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Waste

Wednesday, September 9, 2009; 03:14 am Leave a comment Go to comments

Dealing with the issue of waste should be interesting in Ulysses, but I will have to be careful of how I decide what is waste.  The most obvious, to me at least,  use of the word waste is excrement.  However, this issue will be well covered by mckeeeri, and so I will avoid that issue for the most part.  Other senses of the word I find intriguing are, excess, refuse, and decay.  Reading through the Telemachiad again, I noticed that the first use of any form of the word waste refers to Stephen’s mother.  Specifically, Stephen recalls the image in his dream of her “wasted body” (1.113).  After this phrase follows some imagery that  seems important because it recurs throught this section.  Her body gives off “an odor of wax and rosewood” and her breath “a faint odor of wetted ashes” (1.114-115).  These aren’t very offensive smells to be associated with death and decay and for that reason seem intriguing.  They recur almost word for word a little oer a hundred lines later (1.270-272).  They then occur in Episode two when Stephen is ruminating on the love of Sargent’s mother for him, and on her death (2.145-146). While these phrases seem most importantly linked to mothers, they also are linked to death and wasting away, which seems interesting because ash, and ashes will probably continually arise as symbols due to Stephen’s ashplant.  It is also intriguing that the first use of the word waste deals with a body.  In fact the only time the word waste is used in the first three episodes is in connection to a body or body part.  IN episode three Stephen recalls his friend Kevin Egan, and his “weak wasting hand” (3.263).  I am not quite sure what to make of this instance, except that immediately after this, Stephen claims that  Egan has been forgotten, in a sense he  was wasted.

While the word itself occurred rarely in this section, instances of waste were not all that rare.  There were a couple of instances where money was considered wasted on the wealthy.  This is true of Haines, of Deasy, and of some of Stephen’s students.  Stephen clearly begrudges these characters their superior wealth, but he is also aware that he wastes his own money.  The amount of discussion in the first episode about spending money on booze is a clear indication of this, and when Stephen is in Deasy’s office he admits that if he had a coin case, it would usually be empty.  And of course, there are several sightings of refuse, especially in the third episode, when Stephen wanders the beach.  These seem important in that refuse acts a sign to Stephen of past lives.  In his ruminations on sight, Stephen deals with signs standing in for reality, and the refuse he sees acts as unintentional signs of the people who left it behind, and therefore Stephen’s interpretation of the signs is suspect at best.

I was discussing how I might deal with the issue of waste last night, and a friend who is not in this seminar, but somewhat familiar with Ulysses suggested I deal with the concept of wasted words in the text.  Prestonr88 and I were quick to dismiss the idea of wasted words by Joyce.  However, reading this section again I realized that there are several instances of wasted words by characters.  This is especially true in Episode two.  First, Stephen tries his joke about the pier which falls flat because the correct audience is not present (2.42), and later Deasy makes the ridiculous comment that he dosen’t mince words after Stephen reads through his letter to the press(2.331).  Interestingly, Joyce is careful not to waste words here, yet manages to convey the wasted words of Deasy as Stephen reads it over.  Joyce highlights the strange turns of phrase, and unnecessary words especially with the phrase “to come to the point at issue” (2.330).

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