Humor in Ulysses, Part III

Now I’m in the middle of chapter 15 of Ulysses, and while it’s one of the densest, more incomprehensible sections, it’s also one of the funniest yet.

Written as a dramatic script, it’s largely a record of daydreams rather than conscious thoughts.  As such, Bloom’s imagination runs freer than before, and the rambling fantasy, plus a growing penchant on Joyce’s part for whimsical puns, makes this chapter a delightful bit of foreshadowing for Finnegans Wake.

Maybe the best part of the chapter so far is the following, where Bloom’s delusions of grandeur–as contrasted with his almost pathetically meek actual self; an Irish Walter Mitty, as it were–find him presiding over a ridiculous bureaucracy.  Joyce lists some mundane minutia in gloriously pompous detail (we’ve all seen government events and publications that take themselves this seriously–begging to be mocked), shares some clever wordplay, and even adds a pure joke at the end.




My beloved subjects, a new era is about to dawn. I, Bloom, tell you verily it
is even now at hand. Yea, on the word of a Bloom, ye shall ere long enter
into the golden city which is to be, the new Bloomusalem in the Nova
Hibernia of the future.

    (Thirtytwo workmen, wearing rosettes, from all the counties of
    Ireland, under the guidance of Derwan the builder, construct the
    new Bloomusalem. It is a colossal edifice with crystal roof, built in
    the shape of a huge pork kidney, containing forty thousand rooms.
    In the course of its extension several buildings and monuments are 
    demolished. Government offices are temporarily transferred to
    railway sheds. Numerous houses are razed to the ground. The
    inhabitants are lodged in barrels and boxes, all marked in red with
    the letters: L. B. Several paupers fill from a ladder. A part of the
    walls of Dublin, crowded with loyal sightseers, collapses.)

                       THE SIGHTSEERS

(dying) Morituri te salutant. (they die)

    (A man in a brown macintosh springs up through a trapdoor. He
    points an elongated finger at Bloom.)

               THE MAN IN THE MACINTOSH       

Don't you believe a word he says. That man is Leopold M'Intosh, the
notorious fireraiser. His real name is Higgins.

Shoot him! Dog of a christian! So much for M'Intosh!

    (A cannonshot. The man in the macintosh disappears. Bloom with
    his sceptre strikes down poppies. The instantaneous deaths of many
    powerful enemies, graziers, members of parliament, members of
    standing committees, are reported. Bloom's bodyguard distribute
    Maundy money, commemoration medals, loaves and fishes,
    temperance badges, expensive Henry Clay cigars, free cowbones for
    soup, rubber preservatives in sealed envelopes tied with gold thread,
    butter scotch, pineapple rock, billets doux in the form of cocked
    hats, readymade suits, porringers of toad in the hole, bottles of
    Jeyes' Fluid, purchase stamps, 40 days' indulgences, spurious coins,
    dairyfed pork sausages, theatre passes, season tickets available for
    all tramlines, coupons of the royal and privileged Hungarian
    lottery, penny dinner counters, cheap reprints of the World's Twelve
    Worst Books: Froggy and Fritz (politic), Care of the Baby
    (infantilic), so Meals for 7/6 (culinic), Was Jesus a Sun Myth?
    (historic), Expel That Pain (medic), Infant's Compendium of the
    Universe (cosmic), Let's All Chortle (hilaric), Canvasser's Vade
    Mecum (journalic), Loveletters of Mother Assistant (erotic), Who's
    Who in Space (astric), Songs that Reached Our Heart (melodic),
    Pennywise's Way to Wealth (parsimonic). A general rush and
    scramble. Women press forward to touch the hem of Bloom's robe.
    The lady Gwendolen Dubedat bursts through the throng, leaps on
    his horse and kisses him on both cheeks amid great acclamation. A
    magnesium flashlight photograph is taken. Babes and sucklings are
    held up.)

                              THE WOMEN

Little father! Little father!

                        THE BABES AND SUCKLINGS

          Clap clap hands till Poldy comes home,
          Cakes in his pocket for Leo alone.

    (Bloom, bending down, pokes Baby Boardman gently in the

                     BABY BOARDMAN

(hiccups, curdled milk flowing from his mouth) Hajajaja.

(shaking hands with a blind stripling) My more than Brother! (placing his     
arms round the shoulders of an old couple) Dear old friends! (he plays
pussy fourcorners with ragged boys and girls) Peep! Bopeep! (he wheels
twins in a perambulator) Ticktacktwo wouldyousetashoe? (he performs
juggler's tricks, draws red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet
silk handkerchiefs from his mouth) Roygbiv. 32 feet per second. (he
consoles a widow) Absence makes the heart grow younger. (he dances the
Highland fling with grotesque antics) Leg it, ye devils! (he kisses the
bedsores of a palsied veteran) Honourable wounds! (he trips up a fit
policeman) U. p: up. U. p: up. (he whispers in the ear of a blushing
waitress and laughs kindly) Ah, naughty, naughty! (he eats a raw turnip       
offered him by Maurice Butterly, farmer) Fine! Splendid! (he refuses to
accept three shillings offered him by Joseph Hynes, journalist) My dear
fellow, not at all! (he gives his coat to a beggar) Please accept. (he takes
part in a stomach race with elderly male and female cripples) Come on,
boys! Wriggle it, girls!

                 THE CITIZEN

(choked with emotion, brushes aside a tear in his emerald muffler) May the
good God bless him!

    (The rams' horns sound for silence. The standard of Zion is


(uncloaks impressively, revealing obesity, unrolls a paper and reads
solemnly) Aleph Beth Ghimel Daleth Hagadah Tephilim Kosher Yom
Kippur Hanukah Roschaschana Beni Brith Bar Mitzvah Mazzoth
Askenazim Meshuggah Talith.

    (An official translation is read by Jimmy Henry, assistant town

                                JIMMY HENRY

The Court of Conscience is now open. His Most Catholic Majesty will now
administer open air justice. Free medical and legal advice, solution of 
doubles and other problems. All cordially invited. Given at this our loyal
city of Dublin in the year I of the Paradisiacal Era.

               PADDY LEONARD

What am I to do about my rates and taxes?

Pay them, my friend.