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Yes, Mrs. Breen?

Monday, November 2, 2009; 05:32 am Leave a comment Go to comments

The major moment for my obsession in this section of Circe occurs when Mrs. Breen (“(eagerly)”) says the word “yes” seven times in response to Bloom recalling a series of memories about Molly. However, I view this as the linguistic climax of a very suggestive conversation between the two, so it is important to think about what’s happening with “yes” and “no” leading up to Mrs. Breen’s yes outburst. As Blamires points out, Bloom is initially flirting with Mrs. Breen but at some point takes on the role of Molly’s husband, even though he continues to speak with Mrs. Breen about their past. When she asks Bloom why he didn’t kiss her once, a “shocked” Bloom responds by pointing out that Mrs. Breen was Molly’s best friend, asking “could you?”(15.488). This is Bloom’s way of asking whether she could have done that, and she responds (according to the notes, offering “a pigeon kiss” with her tongue in between her lips) with a “Hnhn,” drawing a slight contrast to Molly’s “Mn” earlier in the morning, which was unambiguously perceived as a “no”. Spelling out the connection a bit more, we next hear Mrs. Breen ask if Bloom has “a little present for me there,” furthering her flirtation only to be rejected by Bloom, who makes the Molly connection himself and answers as if he were answering to Molly herself.

Mrs. Breen seems to be aroused by this point, and Bloom seems to keep arousing her by bringing up more memories from the past, even though he is sure to always include Molly’s part in the memory. Bloom recounts when Molly was eating a sandwich at Mrs. Joe Gallaher’s lunch basket, and even though Bloom’s subsequent description is most likely referring to Mrs. Gallaher’s food, the syntax allows for him to also be talking about Molly. Saying he “never cared much for her style. She was…” Bloom is interrupted by Mrs. Breen, who is about to say that Gallaher/Molly is “too…” something, only for Bloom to interrupt with “yes.” This allows Bloom to agree with Mrs. Breen without actually saying whatever it was that she wanted to say; if it was about Molly, Bloom does not have to hear it. Then we get Mrs. Breen’s “yes” outburst, which now seems to be in response to being temporarily suppressed with Bloom’s single “yes.” Though it is not wrong for her to repeat yes at least several times in this context (there are several different questions being asked in the memory that Bloom is sharing), the fact that there are seven hints to the reader the sexual aspect of this interaction.

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