Characteristics of a Labyrinth

Of all the techniques used up to this point in Ulysses, the labyrinth technique in “Wandering Rocks” is one of the most extensively used. The entire episode mirrors the process of walking through a labyrinth. The reader walks along a given path with a certain character for a few paragraphs or pages, and then abruptly turns the corner and finds himself with another character, in a different part of Dublin. The intrusions are also a key part of the maze-like experience of “Wandering Rocks.” On one hand, they serve as dead ends. Just as the reader begins to feel confident about making his way through a passage, a wall pops up out of nowhere and abruptly cuts off the action. For example, in the midst of a conversation between Lenehan and M’Coy, the sentence “Master Patrick Aloysius Dignam came out of Mangan’s late Fehrenbach’s, carrying a pound and a half of porksteaks” (192) intrudes on the flow of the narrative. Like running into a dead end in a maze, this random bit of information is jarring.

The intrusions in “Wandering Rocks” also parallel the feeling of going around in circles in a complicated labyrinth. Instead of making any real progress, the wanderer finds himself passing the same spot over and over again. The reader feels the same way when the same characters keep popping up all across the city. For example, the throwaway that Bloom throws into the Liffy in “Lestrygonians” pops up several times in this episode. At the end of the section involving Katy, Boody, and Maggy Dedalus, the reader is presented with this image: “A skiff, a crumpled throwaway, Elijah is coming, rode lightly down the Liffey, under Loopline bridge, shooting the rapids where water chafed around bridgepiers” (186-187). Near the end of the episode, at the close of the section involving Mulligan and Haines in the pub, we see the throwaway again: “Elijah, skiff, light crumpled throwaway, sailed eastward by flanks of ships and trawlers” (205). These recurring images give the reader the sense that he is not making any progress, similar to someone lost in a labyrinth. 

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