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Life/Death Animals/Humans

Monday, October 5, 2009; 12:54 am Leave a comment Go to comments

In an earlier obsession post covering episodes 4-6, I pointed out that in Bloom’s mind there seems to be little separation between humans and animals. One example I used to back up this statement was Bloom’s observations on rats eating human corpses (94). In his observations Bloom rationalizes the rats’ food choice by connecting it to humans’ food choices (“Well and what’s cheese? Corpse of milk”). In episode 10 I encountered new references to animals, which cause me to believe that Joyce is more concerned with connecting animal life and human death (and vice versa) than he is about showing how Bloom views animals.

The first example in episode 10 that shifted my view on Joyce’s goal comes from the scene where Bloom is looking at books. After flipping through a few books, Bloom thinks “infants cuddled in a ball in bloodred wombs like livers of slaughtered cows” (193). While this comment surely shows that Bloom is still struggling with the thought of animals being butchered for food, the decision to connect this animal’s slaughter to a child’s birth begs for a deeper reading. Especially when a few pages later, during the section of episode 10 focusing on Mr. Kernan, he describes dogs licking up blood of executed humans from the streets (197).

As to why Joyce wishes to make this life/death connection between animals and humans, I’m not sure yet. Likewise, I’ve been struggling to tie any significant meaning to the horse betting that is repeatedly brought up. I did find out that horse betting was popular in Ireland at the time Ulysses was published, so it makes sense that it would be a common topic of conversation. However, given what I’ve learned about Joyce, there’s most likely some deeper significance to Joyce’s continual horse betting references. Maybe it’s a warning to the reader not to misread his text (Bantam Lyons misread Bloom’s comments as hinting that he should bet on a horse named Throwaway back on page 70).

Update:

I just have a few short anecdotes and ideas for this obsession update:

1) The scene a couple episodes back where Bloom feeds the geese may seem to stand in sharp contrast to my idea that humans and animals are often connected through death in this novel. However, immediately after feeding the geese Bloom ponders how various animals taste, which directly connects to animal death. Likewise, Bloom’s interaction with his cat is also tied to animal death as he’s obsessed with meat at the beginning of episode 4, and he also thinks about the cat killing mice during this scene.

2) I decided to try and find out if Joyce was a vegetarian. From my limited research I’ve found nothing stating that he’s a vegetarian, but I did find an article that said he often ate at a vegetarian restrauant where he was amused by how the vegetarian dishes were made to look like meat dishes.

3) As Professor Simpson pointed out in class, the blood that the dog licks off the street in episode 10 belongs to Robert Emmet. Emmet was an Irish patriot who led a rebellion in 1803. After spending some time in hiding following the rebellion, Emmet was caught and executed in Thomas Street. Emmet’s speech after being sentenced is worth checking out.

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