Thursday, April 3, 2008

What the Blind Don't See

Up to this point, the chapter titles and thematic parallels between Ulysses and the Odyssey seem to highlight significant similarities. Episode 11, however, accentuates the differences. In the Odyssey, under Circe’s advisement, Ulysses orders his men to fill their ears with wax and bound him to the ship in order to resist the temptation of the mellifluous and seductive sirens. But in Ulysses there is no shining protagonist who turns his back on temptation. Bloom indulges in his sexual correspondences with Martha (even though he is bored of it); Dollard throws away his illustrious carrier for alcohol; and Boylan ogles, diddles, and fondles anything that moves (though he does prefer the bronze-haired girl over the gold one).

Bloom does, however, shy away from the prostitute he recognizes on the street:
“A frowsy whore with black straw sailor hat askew came glazily in the day along the quay towards Mr Bloom. When first he saw that form endearing? Yes, it is. I feel so lonely. Wet night in the lane. Horn. Who had the? Heehaw shesaw. Off her beat here…Too dear too near to home sweet home. Sees me, does she? Looks a fright in the day. Face like dip. Damn her. O, well, she has to live like the rest. Look in here.
But his resilience comes from shame not strength of will.

The only character who resists temptation is the blind man who cannot see the alluring beauties in front of him. He, like the sailors with wax in their ears, resists temptation out of ignorance. Joyce’s commentary on human restraint is awfully pessimistic: only he who cannot be tempted, will not be tempted.

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