Perhaps it was because I read these episodes so far apart from one another, but this section was a slog for me, especially Episode 7. I really had to heavily rely on the annotation this time around.
Episode 5: The Lotus Eaters
The big thing in this episode is the parallel with The Odyssey, in which Odysseus' men eat lotus blossoms and fall into a state of lazy intoxication. In this episode, Leopold wanders aimlessly, pondering all sorts of things, as he kills time before Dignam's funeral.
We also see another side to Leopold and Molly's marriage with Leopold's picking up the letter from his erotic pen pal, Martha. Instead of simply seeing Molly as the adulterous one and blaming the decline of the Blooms' marriage solely on her, we now learn that Leopold likely had a hand in the marriage's degradation, as well. While Leopold resolves never to meet Martha in person, even though she asks, which shows some sort of moral restraint, he also says he plans to use stronger, more erotic language in his next letter to her.
Episode 6: Hades
There's a lot about Leopold's status as an outsider in this episode, mainly connected to his Jewishness. He gets into the funeral carriage last, he doesn't have the easy conversation the other men have, and he's not even called by his first name by the men. Part of this is simply because he is an outsider: These men all have known one another longer than they've known Leopold. But, I also got the sense that the other men hold Leopold at arms' length because he is Jewish. If he weren't Jewish, he may be more on the inside than he is now.
We also see a major return to the fathers and sons theme in this episode, especially when the conversation turns to death and suicide and it becomes known that Leopold's father committed suicide. There is a certain sadness in Leopold's thoughts regarding his father's death, but there isn't the heavy guilt and depression that surrounded Stephen's thoughts of his mother's death earlier in the novel. Perhaps this is because Leopold's father's death is at a farther remove in time than Stephen's mother's death, or it could be because Leopold doesn't hold the guilt that Stephen does.
Episode 7: Aeolus
I have to admit, this was the most daunting episode for me. Maybe my attention span was wandering, but the intrusion of the constant newspaper-like headlines just threw me off track and I had to go back and re-read several sections.
There was a lot of back-and-forth conversation in this episode, a lot of which just seemed to be a bunch of men one-upping one another. If this episode is cross-referenced with the Aeolus episode in The Odyssey, the seemingly random conversations make much more sense (Of course, I didn't look up the parallels until after I had read the episode). In the Aeolus episode, one of Odysseus' men disobeys him and opens up a bag of winds which blows the group off course. In Ulysses, the Aeolus episode is full of puffed-up, arrogant men whose life's work is to write long-winded, sometimes incomprehensible, prose for newspapers.
So, what did you think of this section of the novel? Are you still with me? Did you like this part, or hate it?