Motherhood in the End
The final chapter of this book seems to place the emphasis regarding women’s reproductive capacity on its ability to give pleasure (and be pleasurable) vs. its ability to produce children. Molly spends almost the entire chapter reminiscing on and yearning for pleasure none of which come from the sanctioned means of her husband. She thinks about her earlier adulterous rendezvous with Boylan, “I wish he was here or somebody to let myself go with and come again like that I feel all fire inside me.” She also thinks about her ability to independently gain pleasure through masturbation, even describing her use of a banana at one point.
Finally the later part of this chapter focuses on menstruation, not as some romanticized proof of female reproductive potential but as a terrible burden that impedes sexuality. Furthermore it provides proof of unfulfilled reproduction of non-motherhood. “O patience above its pouring out of me like the sea anyhow he didn’t make me pregnant as big as he is,” Molly thinks (633.)
In class on Mon. we talked about Molly’s separation from motherhood/ maternity and its genesis in Rudy’s death. “I suppose I oughnt to have buried him in that little woolly jacket I knitted crying as I was but give it to some poor child but I knew well I d never have another our 1st death too it was we were never the same since O Im not going to think myself into the glooms about that any more, “ (640.) Instead of this conception of a Molly simply disinterested in mothering we realize a Molly still very much affects/ in denial of the death of her son. However we see Molly maintaining the connection between herself and the bovine (like Bloom) instead of the equine (like Boylan.) After the Rudy’s birth partly because he’s not there to suckle, she produces an incredible quantity of milk. She literally begins fulfill the role of a commercial milk producer. Bloom milks her into his tea stating that “it was sweeter and thicker that cows” (621.) When Boylan slaps her on her bottom she reprimands him “Im not a horse or an ass am I” (610.) Despite her burying of the wool sweater she continues to feel a connection to the procreative nature of sex (partially because the absence of this connection (at least nominally) would link her to prostitution.)
Molly seems to feel almost shock yet she thinks “what was the good in going into mourning for what was neither one thing nor the other the first cry was enough for me I heard the deathwatch to ticking in the wall” (637.) I thought that this quote makes an interesting comment on the female/ mother ability to understand life and death realistically. As an intermediary between life and death, Molly unlike Bloom recognizes that her child’s feebleness.
Given these bovine illusions I kind of want to talk about Molly’s continual connection of herself with the butcher. On page 626, for example, she thinks “I never thought that would be my name Bloom when I use to write it in print to see how it looked on a visiting car or practicing for the butcher.”
I didn’t feel like we fully teased out the significance of Molly’s the potentially Oedipal relationship between herself and Stephan. We talked about it as another form of mixing the generations.