Chapter Nine, Scylla and Charybdis
Narrative Focus: Stephen
Characters: Stephen, Bloom (in passing), Mulligan, “AE” (George Russell), John Eglinton, Seumas O’Sullivan (“Starkey”), other Dublin intellectuals.
Setting: The National Library, 2 PM.
Odysseus’ ship had to pass between the whirlpool Charybdis and the cliff-monster Scylla. Thus, his decision between the two is idiomatic for being caught on the horns of a dilemma. He chose to pass close to Scylla, losing six crew members rather than endangering the whole ship near the whirlpool (Book XII). In this chapter, Stephen steers a course between the Scylla and Charybdis of intellectual and emotional analysis of Hamlet and of his own identity.
Consorting with the Dublin literati, Stephen offers a psychoanalysis as much his own as an interpretation of Hamlet. Bloom passes.
1) Though Stephen himself hardly believes the analysis of the Hamlet-Ghost and Hamnet/Shakespeare parallel, the purpose is to underline the consubstantiality of the father with the son: i.e., parallel reinforces the need for “at-one-ment” between Stephen and Bloom.
2) The literary prefiguration of the novel shifts, temporarily at least, from Homeric to Shakespearean reference.