Thursday, May 1, 2008

The art of imitation...

In Episode 18, Molly reveals that her daughter Milly is very similar to the way that she was when she was Milly’s age. The shared likeness of mother and daughter makes the death of Rudy even more apparent as Bloom has no son to emulate him and take after him. Even thought Bloom attempts to foster a relationship between himself and Stephen, Milly is firmly secured to Molly. While Molly expresses slight jealously at Milly writing her father long letters while she is away and not including her, Molly knows that Milly is her daughter in every sense of the word. Not only are there names almost the exact same, but Milly’s behavior mimics the actions of her mother.

There seems to be an underlying competition between Molly and Milly in the final episode of the novel. Molly thinks about the times when Milly was still in the house with her and Bloom and the comments she would make regarding her mother’s appearance. Milly would tell her mother, “your blouse is open too low she says to me the pan calling the kettle blackbottom” (767). Milly recognizes and comments on Molly’s blatant sexuality and yet, can’t help but imitate her mother’s behavior. Molly, too, feels the need to remark about her daughter’s appearance and burgeoning sexuality. She thinks to herself about Milly, “her tongue is a bit too long for my taste” (767). Molly seems to hold a complicated perspective towards Milly: she wants her to enjoy her experiences but at the same time, there is an underlying jealousy and competition between mother and daughter that occasionally surfaces and reveals itself.

Milly will no doubt follow her mother’s example and become, we can only assume, very much like Molly. Bloom is surrounded by Molly…even his daughter will become almost identical to his adulterous and sexual wife. We see that Molly will live on in Milly but where does this leave Bloom?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Molly the Pure

Upon the conclusion of the last episode, I have come to realize that my views of the characters in Ulysses have changed radically over the course of the novel. The point of view of a single character was not enough to fully define Stephen, Bloom, or even Molly.

Up until the last episode, Molly is characterized as an overtly promiscuous woman. Through the views of Bloom and the people he encounters over the course of the day, I thought of Molly as nothing more than a static character: an unfaithful wife.

We proceed through the novel with this viewpoint of Molly. Even Bloom, who lists her suitors in episode 17, doesn’t fully realize the Molly’s first act of infidelity was with Boylan. I did not apprehend Molly’s actions were a collective result of the aloofness of Bloom and lack of affection ever since the death of Rudy, but that she simply just exuded sex. I had already defined her as nothing more than an adulterer.

With this realization, I thought back to my preconceived notions of Bloom and Stephen. My views and how I characterized them were not based upon solely on their internal monologue, but more heavily based on how other characters in the novel viewed them. With Bloom in particular, we see conflicting characterizations as we are exposed to the novel’s protagonists.

The amalgamation of different viewpoints was necessary to understand each character. How I perceived Molly and how my definition of her was altered in the last episode was consistent with the change in my preconceptions and characterizations of the other main characters, and is what I should have expected from Joyce’s narrative.


on the topic of our main characters' happiness, i would daresay that none of the three (stephen, bloom, molly) is genuinely happy...

stephen is still mournfully moping around on account of his mother's death. he allows himself to be controlled by others (e.g. giving both money and housekey to mulligan). he seems to be overruled by his students in the classroom. he sees his own childhood in the pathetic face of one of his students, cyril sargent. he doesn't really even believe himself (e.g. when asked about his own view of his hamlet theory). like bloom, he doesn't stand up for himself (e.g. when mulligan asks for the housekey or when he feels left out having not been invited to the poet gathering). he evidently turns to drink to alleviate his misery, but then this only digs him into deeper trouble (e.g. with bella cohen and with the privates). he doesn't put much stake in his job or responsibilities as we see him tell his friend in the street that mr. deasy's school should have an opening for a teacher soon. he is apathetic throughout much of his conversation with bloom, and although he seems to cheer up from time to time... he overall demeanor seems hopeless.

bloom, as we have discussed, is also a victim of usurpation. he allows himself to be cuckholded by his wife, and the whole town knows it. i feel as though bloom tries to put on a happy face and go on with his life by ignoring his hurt. he knows about his wife's affair, and i suppose he knows that molly knows that he knows about the affair, yet he doesn't confront her about it. instead, he continues to let it happen, all the while allowing it fester in his mind throughout the whole day. he simply can't take his mind off of it. everything reminds him of molly. he is also frequently reminded of his son's premature death, and this is obviously another source of depression for bloom. like i said, i feel like he outwardly maintains a facade of content, but i think his deeper psychological feelings escape in episode fifteen. i tend to see his hallucinations in episode fifteen as manifestations of his repressed feelings (e.g. the transformation of himself into a woman represents his relationship with molly, the elevation of himself to a position of power perhaps represents a desire to make something greater of his life, the apparition of his deceased son addresses his sadness at never having been able to father a boy and pass on his lineage, etc.). however, bloom puts great priority in his responsibilities (e.g. securing advertisements for the paper, helping the dignam family, visiting the hospital on account of mrs. purefoy's childbearing), and maybe this is his way of taking his mind off of his problems and pushing forward with day to day life. thus, we see him take on a final responsibility of the day to help stephen through the night.

molly does not seem genuinely happy either, though perhaps she does the best of job of masking her unhappiness (or maybe it only seems this way because we are limited to one episode's worth of her thoughts). molly seems to simply take life as it comes to her. her lack of guilt allows her to be selfish; thus, getting her way in most situations prevents her from dwelling too much on her troubles. as we see in episode eighteen, when she begins to think about something depressing (i.e. rudy), she quickly tells herself to not dwell on such gloomy thoughts. thus, molly is not necessarily happy, but because she is always in control, she can sort of feign a certain sort of happiness/content to herself that prevents her from ever being too depressed... if that makes sense...

episode eighteen questions...

1. does molly's final perspective serve to change the way you view other characters/events? how so?

2. why does joyce choose to neglect punctuation in the final episode (save for the very last period)?

3. how do molly's thoughts differ from the thoughts of our other main characters (i.e. stephen and bloom)?

4. why does joyce give us only one chapter of molly?

Monday, April 28, 2008


The topic came up in class about what the period at the end of the 17th Chapter really meant, and the following lack of punctuation in chapter 18. The explanations we came up with were as follows
1.The big period represented unconsciousness of bloom at the end of the chapter
2.Big period meant "THE END"
3.Big period meant a big hole and that something was missing, in this case Molly's perspective

The lack of punctuation reasons we came up with were
1.No puncuation helps stream of consciousness
2.Molly cannot be "constrained" by punctuation
3.Ulysses "used up" all the ink allotted to punctuation.

Some other explanations i came up with were
1.The big period represents the "impotent void" to which bloom as banished the thought of Molly's suitors
2.The lack of punctuation is a "joke" by ulysses to represent his feeling that the book is getting long and needs to end, showing this by being lazy about punctuation. This is supported by the use of his name by molly essentially asking for the story to just end all ready

What do you guys think?


The point made in the Ithaca episode that Bloom is scientific while Stephen is artistic highlights a defining characteristic of Stephen- his tendency towards abstraction. There’s nothing wrong with this except that Stephen takes it so far that it cripples and diminishes his reality, his existence in the present. The artist, he thinks, must be free from all prisons, and so he abandons his family (a physical and psychological prison) to poverty. He chooses to follow his abstraction, his idea of what the artist should be, and so he must live with his conscience- referenced in his repetition of the phrase “agenbite of inwit”- which makes him miserable. His reality is one of suffering because he chooses to satisfy his abstract ideals.

While sitting
in the hospital awaiting the birth of Mina Purefoy’s child, Buck says to Stephen that “it is as painful perhaps to be awakened from a vision as to be born.” As the one in the role of artist and prophet, Stephen is the one with the vision, the idea of how things should be. He is awakened repeatedly from it by reality, which does not always match up with his abstractions. He takes his name from his father Dedalus, and as the son of Dedalus he is likened to the figure of Icarus. Just as Icarus tried to fly too close to the sun and came crashing down, Stephen relies too much on abstraction and the power of his mind, and comes crashing down.

In the Circe episode
we learn that Stephen broke his glasses yesterday. He cannot see clearly, physically and mentally. Because he is stuck with his abstractions, he ignores the reality of the way things really are. He guilt over his mother’s death shows in his fear of the lightning, which he perceives to be a reminder of his own death. Bloom, however, gives him the scientific explanation of lightning. Bloom is a lot more physical than Stephen. The first time we see him he is eating a kidney- he “ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls.” As his father figure, he balances out Stephen’s mentality. Stephen is the “beautiful ineffectual dreamer who comes to grief against hard facts” (184).


Usurpers play a huge role in unveiling the events of the day. There is an argument for almost every character to be a usurper in one way or another. Some of the obvious ones are Buck and Boylan. I would argue that our three main characters also have some usurper-like qualities about them, but of course Joyce doesn’t bring anything to closure as to who THE usurper of the novel is. With all this usurping going on, I’d like to lay out a few reasons I think the main characters might be called usurpers to maybe spark an idea for a paper topic (as I’m taking the test).

Stephen: Usurper of his mother’s faith. Buck criticizes him for this in Telemachus and I think Stephen is haunted by the ghost of his mother for this very reason. Stephen also somewhat usurps Bloom’s feelings of paternity for him by not reciprocating the connection as well as Bloom would like. I think the case for this is reinforced in Ithaca, as the differences between the two are more clearly defined (for instance in the song about the murderous Jewish daughter), and could provide an interesting spin on the way Stephen’s identity as Telemachus in the novel.

Molly & Bloom: We view most of the novel from Bloom’s side of the Boylan-Molly affair. Therefore, it is easy to call Molly a usurper of fidelity and of Bloom’s love, as we see the estrangement that has come upon Bloom as a result. However, in Penelope we get a taste of Molly’s side, and see that Bloom is wrong in his assumption of her having many suitors. Boylan is her first compromise of their marriage. She feels Bloom has distanced himself from her and may be having fun of his own. Having seen both sides now, I can see Molly and Bloom as being usurpers of each other. However, this doesn’t seem to drive them apart. Instead, Bloom comes to terms with Molly’s affair and Molly seems to choose Bloom at the end of Penelope.