The Nostos and the Chapter that Made it All Worthwhile

by Charlotte Reads Classics

It is a drunken, sprawling night. It is the end of the day, everyone is a little bit worse for wear, and it is time to make tracks towards home.

Episode XVI –  Eumaeus, 1am, the Cab Shelter

As everyone is now quite drunk by this point, I didn’t pick up much of what was happening. I suppose these are the deep and seemingly meaningful conversations you have when you are drunk, that don’t stand up to the light of day. I had well and truly lost the thread of what was happening in this part.

The Odyssey: Eumaeus is the faithful swineherd in Ithaca who gives the disguised Odysseus shelter when he first returns home.

Episode XVII – Ithaca, 2am, the House

Reportedly Joyce’s favourite section. Perhaps because it is written in a weird question and answer format that reminded me of exam papers at school. Bloom is finally home for the night and goes through little routines that summarise the day’s events before he goes to sleep. A famous line I had heard before happens in this section:

  • For what creature was the door of egress a door of ingress?
    For a cat. 

The Odyssey: Ithaca is Odysseus’ home. When he returns, he arrives in disguise and doesn’t reveal his identity to everyone.

Episode XVIII – Penelope, 3am / unspecified, the bed

This chapter is SO GOOD. It is so good that it was worth reading all the preceding chapters – this was my reward. In fact, the episode of In Our Time I mentioned in my last post states that this is the best place to start. I would say that if you were going to read any snippet of Ulysses it should be this chapter. The last episode of the novel is a soliloquy from Bloom’s wife Molly. In other words, it is a five thousand word sentence. But in reading terms, it is joy.

  • first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.

The Odyssey: Penelope was Odysseus’ wife. She waited for him to return, stalling her many suitors by saying she would wed again only after she had finished a tapestry she was making. She would weave the tapestry during the day and unweave each day’s work at night.

I’VE READ ULYSSES! Wrap up post to follow soon, and then normal reading shall resume.