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Obsession Reproduction

Monday, September 7, 2009; 04:48 am Leave a comment Go to comments

While there was little explicit discussion of reproduction in the Telemachiad, there was quite a bit about motherhood, indicating some of Joyce’s potential thoughts on the nature of Ireland and Irish character. 

First, the passage where Buck Mulligan calls the sea “a great sweet mother? The snotgreen sea. The scrotumtightening sea” hints at an odd, potentially Oedipal, relationship with Ireland and the sea. The scrotum tightening could be sexual, but could also have to do with coldness or fear. The greenness of the sea is cast in a negative light, both here and slightly later when it’s called a ‘dull green mass of liquid”. It would  seem that whatever ‘Mother Ireland’ in the form of the sea produced would be substandard, possibly vile. 

The old milkmaid also seems to be a possible ‘Mother Ireland’ sort of figure. While she’s in a nourishing capacity, she doesn’t know the Irish language and her children pay her for her milk. She herself cast in unflattering terms, “Crouching by a patient cow at daybreak in the lush field, a witch on her toadstool, her wrinkled fingers quick at the squirting dugs” and “A wandering crone, lowly form of an immortal serving her conqueror and her gay betrayer, their common cuckquean, a messenger from the secret morning. To serve or to upbraid, whether he could not tell: but scorned to beg her favour.”

Dedalus, as a product of Ireland, is possibly corrupted or damaged by having such an insufficient mother. As the Telemachus figure, he would also likely be powerless to save her until his father returns. If Ireland is actually Penelope, however, she has already been corrupted, not managing to stave off the suitors who would take her virtue. All in all, it will be interesting to see what the offspring borne by Ireland finally proves to be in this book.

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