All of us

In Brief

Martin Cunningham's first words in Hades, "Are we all here now?," would be utterly unremarkable were it not for what follows: "Come along, Bloom." The impression that Bloom is somehow superfluous—not really part of the "we"—will be amply confirmed by other conversations that take place in this chapter, including one in which Cunningham says, about owing money to Jews, "We have all been there," and then, looking at Bloom, corrects himself: "Well, nearly all of us."

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Perhaps when Cunningham asks whether everyone is in the carriage he does not know, or has momentarily forgetten, that Bloom will be making up the fourth. Perhaps he knows it and his question is a rhetorical one designed to hurry Bloom along. Perhaps he is simply slighting him by addressing him in the way one would address a pet dog. Whatever the explanation, his verbal delivery leaves a distinct and disquieting impression that Bloom is an afterthought in his mental tally. For the first time, readers of the novel realize that Bloom is tolerated but not fully accepted by many of his fellow Dubliners.

As the cramped carriage begins rolling along, the other three men call each other "Martin," "Simon," and (much later in the chapter) "Jack." It turns out that such informality pervades the chapter: it has its John and John Henry, its Ned and Corny, Tom and Paddy, Ben and Blazes. Bloom remains Bloom throughout, in a clear act of linguistic distancing that he evidently deals with every day. Near the end of the chapter Joe Hynes, who is taking down names for mention in the newspaper—he works for the same newspaper as Bloom, and owes him money—has to ask, "What is your christian name? I'm not sure." Bloom answers "Leopold." (Eumaeus will reveal that Hynes nonetheless manages to misspell the surname.) Bloom then fulfills the promise that he made in Lotus Eaters to have M'Coy's name fraudulently inserted into the article ("Thanks, old man. I’d go if I possibly could. Well, tolloll. Just C. P. M’Coy will do"). Although M'Coy is always referred to in the novel by his last name, Hynes nods in response, "Charley."

The reference to Bloom's "christian name" is particularly telling. In one way it is insensitive, since Bloom is Jewish, or at least commonly assumed to be so. In another way it is appropriate, since Bloom's Hungarian Jewish  father changed his family name along with his religion in order to assimilate into Irish society. That ambiguity—is Bloom one of us, or one of them?—pervades the scene in which Martin, Jack, and Simon feel free to sneer at the purportedly Jewish Dodd in the company of the supposedly Jewish Bloom. Cunningham's "We have all been there" implies that there is something wrong with Jews having more money than Christians and with Christians being expected to pay back what they have borrowed from Jews. His "Well, nearly all of us" implies that Bloom, who has been made an honorary Christian by being included in the conversation, still is tainted by his kinship with the despicable creature.

Bloom pathetically attempts to ingratiate himself with this obviously prejudiced company by telling a humiliating story about Dodd's son being fished out of the Liffey. His narration is disrespectfully hijacked by Cunningham, who finishes telling the story himself, at one point brushing off Bloom's effort to regain the floor. Instead of sulking, Bloom encourages applause for the story that has been stolen from him: "Isn't it awfully good? Mr Bloom said eagerly." This poignant episode in the carriage suggests that even when Jews attempt to play the game they are still not in charge.

In Further Recollections of James Joyce (1955), Frank Budgen recalls being struck by, and hearing Joyce confirm, Bloom's "loneliness as a Jew who finds no warmth of fellowship either among Jews or Gentiles." Bloom has left the one community for the other, only to find no real community there. In the introduction to Hades that he wrote for James Joyce's Ulysses: Critical Essays, Robert Martin Adams observes that during the funeral cortège Bloom "acts the part of an outsider, a latecomer, a half-rejected and scarcely tolerated hanger-on" (97). At the heart of this episode, he says, "there is a great hollow resonance. And that is the real development of this chapter, the sounding of that resonance, the deepening and darkening in Bloom's mind of an immense emptiness" (96-97).

At the same time, though, Bloom finds a freedom in not being bound by the mental rules of a tight social group. He can advance practical suggestions for funeral trams that offend the others' sense of decorum, appreciate easy deaths that violate their religious beliefs, find human sympathy for suicides that they would exclude from the spiritual community, inwardly laugh when they are twisting their faces into somberness, face the meaninglessness of extinction without having to ingest soteriological pablum. James Joyce found his calling by embracing an ethos of "silence, exile, and cunning." Hades shows Bloom to be traveling a similar path.

JH 2018
Two closed carriages and a jaunting car waiting in front of the National Library ca. 1900. Source: www.fantasyjackpalance.com.