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MonkeyNotes-Ulysses by James Joyce
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Chapter 14

The Oxen of the Sun Summary

The time is 10 p.m. Bloom visits the National maternity Hospital in Holles Street to enquire after an acquaintance, Mrs. Purefoy. There he finds a number of medical students eating and drinking in a staff room. Young Dr. Dixon, who had at one time treated Bloom for a bee-sting, asks him to join the group. They pour Bloom some beer, but he drinks little of it. The noise of the party causes a disturbance, and the nurse comes in to hush them. Apart from the doctor, the group consists of Lynch, Madden, Lenehan, Crotthers, Costello and Stephen Dedalus. Mulligan comes in later.

The group discusses some philosophical concerns of medical students in an obstetrical ward. They wonder whether in dire cases the life of the child or the mother should be saved. They discuss the issues of contraception and abortion. The young men engage themselves throughout the discussion in thoughtless and obscene comments on conception and childbirth. Bloom remembers Mrs. Purefoy’s misery in the adjoining ward. He is disturbed by their apparent lack of concern. They are insensitive, indifferent and willing to sacrifice the sacred cows of the establishment. The young men sing jollily and loudly. Bloom thinking of poor Rudy, cannot feel any joy.

The talk turns to Stephen and his choice between the Church and literature. They taunt him with his supposed amorous adventures. He responds with some tales of adultery from the literature of the past. The section ends with a meditation on the cyclic nature of human life. There is thunder outside. Stephen is distressed by it in spite of Bloom’s patient explanation of the meteorological reasons for an electric storm. Lenehan refers to Mr. Deasy’s letter on foot-and-mouth disease, now published. This topic reminds Bloom of the cattle he saw going to the slaughterhouse earlier in the day. It also sets off an elaborate dialogue between Lynch and Dixon on Papal Bulls in English history and on Henry VIII, as John Bull, rejecting papal influence.


Mulligan comes in with Bannon. He is in the middle of a complex jest in which he sees himself as the cure for Ireland’s sterility. Bannon is obsessed with his affair with Milly Bloom, which he describes to Crotthers. There is much chat about covering and nakedness. The nurse has to interrupt again to ask for quiet. Bloom is increasingly aware that he is being mocked in some way. He strongly disapproves of the students’ obscene talk. But he controls his temper. He is soon pleased to hear the news that Mrs. Purefoy has finally given birth to a boy.

Mulligan interrupts with a fanciful, Gothic tale of horror. Haines’ nightmare of the black panther figures largely. Bloom remembers his own childhood and his early sexual experiences. Stephen and the young men similarly recall their own adventures. Then the group has a discussion of infant mortality, public health, sin and human memory. They refer to the confusion of the modern world into which the Purefoy baby is born, and the confusion of modern Ireland. Stephen calls out the summons to the tavern, "Burke’s."

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