Yes and No Obsession: The Keyes Ad
In continuing my focus on yes and no in Ulysses, I’ve become intrigued by the presence of expectations that characters possess in situations that require yes and no answers. Joyce seems very interested in emphasizing the sway that certain characters hold over another, and yes and no situations are apt for exploring what people expect when they must appeal to authority. The interaction between Bloom and Myles Crawford in Aeolus is important in this discussion.
Prior to receiving an answer from Myles Crawford (i.e. most of the episode), Bloom awaits, eager with anticipation about striking an advertising deal for Keyes in the newspaper. Part of what I want to suggest about this anticipation is that it is at least somewhat far-fetched. Bloom does not have the design of the advertisement when he is talking to Nannetti, and the deal he is proposing also requests a small paragraph in the newspaper promoting Keyes’ business. In addition, the repetition of Bloom’s explanation of the ad’s design (“Like that, see. Two crossed keys here. A circle. Then here the name.”) may imply that it is tacky, the pun on “keys” too obvious. Given the way Nannetti reacts to Bloom’s description, several early trends in this episode indicate the possibility of rejection.
In spite of this, Bloom remains optimistic, but it is the kind of optimism that is blind and unconfident. In the two major moments of rejection from Crawford, the two characters never completely talk to one another. Bloom first calls Crawford’s office on the phone and is greeted by Professor MacHugh, who then informs Crawford that Bloom is on the phone. Bloom does not actually get to hear Crawford’s “tell him to go to hell” response, so there is no way he can fully comprehend Crawford’s antagonistic mood. He expects the ad will get purchased even though many signs point to the contrary. It even takes Bloom a variant of Crawford’s first “kiss my arse” comment for him to realize that the deal is not happening. It’s important to note that Crawford is not actually rejecting Bloom linguistically, since he is technicallyasking Bloom if Bloom could tell Keyes that Keyes can kiss his ass. Like the phone call, this has the effect of sending Bloom the message of rejection without explicitly directing said message towards him.
When we think about this episode’s extensive ruminations on Molly and the rejection that Bloom encounters from her (much of which is not explicit as well…Molly does not say “no” to Bloom’s question in Calypso but rather “Mn”), Bloom’s failure in his dealings with Crawford mimic the failure of his marriage, with both anticipation and frustration remaining in the face of rejection.