“Yes” in the Sirens Episode
I want to supplement my obsession post for Monday by taking a look at textual appearances of “yes” in Sirens. We’ve discussed some how these episodes give us a new vantage point on Bloom’s character. More specifically, we see Joyce experimenting with new ways of Bloom being reminded of Molly and Boylan. Certain words become unspeakable (the “tup” example, for one), and we also get the repetition of “jingles” and its linguistic variants. There is tension in the moments when Bloom is reminded of a thought (Molly and Boylan) so devastating to his livelihood, especially when we see him suppress this thought so he can appear composed and businesslike. Relevant questions to consider are the extent to which Bloom is in denial of his situation and how much time he spends negotiating between private acknowledgment and public ignorance.
In Sirens, I think “yes” is functioning as an indicator of the former, of Bloom resigning to the truth. It is worth noting the number of times “yes” follows a mention of Boylan’s jingle, as though the sound Bloom associates with Boylan sets off an unstoppable acknowledgement of Boylan himself, even if it is only for a moment. Simon Dedalus repeats the word twice when he is flirting with Miss Douce, and then Bloom repeats it silently. This has come right after a “jingle” in line 212. Then we get the line, “None nought said nothing. Yes” (224), which is an affirmation of silence and absence, of denying the most important subject. The “Yessex” bit follows this, which I discussed as explicitly linking “yes” with sexual relations. Appropriately, Bloom thinks of writing to Martha next, which is about the most sexual move he can make right now. He even thinks of the girl at Daly’s where he will buy paper, and likes that she’s “civil” (230).
Overall, I think this section gives us an even better idea of how much Bloom is obsessing over his marital problems. It is definitely escalated by the fact that it is four o’clock when this is happening, so if we’re thinking about reasons for Bloom behaving uncharacteristically at the bar, perhaps it is because he needs to let out some kind of honesty and blunt delivery.