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Differentiating Animals and Humans

Monday, September 21, 2009; 03:02 am Leave a comment Go to comments

After looking at the references to animals in chapters 4-6, I found a couple examples which indicate that Bloom struggles to separate humans from animals. While this statement may seem extreme, I think after a few examples it may become more believable. Chapter four begins by describing Bloom’s intense love of meat, “Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts. . .Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his plate a fine tang of faintly scented urine”  (45). Then, in chapter six, he goes into unusual detail of what a human corpse’s meat might be like so that he can better understand the culinary choices of rats: “An obese grey rat toddled along the side of the crypt. . .One of those chaps would make short work of a fellow. Pick the bones clean no matter who it is. Ordinary meat for them. A corpse is meat gone bad. Well and what’s cheese? Corpse of milk” (94). Instead of being repulsed by the prospect of a rat devouring a human corpse, Bloom instead analyzes the rat’s choice of meat just as he would with meat he was choosing. Furthermore, Bloom even tries to connect a rat’s food choices with humans’ at the end of the quote (“Well and what’s cheese? Corpse of milk”). Overall, I got this feeling that from Bloom’s view meat is meat, regardless of if it’s human or animal; Bloom is able to consider both human and animal meat as food, and is able to look from both the human and the animal perspective.
In chapter five, Bloom receives a love letter from a pen pal named Martha. Throughout Martha’s letter, she alludes to Bloom being a masochist (“Remember if you do not I will punish you. So now you know what I will do to you, you naughty boy, if you do not wrote” (64)). The revelation of Bloom’s fetish makes his remarks regarding his cat both interesting and disturbing: “She understands all she wants to. Vindictive too. Cruel. Her nature. Curious mice never squeal. Seem to like it. Wonder what I look like to her. Height of a tower? No, she can jump me” (45). Here, Bloom quickly goes from suggesting that mice enjoy the pain cats inflict on them, to wondering how his cat views him. Given Bloom’s fetish, this suggests a possible perverted view of Bloom towards his cat. Especially considering the last line of the quote (“No, she can jump me”), which at least suggests that Bloom believes that there’s not much difference between himself and the cat, and may well suggest more.
Finally, during chapter six Bloom shows as much sadness towards his dad’s dead dog as he does to Dignam: “Poor old Athos! Be good to Athos, Leopold, is my last wish. Thy will be done. We obey them in the grave. A dying scrawl. He took it to heart, pined away. Quiet brute. Old men’s dogs usually are” (75). As Ulysses Annotated points out, this is a reference to Odysseus’ dog Argos who dies right after Odysseus returns home (Gifford 107). In addition to this reference, Bloom’s equal mourning for a long dead dog of his dad, and for a recently deceased friend, further shows the lack of differentiation in Bloom’s mind between animals and humans.
As for why Joyce decided to make Bloom view animals and humans as true equals, I’m not quite sure. As of right now, these examples simply further shape the view I have of Bloom’s character; a character that is at least a little abnormal.

Update:

Here are a few ideas regading animals that came up during our Monday discussion:

1) I originally viewed Bloom’s attempts to look at life through the perspective of animals as somewhat creepy. However, in class we discussed how this could reflect positively on Bloom’s personality. For instance, it shows that Bloom is both able to and willing to look through others’ perspectives. Also, given that one of the animals whose vantage Bloom takes is a rat (commonly regarded as a lowly creature), it might also show that he has limited prejudices towards class.

2) It was brought up in class that Bloom describes the action of a cat attacking a mouse as vindictive. Of course, this action is actually not vindictive at all. I don’t believe we flushed out why Bloom might have chosen this description, but my personal guess is that it stems from Bloom possibly feeling unfairly treated (Note: I view the mouse as a symbol for Bloom in this part of the book because of the masochism connection).

3) It was noted in class that Stephen Deadlaus is described similarly to the cat. Going along with my comments above regarding Bloom’s association with the mouse, could this say something about the relationship between Bloom and Stephen’s characters?

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