Episode 7, "Aeolus," starts at about noon. With the morning hours having been narrated twice, time now moves forward more or less uninterrupted. Bloom shows up in this chapter, back in town from his visit to the cemetery, and somewhat later Stephen does too, in from the seashore, but the action does not center on them as in earlier chapters, and they never interact. As in Wandering Rocks three chapters later, the urban setting itself—the bustle around Sackville Street and inside the nearby newspaper offices—seems as important as the thoughts and feelings of the main characters. Amid all the bustle nothing really happens, except for a little mercantile enterprise on Bloom's part and a little artistic enterprise on Stephen's that both manage to seem inconsequential in context, though they are not. The resulting sense of busy stasis is heightened by an underlying allusion to the Homeric story of winds driving Odysseus' ships nearly home and then back out to sea again. This buried literary analogue generates numerous verbal figures of wind and frustrated journeying. It also resonates with two major thematic preoccupations in the chapter: the art of rhetoric, and the sense of futility in Dublin, capital city of an imperial property.
After recounting his struggle with the Cyclops at the end of
Book 9, Odysseus turns at the beginning of Book 10 to the
month he spent on a floating island ruled by Aeolus, whom Zeus
put in charge of the winds. At his departure, he says, Aeolus
gave him a leather bag containing all the disruptive winds
that might blow him off course, leaving Zephyr, the gentle
west wind, to blow the ships east toward Ithaca. After nine
days of steady sailing, Ithaca came in view and Odysseus, who
had been at the tiller the whole time, allowed himself to fall
asleep. His men, suspicious that the sack held treasure for
him alone, opened it, and the unruly winds blew the ship all
the way back to Aeolus' island. When Odysseus asked for
assistance once more, Aeolus roared for him to "Get out!,"
saying that a man so unlucky must be hated by the gods.
In Joyce's reworking of this brief episode, Bloom stands in
for Odysseus and editor Myles Crawford plays the part of
Aeolus. When Bloom first enters the office of the Evening
Telegraph and uses Crawford's telephone to track down a
man who may agree to renew an ad in the paper, the mention of
productive work elicits wry approval from Crawford: "—
Begone! he said. The world is before you." But when
Bloom calls the office from his travels, Crawford is busy
bragging about a past journalistic triumph and snarls, "Tell
him to go to hell." Some time later, as Crawford is leaving
the newspaper building, Bloom catches up to him and asks him
to help secure the renewal by putting a short paragraph about
Keyes' business in the paper. "— Will you tell him he
can kiss my arse? Myles Crawford said throwing out his
arm for emphasis. . . . — He can kiss my royal Irish
arse, Myles Crawford cried loudly over his shoulder. Any time
he likes, tell him."
Homer's story informs Joyce's in other ways. The motif of an
interrupted or frustrated journey recurs late in the chapter
when the busy network of trams
around Nelson's pillar stands paralyzed by an electrical
outage: "At various points along the eight lines tramcars
with motionless trolleys stood in their tracks." Also
late in the chapter, J. J. O'Molloy responds to an inspiring
speech about Moses by recalling his Odysseus-like failure to
enter the land of Canaan after leading the Israelites toward
it for forty years: "And yet he died without having entered
the land of promise." Stephen later appropriates this
detail, naming his little story A Pisgah Sight of
Palestine. The impression of paralysis and futility
limned by these narrative gestures permeates the chapter,
linking to the stagnant careers of O'Molloy and Professor
MacHugh, the feckless sycophancy of Lenehan, the drunken
stupor of Crawford, the lack of work being accomplished in the
editor's office, the ignominious failure of various
insurrections, and the millennial frustration of hopes for an
In compensation for this litany of failures, the chapter
offers one great Irish accomplishment: ceaseless, brilliant,
truculent talk. This feature too draws inspiration from Homer,
because the blasts of hot air issuing from human mouths are
imaged several times as winds—an old conceit, as can be seen
in the first two images here. Bloom makes the connection when
Crawford rebuffs him: "A bit nervy. Look out for squalls.
All off for a drink. Arm in arm. Lenehan's yachting cap on the
cadge beyond. Usual blarney." He similarly scorns the purple
prose of Dan Dawson's speech: "High falutin stuff. Bladderbags."
Professor MacHugh agrees: "Enough of the inflated windbag!"
Through this lens even the words of a great political orator
like Daniel O'Connell,
rousing unimaginably vast crowds to action, look like wasted
breath. Stephen thinks of them as "Gone with the wind. . .
. The tribune's words, howled and scattered to the four
winds. A people sheltered within his voice. Dead noise."
This concern with the forceful but ephemeral articulation of
words gave Joyce an occasion for foregrounding, in Aeolus,
both the ancient art of rhetoric and the modern craft of
newspaper reporting. Throughout the chapter, blaring all-caps
section headings that resemble headlines make the prose itself
echo the newspaper business. At the same time, arrangements of
words throughout the chapter demonstrate the precepts of
ancient rhetoricians. Hundreds of phrases exemplify the
rhetorical "Tropes" (one of the "Tecnica" or
techniques listed in the Linati
schema) that were catalogued by writers like Quintilian:
metonymy, ecphonesis, prosopopoeia, and so forth. Three quoted
speeches exemplify Aristotle's principal types of oratory,
also listed in that section of the schema: "Symbouleutike"
(deliberative), "Dikanike" (forensic), and "Epideictic"
(praising and blaming). Still other details exemplify the
ancient orators' reliance on gestures, and their goal of
emotionally moving listeners. Both of Joyce's schemas identify
the Organ of the chapter as "Lungs," and its Art as "Rhetoric."
As assiduously as he studded the chapter with rhetorical figures, Joyce also filled it with images of wind. Actual gusts find their way into the newspaper offices: "The door of Ruttledge's office whispered: ee: cree. They always build one door opposite another for the wind to. Way in. Way out." A "mouthorgan" sounds at one point, and a mocking headline turns the bingbang twanging of some dental floss into a "HARP EOLIAN." O'Molloy takes some racing tissues from Lenehan, "blowing them apart gently" as he reads. Newsboys follow Bloom out of the office, "the last zigzagging white on the breeze a mocking kite, a tail of white bowknots." When Bloom returns they appear again, "their white papers fluttering," and then Bloom is seen "breathless, caught in a whirl of wild newsboys." A moment later he is "puffing" from his exertions, a word that is also used when cigarette smoke is expelled: "Myles Crawford blew his first puff violently toward the ceiling." Offstage, other winds blow. O'Molloy remembers "all those trees that were blown down by that cyclone last year," the professor recalls "The sack of windy Troy," and all the trolley cars sit "becalmed." Bloom thinks of inquiries mailed to the paper: "Dear Mr Editor, what is a good cure for flatulence?"
Amid these many physical movements, a still greater number of
metaphorical expressions agitate the literary atmosphere:
"Windfall when he kicks out," "What's in the wind," "raise the
wind," "get some wind off my chest," "Reaping the whirlwind,"
"Weathercocks," "Wetherup," "all blows over," "Big blowout,"
"the breath of fresh life," "take my breath away," "the
wheeze." Collectively, these figures underline the impression
of hot air created by the men's breezy talk. But through its
protagonists the chapter also suggests that intelligently
deployed language can move the world forward. The "little
puff" that Bloom wants for Keyes' business has proved to
be sound marketing
strategy in the 20th century, and Stephen's little
story, although breezy and insubstantial, shows him preparing
for a career in prose fiction. The "divine afflatus" that Mr.
O'Madden Burke hears in one of the recited speeches becomes
something more than a dead cliché when one considers that the
word comes from a Latin root meaning "to blow." It evokes the
idea of inspiration from ancient times, when gods "breathed"
truth into human vessels. Channeling Genesis, Stephen resolves
to become such a vessel: "On now. Dare it. Let there be life."