Seeing as this issue of The Little Review was published only a few short months before the end of World War I, it is not surprising that death is a major topic. Taking place at a funeral, Episode VI of Ulysses, a loose parallel of “Hades” in the Odyssey, fits right in. Though nearly every piece in this issue deals with death, the various authors write about it in different ways, many of which parallel Bloom’s reactions throughout the chapter.
For example, Yeats’ “In Memory of Robert Gregory” deals with the nearly unspeakable grief that comes with the death of a young person. Though Robert Gregory, an Irish pilot in World War I, was not nearly as young as Bloom’s son Rudy when he died, Yeats expresses similar anguish to that which Bloom experiences when thinking about his son. In the final line of the poem, Yeats states that writing about Robert Gregory’s recent death, “took all my heart” (4). In many ways, it seems like Rudy’s death took away Bloom’s heart. When he sees the child’s coffin pass ahead of their carriage, Bloom goes through a series of halting thoughts that demonstrate the deep heartbreak he still experiences as a result of Rudy’s death: “Our. Little. Beggar. Baby. Meant nothing. Mistake of nature” (79). Though it has been years, Bloom still experiences intense emotional pain.
In his poem “Whispers of Immortality,” T.S. Eliot writes about Webster and Donne, two long dead poets who are nevertheless remembered. Interestingly, Eliot seems to think that it was their portrayals of death in their poetry that earned them a place in Western memory. Though physically dead, their writing is immortal. Similarly, the men’s visit to Parnell’s grave proves that he has attained a “whisper of immortality,” just like the poets. In fact some people even wonder if he actually died. Mr. Power states, “Some say he is not in that grave at all. That the coffin was filled with stones. That one day he will come again” (93). Even though Hynes abruptly shoots down this possibility, Parnell retains his place in Irish memory. As long as people remember those who have died, they maintain a glimmer of life, even if it is only in the memory of others.