Chapter Two - Episode 13
This episode is set on Sandymount shore, close to where the novel begins. Cissy Caffrey, Edy Boardman and Gerty MacDowell are three female friends. They have four year old twins, Tommy and Jacky Caffrey, with them as well as a baby in a pushcar. This part is dominated by Gerty's views of romance, and Bloom watching her whilst he masturbates.
Nearby is Howth Hill, where Bloom and Molly used to visit, and a church dedicated to Our Lady as Star of the Sea. Gerty has dressed well hoping she would see Reggie Wylie. She thinks of how she would look after her ideal man and how she is good at housework. She remembers a photograph at home of her grandfather with his dog, Garryowen (which is the name of the citizen's dog).
The organ from the temperance meeting can be heard and Gerty wishes her own father had joined as she remembers his violence. Jacky then kicks the ball too hard and it is intercepted by a man (who is Bloom). After throwing it to Cissy, and it reaches Gerty, Gerty misses the ball the first time she tries to kick it. When she looks at Bloom directly, she thinks he has 'the saddest face' she has ever seen. She looks again and thinks he is foreign, and resembles a matinee idol. The language becomes overtly romantic (as seen in romance novels) as she thinks of her 'dreamhusband'.
As Gerty swings her legs, pleased she is wearing her transparent stockings as she knows Bloom is watching her, the priests are looking up at the Blessed Sacrament.
Fireworks begin to be let off and Gerty stays whilst the others run further down the beach to watch them. As she looks up at the fireworks she reveals her legs, then underwear, to Bloom who she can hear panting. His climax coincides with the bangs of the fireworks. Bloom is then named for the first time in this episode and he stands silent. Gerty runs to her friend and Bloom notes that she is limping. He has sympathy for her, but is also glad he did not know 'when she was on show'. He also thinks (correctly) that she must be near the date of her period (her monthlies).
He thinks intermittently how it is strange his watched stopped at 4.30, 'Was that when he, she?' and then thinks of his daughter. He remembers the men in Barney Kierney's and compares them to children. His dream of Molly in red slippers and breeches is recalled and writes a message on the sand with a stick: 'I. AM. A' - he then effaces it. Finally, the repetition of a cuckoo sound can be heard.
The language used in the first part of this episode is of interest in the way that Gerty's thoughts are shaped into the hyperbolic tones of romantic fiction. Her ideal is considered by her and the real, of Bloom watching her and becoming sexually excited, is accepted. The literature of the romance is used, therefore, against itself. Romance, and the aspirations it can inspire in women for a 'dreamhusband', is undermined with parody as in reality the man she considers to look like a matinee idol is masturbating in public.
When Gerty leaves to catch her friends up, the narrative returns to Bloom's interior monologue and it is reiterated how Bloom is conscious of women's bodies and tries to understand them. This is exemplified as he considers his daughter growing up.