During the funeral we get a mysterious 13th stranger, somebody wearing a Macintosh raincoat that Bloom doesn’t recognize. If this were a mystery this person would show up later and off one of the guys at the funeral, maybe Simon Dedalus. Unfortunately Agatha Christie was not consulted during the long writing process. Of course there may be an Agatha reference in there somewhere, but I promised myself I wouldn’t look at any secondary sources until I finished the book.
Joyce is just so good as sub-referencing that you can’t run your eyes over a curious line without wondering if you’re missing something. It’s like this book is the biggest storehouse of literary in-jokes in the history of the novel. We get a lot of Shakespeare (Tempest, Hamlet, and Julius Ceasar so far) plus all the Irish songs that I’ve yet to hear at Renaissance Festivals, and of course the Odyssey stuff, but I’m sure there’s stuff I’m not picking up.
Of course the 13th guest at the funeral ties in to all kinds of myths, legends and superstitions. For example, there were 13 guests at the Last Supper, with Judas being counted as number 13. You’ve also got the myth that a witches’ coven had 12 members, with the devil being number 13.
So this mysterious 13th guy could be any number of people. I’m sure there’s enough opaque evidence to suggest that it’s Stephen, or Molly, or even (gasp!) the ghost of Dignam himself! But most likely it’s just Joyce messing with our heads again. I don’t want to seem irreverent, but sometimes a writer can put a mystery in just for the sake of a mystery. Still, it’s a nice touch, and definitely one that can keep undergraduates endlessly guessing.
The funeral itself is rife with ill omens, as if Joyce wants us to believe that Bloom is going to suffer more misfortune somewhere down the line. Between the mysterious guest, the donkey braying, and the general gloominess of it all, it seems likely that our Mr. Bloom is going to have to endure more drama in the pages to come.