Home > Uncategorized > Not so much Paternity as Indifference in Eumaeus and Ithaca

Not so much Paternity as Indifference in Eumaeus and Ithaca

Monday, November 9, 2009; 02:51 am Leave a comment Go to comments

We have been waiting and waiting, preparing ourselves for Stephen and Bloom’s meeting of minds.  True, we have a brief encounter in Oxen of the Sun, where Bloom, the Calmer, and Stephen, the Boaster, interact, and at the very end of Circe, where they touch for the first time: “Then he bends to him [Stephen] and shakes him by the shoulder.” But here in Eumaeus, they converse together, alone, and it was very disappointing.  Not at all what I was expecting.  Stephen does not appear to give a damn about Bloom.  Bloom seems to have built this whole meeting up with the images running through his mind all day, but now, Stephen stands as a resolute teenager.  At one point in Eumaeus, Stephen “rambl[es] on to himself or some unknown listener somewhere, we have the impetuosity of Dante and the isosceles triangle…” Stephen is with Bloom, but he doesn’t care who is speaking to, he’s just speaking. To Stephen there seems to be nothing special or attractive in Bloom.  We don’t see anything much from Stephen’s specific angle in these two chapters but through the narration and diction surrounding Stephen’s reactions to Bloom, I see that Stephen could be with any of the men Bloom’s age who are minor acquaintances of his father.  Stephen doesn’t think that seeing the same cloud formation as Bloom at the same time is important. They are both privy to the knowledge that they saw it simultaneously but it doesn’t hold the same substance that it has for Bloom. He doesn’t see the potential in their relationship the way Bloom does.  Bloom puts so much importance in correct diet, all ingestion and evacuation topics, making water, and making tea… shaving, but Stephen is hydrophobic, doesn’t care about diet, overindulges in alcohol, underindulges in real food (bread).  Bloom spends most of Eumaeus trying to get Stephen to eat, to not give out his money too freely, giving him advice about general living. Practical things.  Stephen is too airy for that.    I’m seeing missed connections here.  I wish I weren’t because I want to believe that the image weavings throughout Ulysses were foreshadowing the immense connection that would exist between Stephen and Bloom.  Someone help me see it, if I’ve missed something. 

Bloom spends Ithaca thinking all about how he and Molly can help and be helped by Stephen.  What is the economic value of eachother and eachother’s company?  I guess most of this stems from Bloom’s desire to help Stephen as a father, but he also expects services in return for giving Stephen a place to live, or having Molly sew his jacket.  He wants Stephen to give Molly Italian lessons (a sneaky way to use one’s “son” to improve his marriage?) and Molly will give singing lessons to Stephen (a sneaky way to perpetuate Bloom’s name, indirectly… if Bloom desired Stephen as son then through son lives father… all that jazz, and Stephen’s famousness would give Bloom notoriety… That’s exactly what Stephen DOESN”T want.  He wants to break from his father’s name, his acquaintance, his house, he wants to write original things, he wants his own name… perhaps this is why Stephen rebuffs the relationship that Bloom is pursuing. )  What a lovely long parenthetical.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Monday, November 9, 2009; 03:40 am at 3:40 am

    I have to say that I don’t agree that Stephen is being “too airy” to reciprocate all of the parental attention Bloom is giving him. Indeed, he actually seems to be acting in a more down-to-earth manner than Bloom in certain ways. Here we see him as the child, more concerned with his selfish needs and desires (for sleep, space to think about his own interests) than Bloom, who is being very giving throughout all of this, and acting like a real parent for once than the rather awkward parent of Milly that we more normally see. But Bloom is reaching out, and making the connection. By the time we get to Ithaca, I felt, at least, as though they actually had made a substantive bond between them, if only for that night. Eumaeus is mainly spent in Bloom establishing, and doing all the grunt work of that intellectual enjoyment of conversation. It’s thankless, but hopefully better things will come of it (much like having to read the writing style employed through out the chapter).

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