Indeed, the climax of my obsession in Ulysses occurs in Penelope when Molly says “lick my shit” (642). This is the point of no return, where the fine line that may or may not have existed between ingestion and excretion is completely obliterated. I must admit I’ve shied away from the economic nature of this moment (brought up briefly in class discussion) but I will also admit that this passage is the one that I simply cannot ignore any longer. The fierce intertwining of sex, transaction, and consumption culminate in Molly’s imagining Bloom worshipping her ass and also paying her (£1) for the experience, as she commands him to consume everything that comes out of her. Bloom obviously prefers this kind of sensual interaction, and Molly’s voice in Penelope shows her revulsion toward it but also her acceptance of it, as she says that she will “let out a few smutty words” that she knows will arouse him.
Looking back at the bread and butter theme, the two are almost always associated with Molly, but she never actually gets around to consuming bread with butter throughout the novel, at least not to my knowledge. In Calypso, Bloom remembers: “thin bread and butter she likes in the morning,” and in Penelope, Molly recalls the day she realized Boylan’s foot fetish, as she was “waggling [her] foot we both ordered a teas and plain bread and butter” (613). On the next page as she remembers her series of affairs she recalls the “main with the curly hair” she noticed when she was “tasting the butter” (614). Here, we have butter but no bread, and Molly is actually consuming it. I’m not sure if this is even remotely relevant, I was just fascinated by the association of Bloom with kidneys/organs and Molly with bread/butter.
This in no way consolidates my thoughts on the subject but in my defense: hey, it’s Ulysses.
And thus we reach the end of Ulysses. In my last post, I discussed the function of gifts as representing the various offerings (lifestyle, future) Boylan and Bloom both exhibit for/give to Molly and what she ultimately decides, represented by her acquiescence to make breakfast for Bloom (a gift in it’s own right, with a cherry on top) and the gradual phasing out of Boylan despite his propensity to give many, many gifts. This structuring of gifts in the last episode brings up a continuous theme of opposition and elaboration used by Joyce throughout Ulysses – namely, a structuring of several extreme (in my case, gifts) at the beginning and end of each chapter that the main character must navigate through. Molly does this in Penelope, when she slowly shifts from Boylan, the material-giver, to Bloom, the family/love-giver (commercial/surface pleasure vs emotional). The other times gifts reprise as a structuring device is in Lestrygonians (the birds and the meal), Cyclops (the not-giving) and Nausicaa (the giving respite), and elements of Episodes 1, 2, and 4 (probably more than that).
The structuring aspects of gifts often relate to their ability to characterize, as with Boylan and Bloom in Penelope. Certain exchanges are surface-gifts and reflect negatively on the giver, while some are heart-felt and reflect positively, and some are social, reflecting neither here nor there, but highlighting important expectations the characters of Ulysses’ Dublin operate with. Bad transactions are commercial, with little thought for coming out ahead or being respected in any manner. Characters that adhere to this lifestyle are Mulligan, Boylan, Simon Dedalus, while others engage in this “giving” simply because they have to. Good giving, without thought for the repercussions on oneself or means, is exhibited by Bloom and Stephen (who are both capable of the other giving, as well), though Stephen’s dispensing of money for his “friends” shows how he is casting pearls before swine. Bloom mainly indulges in giving to animals, though Stephen and Molly both feature in his thoughts. Social giving, where it isn’t quite commercial but there is an expectation that the favor given will be repaid at a later date, is utilized by every character encountered in Dublin, with some being more reliable than others in keeping their word.
Aside from this, there are several anomaly gifts. There are “bad” gifts such as diseases and bribes, that come with pain and/or strings attached. An example of these would be the narrator of “Cyclops” suffering from disease and Boylan buying Molly a basket of potted meats while lying about his intentions. There is one example of a consciously ungiven gift that I can think of (there may be others, wasn’t looking for this, it just leaped out since we talked about it): Molly’s gift coat for Rudy. Undelivered to Rudy (while alive), Molly makes a conscious decision (or thinks about it afterwards) to not give the coat to some other child who might need it, but rather uses it to wrap her son’s body up. This tinges of selfishness at first scant scant glance, yet Molly’s dedication to her son heralds ideas of making gifts to the dead – something Stephen is incapable of doing for his mother. Unpack that!
Broad overview of Fatherhood:
Stephen obsesses over his mother but there is little or no mention of his father. Bloom thinks about himself as a father, what that means, and what makes or doesn’t make him a father. Stephen argues about the consubstantiality of father and son. Then we get the elevation of androgynous production. Then we see in Eumaeus and Ithaca the actual existence of a father-son relationship. We see that unfold. In Penelope something weird happens. Molly romanticizes her father. She seems to have made him the epitome of manhood. She thinks about Bloom “I wish hed even smoke a pipe like father to get the smell of a man” A good man in her mind is a man like her father.
It’s weird that Molly has this view of fatherhood. I’m not sure what to do with this. What does this have to do with her marriage? With her feelings about Rudy? about Stephen? about Milly? What does this do to our perceptions of Molly? Also, I think there’s more to fatherhood in this episode than just this romanticization of her father… but I’ll try to add more about that when I know more after class on Monday and another read through.
Ah, the soul. For once someo0ne with clear ideas set down on paper that doesn’t involve a lot of guess work, and reading for secret Freudian imagery. I suspect that Joyce is trying to toss something over my head that I simply will not notice because I was too busy being happy with Molly’s directness.
Comparing what she has to say about Catholicism to what Lotus-Eaters was hinting at with the power structure of Joyce’s Ireland, I’m glad to say that Molly seems to be pretty consistent. Molly’s belief in God is absolute, but she clearly does not have much use for the institution of the church. At the very beginning of the chapter, she discredits the masses said for the soul after death, in her dismissal of Mrs. Riordan (608.5-11). The scene is interesting as the rejection of masses as selfishly spending money on yourself rather than giving to those who have been good to you on earth is a highly Protestant idea. However, Mrs. Riordan, the “greatest miser ever was actually afraid to lay out 4d for her methylated spirit,” becomes a Catholic’s caricature of Protestantism, the miser too busy saving money to be concerned for the safety of their soul (608.6-7).
Again, there is the reinforcement that religion is a thing for women and the elderly, as Molly’s recollections of Church are almost never personal recollections of Mass, or feast day, but associations with the older women in her life. The Spanish servant (?) Mrs. Rubio turns Catholicism into a mechanism of superiority and judgment, a tool of oppression in her hands. However, “with all her religion domineering,” Mrs. Rubio is actually disarmed by Britain, acting in this instance as an unusual savior for Molly (624.753-754). Mrs. Rubio, after all “could not get over the Atlantic fleet coming in half the ships of the world and the Union Jack flying with all her carabineros because 4 drunken English sailors took all the rock from them” (624.754-625.756). Molly, half Irish, half Jewish, half Spanish, fully Catholic, is associated with the conquering Protestant English by the domineering Rubio. On a literal level because her father was with the British Army, but also because Molly is not willing to bend under the full Catholic sanctity. Mrs. Rubio becomes the institution, angry, flaunted at the way the English have taken Ireland from her, but ultimately she is useless. Baleful to those who flirt with British norms, like Molly, but incapable of getting them to “run to mass in Santa Maria to please her” (625.757).
Of course, Molly will not run to the mass because she does not believe that there is a real need to constantly be cloistered within the ritual and ceremony of the Church. Indeed, Molly is exasperated by the need for some of the most important rituals, echoing Gerty as she dis approves of priestly interference between herself and the divine: “what did he want to know for, when I had already confessed it to God?” (610.114). Molly’s statement is more clear than the girlish Gerty’s mis-interpretation of major sin and confession (300). This is a fully experienced person’s opinion of the Church institutions, and again there is a strange Protestant-Catholic dichotomy to her thoughts. Molly’s objection to Father Corrigan could be a Protestant refusal of the intercessor, or it could be skeptical Catholicism taking a look at corruption within the church. Molly, still retaining her interest in Father Corrigan, at least as a sexual partner (610.119-120), gives the corruption argument more weight, as she wishes to indulge that corruption, rather than turning away in prim disgust. She notices that the Father will not look at her, so possibly he does not know who she is out of the hundreds he hears confessions from, which allows him the sanctity of his office (610. 116). Molly’s opions about “bullneck[s] in horse collars” are her own invention superimposed on the image of the priest (610.116). Even then, her imagination does not give him an active role. Father Corrigan she suspects of being impure, but she does not fantasize that he will act on that impurity.
Molly is a good Catholic. She believes in the soul and God, just not the institution. Admittedly it could be argued that Catholicism is nothing without the Mother Church and respect for Papal decisions, yet Molly affirms Catholicism with her thoughts, and keeps her respect even when paired with skepticism. Her balanced religion is a pure relief after Stephen’s circular thoughts, and Bloom’s cloudy confusion. Molly becomes the perfect example of the moderate religion, that influences, but does not drive or define one’s actions.
– The Virgin Mary’s place in the Trinity (not Catholic doctrine, obviously, but I feel that it should be connected somehow, from all the crazy connections that we’ve had throughout the book).
– Irish Nationalism and the Catholic Church (the scene with Mrs. Rubio was useful, but did not really add anything to previous knowledge. There hasn’t been much of this since Cyclops, and I was hoping for more of a revelation than the fact that Joyce does not think that a religious identity should be super imposed upon the racial identity if there even is such a thing).
The Sparknotes of Ulysses that we have been using in class identifies Lightness and Darkness as a central motif in the novel. While the analysis is very basic, he argument in that the traditional binary of light = good and dark = bad breaks down in Ulysses, with the two main characters being associated with dark through their mourning dress and Boylan, one of the closest characters to an antagonist, is associated with light through his name and manners. While this argument fits well the symbolic correlations I laid out earlier, it also makes an interesting subliminal point, which is that in the scope of the novel, Bloom and Stephen are good and should therefore be associated with light in the traditional sense. However, I think this is a point better left to another discussion. Light in Ulysses is not used to denote good and evil meant to draw on the traditional and archetypal significance of the imagery, but instead as symbols for the characters. The function of light imagery as not only representational of the characters in a single instance but also creating a web of complicated symbolism that gives the characters almost inscrutable depth. This symbolic representation is the main function of light in novel as far as I can recognize, rather than articulating the good/evil dichotomy above or to denote religious imagery.
This is not to say that the light imagery in the novel does not draw on established tropes; the idea of femininity being related to the moon is not a new one, but rather than for example, simple relations like black = bad, the interpretations are much more complicated and nuanced. Bloom and his relation to darkness is a prime example.
Throughout the novel Bloom (and Stephen) is characterized by his black clothing, but this image goes miles beyond the traditional dastardly villain dressed all in black. For Bloom, the meanings of his association with darkness are many, varied, and at times contradictory. For one, his black clothing is a sign of mourning, meant to be a physical manifestation of his respect for Dignam. However, this analysis is challenged by the fact that on several occasions Bloom assures those he meets that it’s nothing, it’s just Dignam. But to add another level to this image, we soon see that Bloom is still very much still in mourning for his son Rudy who died over a decade ago. Complicated yet? Bloom’s connection with darkness has many other layers as well. It is representative of his Jewishness, which marks him as an outsider (Gerty sees him as the dark foreigner, he describes himself as olive skinned) and therefore separate from his Irish brethren. Darkness also associates him with Haines’ black panther, which could be interpreted as anything from a nationalist threat to Buck’s impression of Bloom as an older, threatening, homosexual male. Similarly, his unintentional connection with Throwaway, the black horse who appears from behind to win the race, possibly hinting at the arguably hopeful ending of the novel in which Bloom returns as a contender for Molly’s bed and happiness. In terms of other characters, Molly is also characterized as having a dark complexion, but she does not appear to be ostracized by society and instead is characterized almost exclusively by her sexual appeal. Stephen, who also wears black, but in this case specifically for his mother who has been dead for almost a year, is hailed as a priest, which connects to the web of Catholic imagery around him.
This example illustrates that the interpretation of light imagery often does not begin from the cultural representation and then progress to the character, but instead starts with the character and moves outwards in a web of meaning that overlaps with many other ones. Of course Joyce could not be so simple as to have one image mean one thingJ
Examination of gifts and giving in Ulysses has revealed a regular path: a certain theme gets introduced in one episode to be elaborated upon in subsequent chapters. Evidenced in the first ten chapters is the characterization of gifts and giving, from crass commercial exchange to sympathetic giving. In this phase, gifts fall under the garb of personal to social, usually with an eye toward some kind of return. This range in turn sheds light on (or underscores) the various characters populating the streets of Dublin. In the second phase, chapters eleven through fifteen, extremes of the earlier types of gifts are realized, both in literary form, character, and situation. In the third phase, episodes sixteen through seventeen, the father-son relationship of giving is explored in-depth. Episode Eighteen, Penelope, explores another facet of family exchanges – the husband-wife association, as well as recapping and transforming previous ideals concerning gifts in the prior chapters.
Within Molly Bloom’s rushing interior monologue we find a multitude of gift-forms scrutinized. The episode begins with Molly’s chafing thoughts on Bloom’s request for breakfast in bed. The husband-wife dynamic is highlighted immediately and ranges throughout the episode, and as guilt and social obligation seem to have little to do with whether the requests (from either party) are adhered to, other reasons must be found. There could be a sense of filial duty involved, and this possibility manifests itself, in Molly’s thoughts, in the put-upon woman form to the fleeting wish of a petticoat government, but these irate thoughts of duty are immediately followed by thoughts infused with feeling, or love, which constantly jumbles sense in a non-extreme way. The gift-giving in this dichotomy, then rests in how much the characters love each other, or are aware of their love for each other (mainly speaking about Molly, but some of Bloom’s actions can be traced throughout the day to have similar motivations). Realize that Molly has to work herself into this loving mood for Bloom throughout the chapter, but it ends with her deciding to adhere to his request for breakfast (she’s decided to put a spin on what “breakfast” might entail, which only proves my point).
Of course, wishes for commercial gifts are rife in this chapter, as Molly fantasizes over the myriad items she can dig out of Boylan’s gold-lined pockets. In the rest of the novel, this desire for the material would place a character into the “bad” category, or at the least unsavory. Boylan the Rich and Mulligan are the poster boys for this culture of giving, something for something. Molly’s place beside these two, however, is complicated. She indulges fleeting desires of clothes and jewels and attention, but the underlying problem resides again in her pauper-like relationship with Bloom, where the filial duty is going unfulfilled. This means more than simply adhering to or indulging the wishes of your spouse. As Molly points out, she sees herself as a good catch for Bloom yet notes that he is squandering her and aiding their poverty by being unable to hold a job down and constantly moving from one house to another. Interestingly, as the “sentences” continue, this commercial concern starts falling away to be replaced by the greater concerns of living with her spouse. Indeed, Molly herself sneers at the thought of riches and fame in the later sentences even as she craves them in the earlier ones.
Throughout Ulysses, my obsession of ingestion and excretion has led me mainly toward Bloom for several reasons. First, he is the character that seems to embody the complete in-and-out cycle, as we first see him in Calypso devouring very visceral food in great detail, and at the close of the chapter we also see his great satisfaction with his successful bowel movements in the latrine. Second, Bloom is the mot sensory character in the novel, not only with his obsession with ingestion and excretion but also his fixation on smells and taste. Finally, Bloom acts as an opposite of Stephen, who doesn’t seem to care much about anything sensory, and whom we rarely see ingest or excrete anything except booze and the occasional pee in the sea. However, in reading Penelope, I was pleased to find that my obsession relates nicely to Molly as well, providing yet another link between her and Bloom.
In Molly’s mind, food and sex are intertwined. The image of oysters is dominant in this chapter, having significance both in relating to femininity (being cloven) and also as a food that happens to be an aphrodisiac. While pondering Bloom’s affairs and recalling the time she fond long hairs on his coat, Molly muses “it was all his fault ruining servants then proposing that she could eat at our table on Christmas day if you please O no thank you not in my house stealing my potatoes and the oysters” (p609). Here, Bloom’s infidelity with the servant is worse when he asks Molly if she can eat with them, and not only that, but also to eat oysters. Molly’s thinking is also directed toward food in the domestic sense, as when she becomes distracted in thought about what to make for dinner tomorrow and she decides to make cod as a break from meat (641).
Ingestion and excretion are conflated in the image of putting Molly’s breast milk into tea. She seems simultaneously comfortable and uncomfortable with her own excretory processes, releasing blood and urine into the chamber pot and also taking the time to break wind. However, she does express anxiety about Bloom’s presence when she farts, as she wishes he would “sleep in some bed by himself with his cold feet on me give us room even to let a fart. . . that was a relief wherever you be let your wind go free” (628).
I’m also trying to trace the theme of bread, particularly buttered bread, in relation to Molly but I haven’t made a ton of progress. I’ll let you know if I’m onto anything substantial.