The Godless Funeral Procession

27 Feb 2019


The “Hades” chapter of Joyce’s Ulysses repurposes the theme of travel that is central to The Odyssey. Bloom and Daedalus’ trip to the cemetery recalls both Odysseus’ trip to the underworld accompanied by his crew and the suitors’ procession to the underworld led by Hermes. When Odysseus visits the underworld, he is sent under Circe’s orders to head the expedition (Homer 10.540-545.) Bloom and Daedalus are led to the cemetery by an unseen carriage driver. The missing driver in Joyce’s adaptation of homer’s scene is much like Circe’s promise to Odysseus that he will be piloted to the underworld by the north wind. Circe says, “[L]et no lack of a pilot at the helm concern you, no […] the North Wind will speed you on your way” (Homer 10.555, 557.) Although Odysseus must take it on faith that he will make it to the underworld without the aid of an experienced pilot, he is given the assurance from no less than a Goddess that he will reach his destination. When the suitors travel to the underworld in the last chapter of The Odyssey, they are led by Hermes, another of the pantheon of Gods (Homer 24.1-15.)  In the world of The Odyssey, even those who have gravely offended the Gods and have suffered their wrath are led by holy guidance, but Bloom and Daedalus are not given the same supernatural attention. While it can be assumed that Bloom and Daedalus have seen that they have a pilot for their carriage, the reader is given no assurance that there is anyone directing their trip. Therefore, Bloom and Daedalus’ world is shown to be much more tenuous than Odysseus’ world. Bloom and Daedalus must rely on a society directed by humans alone, a society where the existence of a guiding power can only be guessed at.






Homer. Odyssey. Translated by Robert Fagles, Viking Penguin, 1997.

Joyce, James. UlyssesThe Joyce Project : Ulysses : Pigeonhouse, 1922.

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