Preparatory to any more intellectually and energetically invested discussion of Ithaca, which may itself have to remain unfortunately abiding by the wayside until a fullproper update this coming Wednesday, I’d like to expend the greater bulk of tonight’s updating textual examination on the endlessly anticlimactic episode name of Eumaeus.
Eumaeus is a wasteland where we should find shelter after merciless Circe. Joyce plays off this assumption in many ways. First off, Joyce satirizes the typical novel denouements of temperance, marriage, triumphant return, and reunion:
-Temperance: Stephen ungracefully sobers up after the harrying events outside the brothel.
-Marriage: The episode labors over Parnell’s fraught liaison and subsequent marriage to Kitty O’Shea, among other tales of widows, ill-fated husbands, and the ominous notion of second marriages.
-Triumphant return: The sailor and numerous maritime yarns about frustrated homecomings appear throughout the episode. There is also the story of the supposedly sabotaged harbor (a disappointed pier?), which serves as another image of discouraged arrival, i.e. un-safe harbor.
-Reunion: Stephen and Bloom’s (re)union is pathetic. Bloom’s didactic rationalism falls on Stephen’s deaf and apparently annoyed/suspicious ears (“Sound are impostures” (5090)). The organ “nerves” is conveyed through Bloom’s nervous sermonizing and discoursing which appears increasingly tactless, lonely, and even predatory given Stephen’s state, as the episode goes on.
Secondly, the theme of exhaustion, especially of resources monetary, intellectual, and sexual, adds to the episode’s anti-climactic mood. Bloom, who we know to be susceptible to bodily depletion resulting from sexual emission, verbally ejaculates on multiple occasions in suggestion of his intellectual fatigue. Moreover, the narrative itself obviously lags and stock phrases, most notably “up to the hilt” (stick in the mud?), “point of fact,” and “pure and simple,” repeat throughout. References to Stephen’s monetary expenditures, and other instances of general “squandermania” introduce themes parallel to exhaustion such as regret, excess, and compulsion.
Thirdly, rumors, libel, misnomers, apocrypha, and mysteries become examples of the ultimate inconclusiveness of knowledge (perhaps specifically knowledge transmitted through text/speech). The newspaper “Insuppressible” acts as an apt symbol for the incessantly aroused organ of the press. Another image of ending flow is the sailor’s “libation-cum-potation” which for me conjures an analogy to the female chalice (empty vessel), the directive though ultimately impotent empty hose.
Hopefully I can provide a useful summation of these points of evidence in class tomorrow, but for now I’ll leave things inconclusive.
In the sirens episode the theme of waste comes up in somewhat subtle ways. The sirens of The Odyssey would lure the sailors to their death, wrecking their boat on the rocks. Here the siren barmaids would lead the men of Dublin to ruin with their allure, and their drink which has the power to wreck men’s lives. Bloom reflects on the waste of Simon Dedalus’ life, how he could have made “loads of money” (696). Simon apparently “wore out his wife” and it was likely due to the drink, but he was apparently “singing wrong words” (696-97). This brings about the theme of wasted words, which has come up before, and will be very prevalent in the next episode.
Ben Dollard is also a character who Bloom thinks has wasted away. His business failed “to the tune of ten thousand pounds” (1014). He has fallen upon hard times, but his bulk indicates that he at least is still eating well. Bloom blames Dollard’s fall on “Number one Bass” (1115) an ale that is brewed in England, whose importation into Ireland had been very controversial. Here, Ireland’s waste, alcohol, is linked to British colonial power. The drink is said to “Ruin them. Wreck their lives” (1018). The allure of drink, and its ruinous power, weighs heavily on Blooms mind in this episode and the next. Joyce has some fun with the word allure a couple of times in the section which is appropriate considering the title.
There is also a good deal of wasted effort on the part of the characters in this episode. Lenehan tries in vain to get Miss Kennedy’s attention many times throughout the episode, and miss Douce wastes considerable thought wondering whether Boylan is smitten with her, and why he left so quickly after she showed, and snapped her garter (461-63). Bloom’s efforts to Pat’s attention often fail, and he feels that he is wasting his time with Goulding, whose conversation is lacking. He also feels that he is wasting his time by writing Martha “Folly am I writing? Husbands don’t” (873).
Also in this episode: a recollection of the rat in the Graveyard (1036) and concern by Bloom about bad gas. As Blamires notes the bad gas is linked with the rhetoric of Robert Emmett’s last words (117).
In Episode 12, Cyclops, the emphasis is on excess, especially of language. Joyce mocks various style of language (legal, scholarly, journalistic, etc.) by carrying them out to extremes. The journalistic interpolation on the hanging of a revolutionary is remarkably long, and seems to be made up mostly of wasted words, excessive emotional and sensational appeal, and as Blamires points out seems to have the purpose of making phrases unusable, or wasting them (123).
The introduction of a narrator also adds words that Joyce was able to do without; there are sections riddled with “says he” and “says I” which Joyce largely avoids, usually not introducing quotes with so much as “. The distancing of audience from story via the third party rendition, is demonstrated to be inefficient and at times frustrating.
Interestingly enough, this episode reveals to us that Bloom has in the past attempted to prevent a young man from drinking by getting him excessively drunk with the hope that the poisonous effects will steer him away from further temptation (509-12). This plan fails miserably, which might have contributed to Blooms current feelings on the dangers of alcohol. Bob Doran, in this episode stands as a warning to the power of alcohol to waste a man’s life. Bloom is once again wasting his time in this episode, pacing in front of the bar, not wanting to come in, explaining himself to people who are too stubborn to listen to his reason, but instead stick to their “one eyed” views (Blamires 118).