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Wandering Rocks Summary
The time is 2.55 p.m. Between 2.55 p.m. and 4 p.m. the major characters in the novel and a host of minor characters are crossing Dublin, their paths meeting in an intricate and complex pattern. Nineteen separate episodes are recounted.
Father Conmee walks across the town to Artane to attend to the care of Paddy Dignam’s son, a student at Clongowes College. He passes a begging, disabled sailor, chats with the wife of an M.P. and, in a genial episode, gets three lively school children to post a letter for him. As he continues his walk, his meditations and his mood vary with the changing surroundings. A newspaper placard telling of some tragedy affects him with a momentary thought on death. A barge load of peat for household fires reminds him of God’s bountiful nature. He does not like to walk through the depressing streets of Mud Island. So he gets on a tram. He observes his fellow passengers and mentally categorizes them as like this or that one of his parishioners. A billboard shows the Negro actor Eugene Stratton. Father Conmee thinks of missionary work in Africa and the problem of the non-baptised soul. As he goes along the Malahide Road, he considers an ancient scandal and the questions it raises of truth and confession. He reaches the school and, reaching his office, walks through the adjacent fields.
Corny Kelleher works in the O’Neill funeral home. Father Conmee had noted him through the window. He checks his account books. He steps to the door to look out. He sees a coin tossed to the begging sailor. He chats with the policeman on the beat.
The action backtracks. The sailor is observed by the Dedalus sisters, Katey and Boody, and he collects his coin.
The Dedalus girls get home. Maggie has not been able to get any money for Stephen’s books. There is nothing on the stove but some shirts boiling and a pot of soup. Bloom’s religious tract, which he threw to the seagulls, comes drifting down the river.
Blazes Boylan is buying a present of fruit, wine and perfume for Molly. The sandwich board men from Hely’s file past. Bloom rummages in a bookstall. Boylan flirts arrogantly with the shop girl.
Stephen and Almidano Artifoni converse in Italian. Artifoni tries to persuade him to continue studying music in Dublin. He does not succeed. He fails also to catch his tram but he trots after it. He disappears among the members of a military pipe band, who have just got off the tram.
Miss Dunne, Boylan’s secretary, puts away the copy of The Woman in White, which she has been reading. She begins typing. Visions of clothes and an expected night-out dance in her head. Boylan telephones. She makes a note of his message. The Hely’s men turn round and plod back.
Ned Lambert is guiding a clergyman round St. Mary’s Abbey. They meet J.J. O’Molloy in the Council Chambers. After a moment of uncertainty they converse cheerfully. The clergyman, an elegant Englishman, is writing a book on Irish history. On the way out Lambert and O’Molloy pass the stables. Lambert, who has caught a cold, sneezes violently.
Tom Rochford has a machine that automatically signals the acts at the music hall. He is showing it off to Nosey Flynn Lenehan and McCoy. The last two go off to an appointment with Boylan. They recollect a daring rescue from a sewer, which occurred on Sycamore Street. They drop into a bookmaker’s to check the odds against their horse. They see Bantam Lyon. He has misinterpreted a comment by Bloom and is backing a horse which, Lenehan thinks, cannot win. They see Bloom busy at the bookstalls. Lenehan remembers an incident when he, Bloom and a tipsy Molly shared a car. He was able to embrace Molly while Bloom was chatting about the stars. McCoy is not very amused by the story. So Lenehan changes his tone and makes flattering noises about Bloom’s excellence.