Thursday, April 24, 2008

a good influence...

Episode #17: Ithaca: We finally get to see Bloom and Stephen interacting with one another in an intimate, private setting without all of the distractions of Dublin interfering in their conversation and interrupting their attempts at forming a meaningful, sustainable relationship. It seems that, for the most part, over the course of the pair’s day in the city, Bloom kept attempting to connect with Stephen on a personal level and forge a friendship with the younger man that never really took hold. For example, when the two men meet up in the maternity hospital, Stephen has already been drinking at the pub and is well passed being able to hold a meaningful dialogue, as witnessed by his drunken rambling at the end of Episode 14. They then proceed to the brothel, where Stephen separates from Bloom and reunites later on even more intoxicated and unable to fulfill Bloom’s wishes of someone who he could really connect with.

Until reading this particular episode, it always appeared that Bloom was the instigator of the relationship between himself and the younger Stephen in order to replace his lost son Rudy and provide him the much needed paternal outlet that he has so desperately craved for all of these years. Stephen seemed to merely acquiesce to Bloom’s insistence that he watch over and help Stephen through the night. Bloom was the one who seemed invested in creating and maintaining a connection with Stephen.

However, in this Episode, it seems that Bloom does act as an influence to Stephen and is compared with some of the other significant people that have been threaded through the course of Stephen’s young life. After Bloom lights a candle to lead the pair throughout the house, Joyce plays on the idea of “lighting fire” and Stephen begins to think about the many people who have metaphorically illuminated his path. “Of what similar apparitions did Stephen think? / Of others elsewhere in other times who, kneeling on one knee or two, had kindled fires for him” (670). Some of the names that appear in the list are: Brother Michael, Father Butt, his sister Dilly, his mother, and his father, and now Bloom. Bloom joins the ranks of religious Fathers and immediate family members in the select group of people who have meant something meaningful and influential to Stephen. We see now that the burgeoning relationship between Bloom and Stephen is not one sided but rather has impacted Stephen as well. Another interesting thing about this passage is that the very institutions that have influenced Stephen the most are the very ones that he attempts to extricate himself from: religion and family. Perhaps to be a source of inspiration also implies becoming a source of burden, as well.

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