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Odysseus returns to his island of Ithaca alone and in danger of being murdered by Penelope’s suitors. The goddess Athena advises him to disguise himself as an old man and to ask for the hospitality of Eumaeus the swineherd who does in fact treat him well. Telemachus also returns to Ithaca quietly and comes to Eumaeus for news of his mother. After testing his loyalty Odysseus reveals himself to Telemachus. Together they plan how they can recover the house. Eumaeus is here represented by the keeper of the cabmen’s coffee stall, who is alleged to be "Skin-the-Goat" or Fitzharris, one of the Phoenix Park Murderers. The drunken sailor is a pseudo-Odysseus. Corley the ne’er-do-well is Odysseus’ disloyal and scurrilous goatherd Malanthios. This is a rather slow and tedious section of the Odyssey and this chapter is apparently in slow motion.
The Gospel’s narrative ceases with the Crucifixion, except for the brief account in three of them of the Resurrection. But there is a great deal in the Liturgy after Good Friday. This is followed closely in the last three chapters of Ulysses. In the Liturgy he is assumed to be in hell until Easter Sunday: "the third day he rose again from the dead" and "ascended into Heaven", passing through Purgatory. "Eumaeus" therefore covers the rest of Good Friday. "Ithaca" deals with Easter Saturday until Mass on Easter Sunday and "Penelope" covers all time after that, or rather Christ’s sojourn in Heaven. The three chapters fit logically into the three parts of Dante’s Divine Comedy, "Eumaeus" being the inferno. Dante’s hell is arranged geographically in ever-deeper circles, with the worst classes of sinners lower down. At the very bottom are examples of treachery, the traitors to lords and masters. They include Brutus and Cassius, political murderers and Judas. With the motif of assassination we are brought back to contemporary Irish politics and especially to the Phoenix Park Murders. Hence the literal presence of the alleged Fitzharris.
The sailor comes to us as a sharply drawn and sympathetic figure of comedy. His stories are not lacking in crazy appeal. In the same way, "Skin-the-Goat" seems a genial enough ruffian. In these ways the chapter certainly shows a reduction of the bitter satire and violent farce of earlier sections. Bloom’s decision to invite Stephen home may well be crucial. But it is, after all, late at night, and a sleepy time.
Stephen is still very drunk and weak from his knockout. He has hardly come to his senses by the end of the chapter. The organ of the chapter is "nerves" (by which Joyce meant the central nervous system). The narrative and prose style suggest exhausted twitching. The art of the chapter is "navigation." Literally Bloom has to navigate the bewildered Stephen to the cabman’s shelter, and thence to Eccles Street. On a symbolic level, navigation means the art of getting through the moral and political dangers of the world, such as Dante faced. Parnell turns up again, this time as an example of shipwreck, or poor navigation. His career ran on to the rocks of the O’Shea divorce which is discussed at some length.
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