Home > Uncategorized > Yes and No Obsession: The Keyes Ad

Yes and No Obsession: The Keyes Ad

Monday, September 28, 2009; 05:01 am Leave a comment Go to comments

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.

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  1. kellymarie11
    Wednesday, September 30, 2009; 02:21 am at 2:21 am

    I know we talked about this in class a little, but I wanted to bring it up here, refine it a little.

    When Crawford says “kiss my arse” to Bloom, he’s presenting both a meeting of two opposites (Stephen’s “mouth” and “south”) and, as Professor Simpson brought up, what the Gifford text describes as the way Satan’s followers show obeisance. Crawford is then pictured as someone to be worshiped by Bloom, not necessarily such a harsh rejection as it first sounds, and this circular gesture that is something that Bloom constantly revels in. He contemplates the cycle of ingestion and excretion (with his kidney breakfast and “king in his countinghouse” relieving soon after), the process by which birth comes from death and death from birth (with the death of Dignam and rats eating corpses… etc.) and, less emphatically, the reciprocal nature of duty for him. As a result, Bloom must feel like Crawford has cheated him in some way. Bloom has been obsessed with this ad, wanting to do his job in getting published and emphasizing its minuscule merits, but Crawford falls through, doesn’t complete the cycle of duty. That’s something to think about.

  2. Ross
    Wednesday, September 30, 2009; 03:55 am at 3:55 am

    Thanks for responding to my post, KellyMarie11. I think you do a really nice job of explaining what might be lurking in the interaction between Bloom and Crawford.

    The Keyes ad represents the abstract side of my yes and no obsession, so for this update on yes and no, I’d like to provide a few additional notes on the physical appearance of “yes” and “no” in the text.

    We talked last week about the Hades episode’s beginning, with Bloom lingering and then entering the carriage with Simon Dedalus, Cunnigham, and Power. Simon Dedalus utters “yes,yes” as he enters the carriage, and this has prompted me to look for other moments where yes is repeated. The Aeolus episode provides an example under the section “Kyrie Eleison!”, as Stephen is thinking about Greek language and its “vowels the Semite and the Saxon know not” (7.563). The “yes, yes” here comes after Stephen has made two claims, one relating to the influences of “catholic chivalry” and one relating to “the empire of the spirit” of ancient Athens. While “yes” is certainly lamenting the loss of this Athenian spirit, I would also note that the two instances of “yes” can also be read as separate affirmations of the two claims. Even though the origins of Catholic chivalry and Athens are quite different, they still get the same acknowledgement and credence.

    I’ve also been thinking a little about when other terms of affirmation are being used instead of “yes.” Just below the moment I described above, Myles Crawford repeats the phrase “that’ll be all right,” as he does at other points in Aeolus. The word “right” by itself is also used in affirmative contexts. If I could make any kind of a meaningful distinction between “right” and its variants and “yes,” it seems that “yes” is more organic and universal, while “that’ll be all right” is usually responding to a specific task with a deadline.

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