“Nes” and “Yo” Situations, Bloom Seeing All Sides
To give a brief update on yes and no: I’ve discussed my interest in Stephen’s answer of “no” in Scylla and Charybdis when Eglinton asked him if believed his own theory. On Wednesday, I talked with the Stonecutters about John Marshall’s reading of the event (that the “no” really means “not yet”). I also talked about Marshall’s assertion that in the trope of yes and no, Ulysses is moving from the (perceived) negative of Molly’s first word, “Mn,” to the repeated and triumphant “yes” that ends the novel.
In looking at The Sirens and The Cyclops, I want to think about Marshall’s idea that Stephen’s “no” represents the turning point of the overall “yes and no” movement in the novel. If the points involving Molly’s “mn” and “yes” are polarized in Ulysses as Marshall claims them to be, then the middle of the novel’s “yes and no” moments should not be as well-defined or straightforward. Several aspects of these episodes seemed announce both “nes” and “yo” to me, and they are as follows:
Flirting: In the Sirens episode, we see a lot of suggestive dialogue and behavior involving the interaction between male and female characters. The reason I find such “flirting” interesting is because flirting can blur the line between yes and no. There are situations in which one person can unwillingly flirt with another person who is actively trying to flirt black. There is also room for interpretation after flirting has taken place. When Miss Douce draws attention to “the fellow in the tall silk” (11.70), she assumes he is looking back at her and then proceeds to say that “he’s killed looking back” (11.77). Whether he in fact is or is not, Miss Douce has perceived affirmation and approval. This moment is quickly contrasted by the worker bringing the tea to the women, who immediately reject his presence and conversation. We also get moments of Simon Dedalus flirting with Miss Douce and both Miss Douce and Miss Kennedy smiling at Boylan.
Bloom seeing all sides: The Cyclops episode furthers the complexity of Bloom’s character in ways that make him, in addition to Stephen, a character who is resisting the constraints of “yes” and “no.” As a Jew in Ireland, his attitudes are more sophisticated and complicated than those of the citizen (and narrator), who sees things unilaterally without deeper subtlety. What was striking to me about this was the extent to which Joyce emphasized the resistance to Bloom’s complexity. While some of the angst held towards Bloom is undoubtedly anti-Semitic, it seems that Bloom is also being mocked for his intelligence and his characteristic understanding of parallax.