Extra! Extra! Readers Confused by Headlines in Aeolus

Before I even started this novel, I anticipated I’d find it confusing at times.  Really confusing.  Episode 7: Aeolus was the first episode that made my head spin a bit.  It’s the newspaper-like headlines that have thrown me for a loop.  I’d like to hash this out a bit, as I’m guessing it’s also caused many of you grief. 

However, before I go into explanations about the headlines, it might be good to mention the reference to Homer’s Odyssey.  Aeolus, the god of winds, aids Odyssesus by presenting him a bag full of all the adverse winds on his journey home.  Unfortunately for Odyssesus, his companions open the bag out of curiousity, unleashing the winds which blow the ship off course.

With that in mind, here are a few thoughts about the headlines (generated with the aid of my many study guides):

  • The most obvious: the headlines are present because the episode takes place in the Freeman newspaper offices, echoing the very style of a newspaper.  After all, the newspaper office is much like Aeolus’ palace of wind.
  • They serve as a bag of winds, blowing us off course and frustrating our journey through the novel.
  • Let’s just cheat and consider Joyce guru Stuart Gilbert’s thoughts: “It will be noticed that the style of the captions is gradually modified in the course of the episode; the first are comparatively dignified, or classically allusive, in the Victorian tradition; later captions reproduce, in all its vulgarity, the slickness of the modern press.  This historico-literary technique, here inaugurated, is a preparation for the employment of the same method, but on the grand scale, a stylistic tour de force, in a later episode, the Oxen of the Sun (James Joyce’s Ulysses, p.179).
  • I’m still left with a gnawing thought that confuses me even more: Do the headlines somehow describe the text that follows them? 

Please feel free to share your own thoughts and responses by commenting on this post.

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