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wasted words, wasted promise

Monday, November 9, 2009; 05:55 am Leave a comment Go to comments

Eumaeus is a study in wasted words, redundancy, and inefficiency in sentences. Often the sentences become too tired and die out without finishing, lying there incomplete and wasted.  This heavy handed style is tempered by the omniscience of the narrator, and the desire for clarity.  The moods of both Bloom and Stephen are stated rather than implied, and Bloom’s thought processes are explained via a third person voice with a mind to following a logical progression rather than the natural scatterdness of Bloom’s thoughts.  Thus, despite the waste of words, this episode is one of the easier ones to follow.  This emphasis on clarity and precision is to be parodied in the extreme in the next episode, but here it feels uncomfortable.  Too many parenthetical insertions and unnecessary identifications weigh down the narration.

In this episode, the fall of Parnell is discussed in the shelter, and Bloom correctly notes that “there was every inclination” that this would come up (1295).  This great figure represents a tremendous wasted opportunity, a missed chance.  Bloom of course thinks it a real pity that his downfall was largely due to adultery (p 531-532).  This great man whose life was wasted leads into Bloom’s consideration of Stephen, whose ability is being wasted, and whom Bloom feels compelled to provide direction.  The ever practical Bloom entertains all sorts of ideas to improve society, meet unfulfilled needs mine sources with wasted potential for profit, and so in Stephen he sees possibility of a client for whom he would act as agent.  This is not purely an economically motivated, but he feels a need to help Stephen so he doesn’t end up like so many talented young men who don’t have the right circumstances.  And he sees practical reasons for a relationship with Stephen, such as intellectual debate.  All of Blooms ideas here have some practical basis, even the toys he imagines in the next episode serve an educational purpose (p 559).

Episode 17, Ithaca, is a demonstration of wasting no words.  The efficient question answer format of the episode eliminates all guesswork, anything inessential.  The framework seems to outline how to analyze the novel.  The questions root out all connections in themes, reveal how each character interprets and relates to the incidents, and cover all the essentials.  One important thing that occurs her is the recap of the race, and Bloom’s repeated hints as to the winner Throwaway (p 552).  This is an obvious thing which I can’t believe I have not picked up on in my posts.  The dark horse, the unlikely champion, is named for the act of parting with waste.  This horse has been repeatedly linked to Bloom who has been repeatedly castoff, or “thrown away” by the people he met throughout the day.  Stephen also has been cast aside by his friends, and like Bloom is locked out of his home.  Bloom, despite his keylessness, does manage his triumphant return, pulling off an upset like Throwaway. Looking back, Bloom has “the light of inspiration shining in his countenance”  (339) when he goes to the baths after throwing away the newspaper, as if this trash had been imbued prophecy.  Bloom does not consider this a waste, because he has not lost his money to gambling, and because he was satisfied by his hospitality toward Stephen (p 553).

In this episode, the idea of wasted potential is again important.  Other possible career paths for Bloom are considered, and the questions repeatedly ask what prevented Bloom from doing a certain thing either in the present scene or in his past, and the ideal life for Bloom is delved into. Bloom also considers leaving his present life and moving elsewhere in Ireland and abroad.  None of these thoughts are thought of as a waste of time or effort because Bloom the ever practical man allowed such ruminations  because they “alleviated fatigue and produced as a result sound repose and renovated vitality” (1757-58).

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