Sirens from James Joyce's Ulysses

Bailey Loverin
English 150
Wednesday 13 November 2013, 6 p.m. section

In this episode Joyce plays with the idea of sentimentality, especially in the sense that it holds the Irish people back from growth as a nation. The glorification of the past, especially of mythological figures and martyrs, is only of use when used in context and comparison to modern times and current events.

How does Joyce do this? The Croppy Boy song is a perfect example. It is a great story of the tragic martyr with a noble cause who fails. But that's just it — these stories are not of success. The protagonists of these stories are, as we see, someone to drink to and someone to remember and honor, but they are not seen as an incentive to action.

These figures create a romanticized past, one where it is easy to say "if only, if only". But the romanticizing of the past is dangerous too, because it makes it difficult to connect to the present.

Joyce disparages sentimentality while showing that Ireland can not move forward as a great nation by

  1. the juxtaposition of Bloom and his Irish friends at the bar, and
  2. the obscene description of Bloom farting in between chunks of Robert Emmet's speech.