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In Book X of the Odyssey Odysseus describes how he was entertained by Aeolus, King of the Winds, on his floating island. When he left, Aeolus gave him a bag containing all the winds likely to be dangerous to his voyage and sent him on his way with a favorable breeze. Odysseus sailed nearly home to Ithaca and then fell asleep. His companions, thinking that the bag contained treasure, undid it. The winds broke out and drove the ship back to Aeolus. The wind god lost his temper, refused to help Odysseus again and drove him away. Crawford the editor is the King of Wind, who first dismisses Bloom in a kindly manner, but rebuffs him at the end. The newspaper office is full of winds and draughts, and there are many metaphors of which ‘wind’ is the vehicle: flatulence, balloon, zephyrs, gale, windfall, reaping the whirlwind, get the wind of, wind-bag, a hurricane blowing, the breeze, storm, breath of fresh air, Inspiration, Windy Arbour, breath of life, shape of air, cyclone, divine afflatus, belch, gone with the wind, the four winds, windy Troy, raise the wind.
The Old Testament contains prophecies of the Trinity and of the triumph of Christ. In "Aeolus" there are foretastes of the god- like creative power to come. This chapter corresponds to the Ministry of Jesus and in particular to the Sermon on the Mount, to which there are references: "sufficient for the day is the newspaper thereof" (Mathew 6). Other gospel references are to the wise and foolish virgins (Matthew 25). Stephen’s teaching falls on deaf ears, just as the seed falls on stony ground (Matthew 13) and as the plumstones of his parable fall on the pavements of Dublin. The entry into the Promised Land is frustrated by the paralysis of the Dubliners, of which the becalmed tramcars are an emblem. Odysseus too gets a glimpse of his own promised land of Ithaca before the wind blows his ship away. Joyce compares Parnell to Moses, leading his people out of British bondage. He also equates Parnell with Christ, the uncrowned king, whose kingdom was not of this world. The implication is that there can be no true victories in the world of politics and the only triumphs are those of the creative imagination.
In this chapter Bloom’s isolation predominates. The thwarted expectations of Bloom and the inability of Stephen really to communicate seem the result of their exclusion from the society in which they live. Images of other failures run through the chapter too: the failure of the two old women in Stephen’s story to conquer their fear of heights; the failure of O’Molloy (a man who has seen better days) to borrow money from Crawford; the failure of Ireland to gain its identity. At all levels, the theme persists.
The din of the newspaper office seems to be reflected in the restless, hectic and loud behavior of those gathered there. What Joyce felt to be the oppressive vulgarity of Dublin society emerges fully. The device of heading each section of the text with a crude newspaper headline seems an apt illustration of the coarse and loutish behavior of the men there. Only Simon Dedalus seems to act well. Professor MacHugh, witty, perceptive and with some humanity, seems predominantly a boorish and loud-mouthed provincial.
Dublin gossip, like any gossip, is exclusive. So the reader, like Bloom, sometimes feels left out. Joyce is at times deliberately obscure in the chit-chat, so that the reader can share the central character’s confusion and sense of being overlooked. He senses the poignant isolation of Bloom and Stephen, strangers in their own land. The movement between topics of common knowledge and private gossip is carefully manipulated in this chapter. The Phoenix Park murders, when a gang known as the ‘invincibles’ killed the Secretary for Ireland and the Under- Secretary in 1881, are often referred to. The literary and cultural groups around A.E. and the theosophists are mentioned.
The newspaper headlines move from the rather solemn, specific style of a Victorian newspaper to the brief, catchpenny style of the modern press. The chapter itself moves from the relative control of Nannetti’s office to the hectic group that, at the end, is headed to the tavern. The violence of speech at the end of the chapter, culminating in Crawford’s comment to Bloom, is like the storms released by Ulysses’ crew. Gossip and fellowship have broken the bag of restraint. The characters are almost hysterical, almost drunk with their own words.