes the postoffice, he thinks that he really must answer Martha Clifford today.
  • Bloom continues to observe the man. He wonders what he dreams about, if he dreams. Bloom thinks sadly of a story he read in the paper about a disaster on an American steamboat, General Slocum. During a Sunday school excursion, a fire broke out and before they could get crews to help over 1000 women and children had died.
  • At Kildare Street, Bloom sees Boylan down the way in a straw hat and a fancy outfit. He panics and tries to hide from him. He pulls out the paper and pretends to be reading the Agendath Netaim ad, then acts as if he's scrambling in his pockets looking for something – the bar of soap he bought earlier in the day. (Again, a great recurrent detail.)
  • As he ducks into the gate of the library without Boylan seeing him, he thinks to himself, "Safe!" (8.560).

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