Thursday, February 21, 2008

Colour (As Spelled by an Irishman)

While reading Ulysses I noticed the explicit use of color, specifically green and white.

“The bard’s noserag. A new art colour for our Irish poets: snotgreen” (5)
“The snotgreen sea” (5)
“The rig of bay and skyline held a dull green mass of liquid” (5)
“Anenbite of inwit. God, we’ll simply have to dress the character. I want puce gloves and green boots” (17)
“Haines stopped to take out a smooth silver case in which twinkled a green stone. He sprang it open with his thumb and offered it. –Thank you, Stephen said, taking a cigarette” (20)
“A young man clinging to a spur of rock near him moved slowly frogwise his green legs in the deep jelly of water” (21)

“He peered sideways up and gave a long low whistle of a call, then paused awhile in rapt attention, his even white teeth glistening here and there with gold points” (3)
“Inshore and farther out the mirror of water whitened, spurned by lightshod hurrying feet. White breast of the dim sea…Wavewhite wedded words shimmering on the dim tide” (9)
“He watched her pour into the measure and thence into the jug rich white milk, not hers…She praised the goodness of the milk” (13)
“The man that drowned. A sail veering about the blank bay waiting for a swollen bundle to bob up, roll over to the sun a puffy face, salt white” (21)

Green and white:
“A bowl of white china stood beside her deathbed holding the green sluggish bile which she had torn up from her rotting liver by fits of loud groaning vomiting” (5)

There is no way of inferring the meaning of a symbol this early in Ulysses. But thus far, there are enough examples to hint at a possible interpretation. White seems to represent undeserved pride, masking something within. The white teeth are broken and incomplete; the old woman praises the white milk that is not hers; and the drowned bodywhich is expected to peacefully float to the surface will presumably be bloated and white. Green is a little more complicated. I don’t haven’t the slightest idea what it is, but I think I have an idea of what it does. In the case of the bay and Stephen’s mother’s bile green distorts. It distorts the color of the man’s legs and it distorts the woman’s innards.

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