Posts Tagged ‘moon’

Light in Ithaca

Monday, November 9, 2009; 05:34 am Leave a comment

One significant instance of light is the extended moment in which Bloom must break into his own house (repeating again the theme of keylessness) and then wanders through the darkened rooms and goes about the process of lighting a candle. By their very bulk, the light words are noteworthy, fitting with the extremely meticulous language throughout the episode. Following Bloom’s process, several different lights must be ignited, match to gaslight to candle, before he can retrieve Stephen, who has been waiting outside for “four minutes” (114).  This progression, as usual, lends itself to a variety of meanings, most of which I would argue are religious, relating specifically to the end of Bloom’s wanderings. For one, the successive lights, from Lucifer match, to superfluously bright gaslight, to controlled, useful candle could be interpreted as the development of religious belief, from the very limited, unsustainable light of a match, to the wild brightness of the newly converted, to the steady, practical light of a comfortable believer. However, which this progression can be argued in reference to the lights, it holds little merit in reference to the men concerned, neither of which inhabits really any stage of this timeline. Still, this development can be superimposed over any other, such as Bloom’s excitement over his friendship with Stephen. At first, Bloom doesn’t appear to care much about Stephen, but then his paternal instincts kick into high gear, waning slowly towards the end of the novel into a mutually beneficial relationship that fades as the night passes. 

Another interpretation of this scene deals more specifically with Bloom as father and Stephen as son. In entering a new area, in which Bloom is not exactly sure what he is going to find (will Molly be there, will the evidence of the affair be explicit, etc) the father goes first as a scout, and also a host, not allowing his guest/son to take the side way in. Thus, the light which Stephen observes moving around the Bloom household is the guiding light of fatherhood, a physical manifestation of the care that Bloom has been providing him throughout their night time escapades.

A further development of light which appears in this same episode, and is actually rather beneficial to my argument concerning characters and light, hinge on the question on page 576 of “what special affinities appeared to him to exist between the moon and woman?”. This answer, I would argue largely a product of Bloom based on Stephen’s limited experience with getting to know women, seems to sum up Bloom’s mixed and conflicting feelings about women in general and specifically Molly. He discusses her constancy, but also her quality of “waxing and waning” (1162). She has power ‘to enamour, to mortify, to invest with beauty, to render insane, to incite to and aid delinquency” (1164-5). I think we could make short work of finding instances in Ulysses in which Molly has each one of these effects on Bloom. He seems to be talking more about woman than the moon, but with Joyce, the moon could easily be personified to include these various descriptions.

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Update from Sirens and Cyclops

Wednesday, October 14, 2009; 02:53 am Leave a comment

To continue to play with the idea of the moon as a feminine symbol in Ulysses, I would like to pinpoint a couple of instances that directly link the idea of moon as feminine with Bloom as feminine. First of all, we have the quote in 12.1801 of “If the man in the moon was a jew jew jew.” This comment not only effectively links Bloom with the moon, it also further illustrates him as an Other, associated with distance, night, and obscurity. But at least he’s a MAN in the moon.

Secondly, as Bloom/Elijah escapes from his tormentors in a chariot of fire, Bloom is described as “having the raiment of the sun, fair as the moon” (12.1913). This description is odd in the first place because of the reference to the sun; throughout the novel, Bloom has in many cases been primarily identified by his dark clothing, pragmatically because he has yet to change from his mourning, but used to distance him as of another race. Additionally, the “fair as the moon” comment again differs from his characterization as a dark, foreign figure. Coming from the pale-skinned Irish, “fair” is a mark of similarity. However, “fair” is usually a distinctly feminine description, and linked with a comparison to the arguably feminine moon, further identifies Bloom as a feminine character, which Blamires promises will be expanded in later episodes.

Complicating appearance of light

Monday, October 12, 2009; 12:37 am Leave a comment

Episode 11 saw some interesting changes in the patterns set by the first part of the book. For one thing, light words are finally being used regularly in a non-literal sense. Up until this episode, the vast majority of light words appeared as direct physical descriptions of the light quality in a given area or of celestial bodies. At its most abstract, light language would be used as descriptions of people, such as Stephen often being described as looking or feeling dark. But this section of reading marks a turning point, a diversification, in Joyce’s use a light. One word which is used in a new more colloquial way is “brilliant,” used now to mean intelligent or particularly capable. Examples of this usage appear at like 482 of episode 11 in which Dollard’s “tight trousers” are mocking referred to as a “brilliant idea,” but also in serious reflection of Irish talent describing “Dublin’s most brilliant scribe and editor” (11.268). Similarly, as Bloom hears the jingle of Boylan’s approach yet again, he gives a “light sob of breath” (11.457). I would approach the analysis of this change in usage by drawing on the established rule of Joyce that light words mean actual light. Therefore, a light sob appears at least in my mind, to be a sob connected with a visual image of light rather than referring to the strength or intensity of the sob. Why Joyce is doing this I have yet to discern.

            Another change that is appearing in this section of the reading is that the light words as a whole which refer to aspects of day or night are continuing to shift. Previously, the opening sections were filled with more appearances of “day” imagery, whereas in the last few episodes, the moon has appeared with dramatic frequency. Thus, I would argue, the solar imagery is meant to be proceeding faster, or at least ahead of, the actual day, dragging the reader on towards the end.

            Finally, I think I am actually able to posit an overall theme (a new commitment between light and I). As part of his internal monologue, Bloom thinks the phrase “manless moonless womoonless”; this reference, tied to the increasing appearance of moon imagery as well as Bloom’s growing fixation with Molly’s impending activities would lead me to make a tenuous connection between the moon and femininity, a classic connection but one which will lead me to reinterpret the plethora of references to the night as a woman’s territory and thereby day as a man’s, a perfect activity for break.

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