Fatherhood: Scylla and Charybdis and Cyclops. (Updated w/ some Judaism)
On Wednesday, my group discussed fatherhood mainly in relationship to motherhood. Throughout Scylla and Charybdis both begetting and creating as a father and bearing and birthing as a mother are mentioned. Joyce starts to confound the maternity and paternity and constructs an idea that perhaps androgynous birth is best. Both ways of producing an offspring, contained in one person.
The image of the ultimate match of male and female figures prominently in the chapter. The image described by Stephen of the phallic, bloody, violent mulberry tree, upright planted in the loving, accepting mother earth is a fitting support of my theory on androgynous production. The phallus causes death, the yoni accepts the body back into her, just as the phallus engages the womb in production, and the womb bears the offspring.
Another image that makes a bold impression in Scylla and Charydis is Stephen’s thought about Eve: “Naked wheatbellied sin. A snake coils her, fang in’s kiss.” The ultimate mother, coiled within the snake phallus, about to give birth to mankind. Powerful.
A man who can absorb qualities of women is somewhat bouyed up by Joyce. Stephen is elated to discover he can fit in women’s shoes in Proteus and Stephen wonders in Scylla: “what name Achilles bore when he lived among women.” And in Stephen’s argument for Shakespeare being the father of the ghost, the prince and the son of the ghost and prince and Hamlet his own grandfather (or whatever) he says that in the economy of heaven there will be “glorified man, an androgynous angel, being a wife unto himself.” The ultimate being, having qualities of men and women, production in both ways.
Buck Mulligan (of all people) personifies the feminine birth inside a masculine form when he has an idea for a play: “Wait. I am big with child. I have an unborn child in my brain…. He clasped his paunchbrow with both birthaiding hands.” What’s interesting about this imagery is that it is alludes to Zeus’s takeover of the women’s role in child birth. A God took the child from a woman and birthed a woman from his creative brain. The Man (buck) takes and idea from God and bears it femininely to fruition with “birthaiding” hands.
From Scylla to Cylops there is not much in the way of fathers, but in Cyclops there is one mention: J.J. O’Malloy commentson the Jews waiting for their Messiah: “every jew is in a tall state of excitement, I believe, till he knows if he’s a father or a mother” (277, gabler edition) This is interesting. It’s not in the line of the other aspects of parenthood that I’ve discussed so far. Here, it seems suggested, the parent’s role depends on whether the child is male or female, since the child’s gender is usually the thing parents are all “in a tall state of excitment” over. This twist of a familiar concept lands the importance of gender (and therefore parenting style?) on the parent, which connects to the conversation on incest that we’ve been continuing throughout the book. If a mother acts as a father in the parenting role, does her son covet her? If a father acts feminine, does the daughter end up with an Electra Complex… I don’t know. This will have to be developed more.
Since Catholicism is patrilineal and Irish, and Judaism is matrilineal and not Irish, as we’ve been seeing… then when Bloom thinks about his line ending earlier on in Cyclops, he is thinking of himself decidely as more Irish than Jewish. (and I think he can be both… but he is definitely NOT acceptig his Irishness here.) Because Rudy has died, he considers his line ended, but only his patrilineal line is over, Milly is alive and kicking… and in the Jewish faith, that would be enough. (But there’s always the complication that Molly isn’t Jewish… and she certainly isn’t Irish.) Since Bloom doesn’t have a son to be a father for, he seems to have become feminized so he can be a mother for Milly.? This is a possible direction to go here. From what I know of the rest of the book, we’re just waiting for Bloom and Stephen to link up so Bloom can act as Father and Stephen can act as Son, and everyone can feel better about everything….. We’ll see how it goes.