Home > Uncategorized > In and out, Part II.

In and out, Part II.

Monday, September 21, 2009; 01:59 am Leave a comment Go to comments

The main function I see ingestion and excretion having in the next three chapters is to introduce and define the character of Leopold Bloom and contrast him with the character of Stephen Dedalus, which was established in the Telemachiad.  While Stephen cares not for the breakfast making and consuming process in Chapter One, Chapter Four, Calypso, begins with a graphic portrait of Bloom’s voracious ingestion.  His preferred food happens to all be meat and mainly organs, but most of all: “grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented 
urine” (4-5).  The fact that he eats organs is bad enough, but ingesting kidneys, the organ involved directly in filtering pee, puts Bloom’s awareness of the importance of ingestion an excretion on a whole new disturbing level.  Also, the fact that he enjoys the pee-scent of the meat he is eating about puts me over the edge.  And finally, Bloom is at least part-Jewish I believe so the fact that he obtains and eats a pork kidney makes him a bad Jew as well as having weird culinary tastes.  To Bloom, the cycle of ingestion and excretion goes beyond an obsession, and becomes more of a pattern of his own passive existence.  He relates to the world through food, through the food he puts in his mouth, his trip to the butcher, and his obsession with making Molly breakfast in bed, which puts a weird sexual spin on the act of ingestion.

Other food imagery present in this chapter include the milk Bloom gives to the cat and the potato talisman he carries, both of which hearken back to the Great Famine, when the Irish supply of the staple food sources potatoes with buttermilk withered and much of the population died of starvation.  The talisman (72) serves as a reminder of the importance of ingestion and how fragile the human condition is without the knowledge that the cycle of ingestion and excretion will continue.  Bloom’s inner monologue also reveals that Molly really likes bread with butter, and he repeats this to himself several times as he prepares her breakfast.  One of the summaries I read describes the connection between bread and youth but I can’t locate it at the moment, so I hope someone else knows what I’m talking about, because that would make sense if the bread itself is also connected to Molly.

Bloom’s mobility seems to be tied directly to his eating and shitting, as he goes into town to get the kidney he has been coveting and then at the close of the chapter only rises when he feels “a gentle loosening of his bowels” (459).  He likes to read on the can, apparently, and takes his good sweet time making sure to ease the “slight constipation of yesterday” (508).  Clearly he understand the importance of keeping indigestion at bay, god forbid he end up like the British.  He then pees and has dirty thoughts about women and their stockings, not for the first time that day.  The gradesaver summary of this chapter defines Bloom as a “voyeur who is obsessed with food and defecation” and this is a fair assessment at least at this point, as the scene in the outhouse shows the combination of all these elements in the portrait of Leopold Bloom.

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