Home > Uncategorized > Demons, Circles, and Supplication, oh My

Demons, Circles, and Supplication, oh My

Wednesday, November 4, 2009; 03:38 pm Leave a comment Go to comments

This might cut into Judaism and Ulysses, but Josh didn’t mention it, so I will! The Fan on pg. 430 becomes God to Bloom’s Moses, at the pivotal moment of the burning bush. “Have you forgotten me?” becomes the question of forgetting the God of Bloom’s fathers. “Am all them and the same now me” echoes “I am he who is” or “I am who am” which are semi basic English translations of the passage in the Latin Vulgate (I think. Correct me on this, if I’m in error. I know that the King James translation is “I am that am,” but the King James is a faulty translation on many counts, and also, we’re dealing with Joyce’s Roman Catholic background, so I want to go Latin).

However, as the recitation of this burning bush continues, Bloom transforms from the powerful Moses into an ordinary Catholic Man, seeking supplication from the Virgin Mary.

The Fan

We have met. You are mine. It is fate.


(Cowed) Exuberant female. Enormously I desiderate your domination. I am exhausted, abandoned, no more young.

Interesting to note that he is using a verb with a Latin base to indicate his longing for the Fan, the exuberant female, the Virgin who draws her mantle over the abandoned, exhausted, and the weakly aged. This contributes to the “churchy” feeling of supplication present in the scene.

Part of the echoes, obviously, have to do with Bloom’s spiral from himself, to the servile fantasy fetish Bloom-Ruby that is occurring in the nightmare. However, Bloom’s submission to the Fan reflects Stephen’s rejection of the Church in the form of his rejection of women. They both expect the same end, that the woman will dominate their lives. For Bloom this is twisted fantasy, for Stephen, it is the repugnant as Ann Hathaway was for “shrewridden Shakespeare” (335). The Virgin becomes the Church, almost entirely driving out the masculine that was associated with Catholicism in earlier chapters. As Blooms submission to the Church is part of his private nightmare, and the nightmare of the book, it is abject submission to any one thing that becomes nightmarish.

Indeed, once Bloom submits to the Mary of the Fan, the devil replaces the Virgin, and the imagery becomes even darker. “All things end,” says the Fan, snuffing out hope, “Be mine. Now” (431). The demand managed to alert Bloom that something has gone wrong, but he has parted with his talisman of a potato, and can do nothing against the devil. Significantly, the idea of the warding symbol is very Catholic. It turns Bloom into a pilgrim, lost on his way to Jer-Bloom-usalem, encountering the devil in the wastes. He cannot fight the Evil One, as he has lost his pilgrims badge, the talisman potato. So, he must kiss the Devil’s cloven hoof.

When he does fight Bella/Bello’s influence and finally rejects it, we do see Bloom taking Bella’s place in the original God/Moses, Mary/Supplicant roles. Bella sees him now as both God and devil: “I know you, canvasser! Dead cod!” she cries (452). One normally would yell to the devil, “I know you, Satan!” and the canvasser comment is tempting to associate Satan with a canvasser of souls. However, Bella adds “Dead cod!” rather “Dead God,” which would actually be Jesus, who died for the sins of men. In this way, the devil and God become conflated with one another, which just goes back to one of my favorite themes of this book: that right and wrong are too simple to apply to actions, because invariably there is no real difference between them on a cosmic level. A saint is a heretic, and a heretic is a saint in Joyce’s world. The hoof of the devil once was the foot of the Virgin.

On a side note to Josh: I’m not certain that I agree with “The fact that Bloom focuses so intently on tying a shoe on her (cloven unkosher) horse hoof (2810).” Hoof in this case seems to be referring to, say, a more goat-like hoof/pig trotter, as it is cloven. Horses have solid hoofs. Besides, it just gets better on the kosher, unkosher level, when the Jewish Bella has pigs feet, and Bloom is bending to make them neat, thus, in some way “clean.” It could be possible that by eating unkosher things himself, Bloom is somehow making them clean, becoming the new Jewish, Moses descended Messiah as we talked about in class.

There is a lot more Bello/Fan/Hoof/Bella association with the devil, see page 443 if you’re interested in seeing how this crosses with Jewishness. The Nymph and the Yews (which in German, and I think Hungarian, is the verbal pronunciation of the word “Jew”) offer more to mine on both Devil, Jewishness, and the Blessed Virgin on page 450-451. However, I should get back to the second part of my post, which is Stephen oriented. Oh Stephen, how we have missed you.

I’ve been playing with the idea of Stephen being a circular being since Proteus. We see so much of this in Circe that now I’m probably going to have to go back and look for circles surrounding Stephen in general. Anyway, despite the fact that Stephen’s thinking and movements (the empty fifths) cycle endlessly, in perfect infinity, the never ending oroborus, Stephen does not actually feel whole. I believe that he is actually searching to make himself a trinity, and triangular. “Where’s the third person of the Blessed Trinity?” is his drunken out burst to Gummy Granny, who wants his help (486). He cannot help the Nationalist cause because he is not a trinity yet.

While dancing, he waltzes, a moving circle made out of four steps at the easiest level (469). In the beginning of the dance, while everything was going Carnival crazy, Stephen does “minuet forward three paces on tripping bee feet,” however, he cannot keep it up. The prelude ends, and the real music forces him to waltz once more, becoming circular again. He switches partners three times, trying to achieve perfect trinity by association (471). Still, however, he circles, while his fellow partners, “Bloombella Kittylynch Florryzoe jujuby women” form the edges of one big triangle around him (472).

Stephen is surrounded by a trinity that he wants to become a part of, but he does not seem to notice for once that the trinity is made up of women. Arguably, Lynch might be a man, but he is subordinated by Kitty as “Kittylynch.” Bloom’s full femininity is expressed in this scene as “Bloombella” a “jujuby wom[an].” Stephen longs to become part of that female trinity of Marys that dance around him in a triangle, but he cannot, because he must find his own “third person of the blessed Trinity.”

  1. Thursday, July 22, 2010; 11:17 am at 11:17 am

    Interesting commentary. I took the Circe episode back to Homer and, among other things, concluded that I like Homer better. http://silverseason.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/2943/

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