Scylla and Charybdis and Wandering Rocks, a little bit of Sirens and Cyclops
I’m going to focus on Scylla and Charybdis and Wandering Rocks for the sake of depth and catching up, and take a smaller crack at Sirens and Cyclops until Wednesday’s update.
Scylla and Charybdis
As I worked my through all the questions, I noticed a pattern peculiar to this episode. When a character asks a question in Scylla and Charybdis, there is never an answer. Literally, no questions posed by characters aloud are answered by anyone else, with a single exception that seems too Joycean to have been a coincidence: Stephen squarely answers “No” when asked if he believes his own theory. Throughout the entire episode we get the sense, by the fact that no questions are answered at all, that no one quite knows what to make of Shakespeare or any theories proposed about him. It mirrors the debate perfectly, in that the questions are endless and the answers are nowhere to be found. So when Stephen answers a question head on for the only time in the episode, it is incredibly entertaining that his answer confirms only that he doesn’t have any answers (in regards to Shakespeare). It’s like that old saying, the only thing I know is that I don’t know anything.
There’s a marked change in this episode, where we’re starting to get real, direct answers to questions, if not in depth revealing answers yet. With a few exceptions, we see most of the questions posed by characters answered in a direct fashion I honestly wasn’t expecting or used to from the other episodes. The conversations between Katy and Boody, and between Blazes and the flower girl for example are loaded with questions with direct meaningful answers. This would seem to go hand-in-hand with the theme of parallax explored in Wandering Rocks, as you need clarity from each angle to get clarity from the fuller picture. In the other episodes, where narration is taken care of from a single perspective, the lack of clear responses to questions echoes the sentiment that a single perspective does not grant much insight. In Wandering Rocks, however, when we finally get multiple perspectives, each one is sharp (as indicated by the clear answers in the episode) and thus allows us to get a better idea of the whole picture. The other smaller theme I want to address in Wandering Rocks is people asking how things are to other people, and getting no actual response to the question (Father Comnee and the MPs wife, Dilly and Stephen, Father Cowley and Simon Dedalus). This could easily be a small comment by Joyce about the nature of such greetings, that we rarely if ever think about what’s being asked and take it for granted that it’s a nominal greeting, and not a sincere inquiry into how things are going. I would be interested to see if later on in Ulysses someone asks how things are going and the answer to the question would be important to the plot, but the question still isn’t answered properly; it would be like the boy who cried wolf.
Sirens and Cyclops
Some quick notes until Wednesday, since I’m already at almost two pages of writing. In Sirens, we see, for what I believe is the first time, questions posed aloud by characters being answered by the external narrative. This is the first suggestion of narrative interference (though Spark Notes and Wikipedia claim the first hints of it come in Cyclops), and begins to plant the idea in the reader’s head that the narrative presence is more than just perfunctory. As for Cyclops, the narrator begins by answering a couple questions with “Ay,” only to reinforce the numerous Cyclops references. Then, the dialogue is propelled very quickly with a deluge of questions between the characters, but it is interesting to note the non-intellectualism we see in the conversation (when there was so much, for example, in Scylla and Charybdis). Two particular questions I will try to expound upon next time: the citizen’s question of what nation Bloom is, and the citizen’s “Whose God?” question.