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).
Dealing with the issue of waste should be interesting in Ulysses, but I will have to be careful of how I decide what is waste. The most obvious, to me at least, use of the word waste is excrement. However, this issue will be well covered by mckeeeri, and so I will avoid that issue for the most part. Other senses of the word I find intriguing are, excess, refuse, and decay. Reading through the Telemachiad again, I noticed that the first use of any form of the word waste refers to Stephen’s mother. Specifically, Stephen recalls the image in his dream of her “wasted body” (1.113). After this phrase follows some imagery that seems important because it recurs throught this section. Her body gives off “an odor of wax and rosewood” and her breath “a faint odor of wetted ashes” (1.114-115). These aren’t very offensive smells to be associated with death and decay and for that reason seem intriguing. They recur almost word for word a little oer a hundred lines later (1.270-272). They then occur in Episode two when Stephen is ruminating on the love of Sargent’s mother for him, and on her death (2.145-146). While these phrases seem most importantly linked to mothers, they also are linked to death and wasting away, which seems interesting because ash, and ashes will probably continually arise as symbols due to Stephen’s ashplant. It is also intriguing that the first use of the word waste deals with a body. In fact the only time the word waste is used in the first three episodes is in connection to a body or body part. IN episode three Stephen recalls his friend Kevin Egan, and his “weak wasting hand” (3.263). I am not quite sure what to make of this instance, except that immediately after this, Stephen claims that Egan has been forgotten, in a sense he was wasted.
While the word itself occurred rarely in this section, instances of waste were not all that rare. There were a couple of instances where money was considered wasted on the wealthy. This is true of Haines, of Deasy, and of some of Stephen’s students. Stephen clearly begrudges these characters their superior wealth, but he is also aware that he wastes his own money. The amount of discussion in the first episode about spending money on booze is a clear indication of this, and when Stephen is in Deasy’s office he admits that if he had a coin case, it would usually be empty. And of course, there are several sightings of refuse, especially in the third episode, when Stephen wanders the beach. These seem important in that refuse acts a sign to Stephen of past lives. In his ruminations on sight, Stephen deals with signs standing in for reality, and the refuse he sees acts as unintentional signs of the people who left it behind, and therefore Stephen’s interpretation of the signs is suspect at best.
I was discussing how I might deal with the issue of waste last night, and a friend who is not in this seminar, but somewhat familiar with Ulysses suggested I deal with the concept of wasted words in the text. Prestonr88 and I were quick to dismiss the idea of wasted words by Joyce. However, reading this section again I realized that there are several instances of wasted words by characters. This is especially true in Episode two. First, Stephen tries his joke about the pier which falls flat because the correct audience is not present (2.42), and later Deasy makes the ridiculous comment that he dosen’t mince words after Stephen reads through his letter to the press(2.331). Interestingly, Joyce is careful not to waste words here, yet manages to convey the wasted words of Deasy as Stephen reads it over. Joyce highlights the strange turns of phrase, and unnecessary words especially with the phrase “to come to the point at issue” (2.330).