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Waste in Episodes 11-12

Monday, October 12, 2009; 04:52 am Leave a comment

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).

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Well what’s cheese? Corpse of Milk

Monday, September 28, 2009; 04:34 am Leave a comment

In the previous segments, there were many instances of waste, but I will highlight just a few of them, and then deal with those instances found in episodes 7 and 8.  Most of these moments came in episode 6 when they go to the funeral.  Bloom is concerned with the wasted space at the graveyard, and wishes to remedy it by having corpses buried standing rather than horizontal (6. 764).  And he is very concerned with all the bad gas that must surround the area.  He also does some imagining of the process of decomposition.  The language he uses is appropriately disgusting, yet at the same time uses food words: “Rot quick in damp earth. The lean old ones tougher. Then a kind of tallow, a kind of cheesy. Then begin to get black. Black treacle oozing out of them.” (6. 777-779).  This corresponds with Blooms overall characterization of waste products as food for someone else. One man’s refuse is another organisms feast.  In wonderful Joycean fashion then, Death becomes life. In this case, an abundance of it: “… they must breed a devil of a lot of maggots. Soil must be simply swirling with them” (783-84).  Later, when Bloom sees the rat scurring along the crypt, he says “Ordinary meat for them. A corpse is meat gone bad. Well, and what’s cheese? Corpse of Milk.” (982-83), again stressing the interconnection between death, decay, and food.

Episode 7 has less to do with physical waste than waste of effort and of time.  Bloom is repeatedly frustrated in his attempts to conclude his day’s business.  He spends most of scenes feeling pushed aside, in some cases quite literally.  The introduction of J.J. O’Molloy, furthers this theme because he wastes his day coming to ask Crawford for a loan.  O’Molloy also is an example of wasted talent; he was “Cleverest fellow at the junior bar” (7. 291).  Now however, his practice is dwindling and is supposedly gamboling.  I think his character is standing as a cautionary figure, for what might happen to Stephen, if he wastes his talent.  Again, of course this section has examples of wasted words when the characters are reading Dan Dawson’s speech.  I’m not sure what to make of this example, but I like Bloom’s distinction that the words are actually quite effective when heard as the speaker reads them (7. 338).

Episode 8 brings back the theme of waste as food.  As Bloom walks on O’Connell bridge, he buys cakes and scatters the crumbs for gulls admiring how quickly they devour the morsels.  When he steps into the Burton restaurant, the scene is compared to animals eating, and the language is just as gross as the descriptions of decomposing bodies.  This links the people in the restaurant to animals feeding off corpses, but also all humans eating, with all animals eating.  When Bloom goes over to Davy Byrne’s, his own eating is described in somewhat disgusting terms “Mr. Bloom ate … with relish of disgust pungent mustard, the feety savour of green cheese” (8. 818).  This highlights the decayed nature of his meal.  As he eyes the items on the wall, and ruminates on how various foods were discovered, he thinks a little about waste.  He thinks about oysters feeding on garbage, about Chinese eating fifty-year old eggs, and about a Duke who used to eat his own dandruff (864-873). Bloom doesn’t seem keen on eating any of these things, but recognizes that they can be eaten.  Another theme seems to emerge in this episode, that of gambling as wasting men’s lives.  Flynn seems to be pretty caught up in betting on horses, and the characters who enter later, seem at least somewhat excited about picking the right horse.  This seems a common problem for the Dubliners.

I wish to add a few things to this post which occurred in episopdes 7-8 but I did not deal with already.

First, as Bloom is in the newspaper offices, and sees the machines printing out the notices of Dignam’s funeral he thinks “Smash a man to atoms if they got him caught. Rule the world today. His machineries are pegging away too. Like these, got out of hand: fermenting. Working away, tearing away. And that old grey rat tearing to get in.” (7. 81-83).  Importantly he connects the process of printing to the destruction of a person and to their decomposition after death.  Once again the image of  the rat appears, which seems somewhat important.

Next Bloom considers the miles of paper being printed, and imagines what becomes of it.  He imagines it will eventually be used for a “thousand and one things” (138), therefore nothing is actually wasted. At  the beginning of episode 8, Bloom looks over the edge of O’Connell bridge and entertains the option of throwing himself over like Dodd’s son, who “must have swallowed a good bellyful of that sewage” (53).  This phrase strikes me as odd because this episode is concerned with good and bad eating, and the sewage over the bridge can’t really be considered a “good” bellyful which I guess is the whole reason of phrasing it that way.  Then of course he remember Dedalus’ ironic comment about the waste of Dodd “one and eightpence too much” and proceeds to waste one penny on food for the gulls, thereby significantly reducing the waste of Dodd, and he considers it “quite enough”  (84) rather than too much.