There’s a pretty obvious link in this episode between its overwhelmingly auditory character and the story of the Sirens in the Odyssey. Miss Douce and Miss Kennedy are the two sirens who perch in the hotel bar, the watering hole, as men flock inside from the streets of Dublin to see what they have to offer, both in drink and in company. Somehow, I think that the fugue technique that Joyce employs here is supposed to imitate the sounds of the sirens as Odysseus is tied to the mast. Bloom hears their voices and the music that Simon Dedalus and the rest play, but he is tied to his seat having dinner with a friend of his. He is also tied to his seat because he has seen Blazes Boylan, who is on his way to Eccles Street, and so cannot return home because he refuses to interrupt their tryst. The barmaids’ behavior only serves to remind him of his wife’s sensuality, also. The only ones immune to their charms are himself and the deaf waiter, and it’s not clear why Bloom does not act like the other men do in fraternizing with the women.
As for the fugue technique, one might expect the sirens themselves to narrate this chapter, speaking as they do in their call-and-response manner. However, as carried over from both Scylla and Charybdis and The Wandering Rocks episodes, there is an unseen and yet omnipresent narrating agent present who is manipulating these words as they pass through its language-filtering consciousness: it would be easiest to call this agent Joyce himself, as it is he who is finally responsible for the words we read. But in terms of who is narrating the story within the story–to my mind it’s the English language itself, or maybe the universal language-aspect center of the brain which can take a story, scenario, or scene and transmute it through the wringer of history, literature, language, and the entire past of human experience to pump out a logically consistent (in that each new section builds upon the knowledge which appears in the previous ones) but cross-tangled “story”, a retelling of the story (which is one way of interpreting the mythic method). This transmutation process, I think, has as its analog in music the fugue. Joyce’s prodigious power over languages ancient and modern is predominantly what makes this process possible.