Reading James Joyce’s Ulysses, part VI


Thoughts on the final three sections of Ulysses.

“Eumaeus”

Much of this section takes place in a cabman’s shelter which seems to be like a late-night pub.  There are shadowy figures and impostors there including the sailor “Murphy.”  Bloom has paternal feelings about Stephen, wanting to strengthen their relationship but also thinks of ways to profit off Stephen’s vocal talent.  According to Harry Blamires in The New Bloomsday Book:

In short, there is no coming together here; no meeting of the minds; only a collision between the socialisitic, materialistic, liberal, twentieth-century mind, pinning its faith to the collective and to the assumed capacity of man to build his own Bloomusalem — and the rebellious guilt-ridden, individualistic inheritor of Christian culture who has lost his illusions along withi his faith. – p. 198

At one point Bloom looks at the newspaper and it is a reflection of many thing that happen in the novel: the horse race won by Throwaway, Dignam’s funeral (Bloom’s name mispelled), and the letter from Mr. Deasy.  The style of writing is deliberately poor as if written sluggishly late at night (much like this blog).  There are also pretentious passages in foreign languages and a mysterious run of numbers that not even Blamires explains.

The conflict between Ireland & England is a topic in the cabman’s shelter with the proprieter rumored to be one of the Invincibles of the Phoenix Park murders.  Bloom keeps to himself that he thinks Ireland benefits from its association with England.  Still he proudly remembers meeting Parnell and recovering the great man’s hat.
(NOTE: This episode takes place in part of Dublin I stayed in 1998).

From inside information extending over a series of years Mr Bloom was rather inclined to poohpooh the suggestion as egregious balderdash for, pending that consummation devoutly to be or not to be wished for, he was fully cognisant of the fact that their neighbours across the channel, unless they were much bigger fools than he took them for, rather concealed their strength than the opposite. It was quite on a par with the quixotic idea in certain quarters that in a hundred million years the coal seam of the sister island would be played out and if, as time went on, that turned out to be how the cat jumped all he could personally say on the matter was that as a host of contingencies, equally relevant to the issue, might occur ere then it was highly advisable in the interim to try to make the most of both countries even though poles apart.

All kinds of Utopian plans were flashing through his (B’s) busy brain, education (the genuine article), literature, journalism, prize titbits, up to date billing, concert tours in English watering resorts packed with hydros and seaside theatres, turning money away, duets in Italian with the accent perfectly true to nature and a quantity of other things, no necessity, of course, to tell the world and his wife from the housetops about it, and a slice of luck. An opening was all was wanted. Because he more than suspected he had his father’s voice to bank his hopes on which it was quite on the cards he had so it would be just as well, by the way no harm, to trail the conversation in the direction of that particular red herring just to.

“Ithaca”

Bloom & Dedalus take cocoa at Bloom’s house.  All of this chapter is written in the form of a catechism with mock scientific/philosophical language.  Thus the part of the book where the reader expects a climax where the two heroes come together is deliberately distanced and obfuscated by a flurry of excess detail.  Much of it reads like this:

What, reduced to their simplest reciprocal form, were Bloom’s thoughts about Stephen’s thoughts about Bloom and about Stephen’s thoughts about Bloom’s thoughts about Stephen?

He thought that he thought that he was a jew whereas he knew that he knew that he knew that he was not.

There are some nice things in this episode nonetheless as Stephen and Bloom compare the Hebrew and Irish languages and then go out for a shared piss in the garden.  Here they look at the stars studying the constellations upon which Bloom reflects with scientific precision.  I can’t help but think of the original Odyseus who would use the stars to navigate as well as see the pantheon of Gods in the constellations.  Despite their failure to truly connect, Bloom & Stephen see something complementary in one another:

What was Stephen’s auditive sensation?

He heard in a profound ancient male unfamiliar melody the accumulation of the past.

What was Bloom’s visual sensation?

To reflect that each one who enters imagines himself to be the first to enter whereas he is always the last term of a preceding series even if the first term of a succeeding one, each imagining himself to be first, last, only and alone whereas he is neither first nor last nor only nor alone in a series originating in and repeated to infinity.

He saw in a quick young male familiar form the predestination of a future.

Bloom, alone, reflects on death, reviews his daily accounts and daydreams of a home in the country and a petit bourgeouis life.  The contents of Bloom’s bookcases and desk are itemized. This includes Bloom’s father’s suicide  note.  He thinks about Molly and Boylan and assumes that Boylan is the latest in numerous affairs, but Bloom himself always is the last:

If he had smiled why would he have smiled?

To reflect that each one who enters imagines himself to be the first to enter whereas he is always the last term of a preceding series even if the first term of a succeeding one, each imagining himself to be first, last, only and alone whereas he is neither first nor last nor only nor alone in a series originating in and repeated to infinity.

Finally, he climbs into bed, head to toe with Molly, kissing her on the bottom and reflecting on the day leaving out some salient details.

“Penelope”

This is Molly Bloom’s episode, a long stream-of-consciousness monologue with no punctuation.  Blamires says that it’s written in eight sentences, but I didn’t really see any breaks.  Molly is an earthy and frank woman especially when it comes to sex.  Yet, despite Bloom’s assumptions of her infidelity Boylan is actually her first affair and she only feels driven to it because Bloom has abstained from sex since their son Rudy died ten years earlier:

Im not an old shrivelled hag before my time living with him so cold never embracing me except sometimes when hes asleep the wrong end of me not knowing I suppose who he has any man thatd kiss a womans bottom Id throw my hat at him after that hed kiss anything unnatural where we havent I atom of any kind of expression in us all of us the same 2 lumps of lard before ever Id do that to a man pfooh the dirty brutes the mere thought is enough I kiss the feet of you senorita theres some sense in that didnt he kiss our halldoor yes he did what a madman nobody understands his cracked ideas but me still of course a woman wants to be embraced 20 times a day almost to make her look young no matter by who so long as to be in love or loved by somebody

Yet, Molly is still fond of Bloom and there are many memories of their better times together mixed in with her other reflections on the day past and her life growing up in Gibraltar.  At one point Molly mentions she’d like to collect a book of the eccentric things Bloom says:

if I only could remember the I half of the things and write a book out of it the works of Master Poldy

The book concludes with the famous if ambigous final line where Molly remembers the day Bloom proposed to her.  It’s a positive and joyful finale nonetheless.

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