CalypsoEpisode of James Joyce's Ulysses
Wednesday 30 October 2013, 5 p.m. section
Mr Bloom pointed quickly. To catch up and walk behind her if she went slowly, behind her moving hams. Pleasant to see first thing in the morning. Hurry up, damn it. Make hay while the sun shines. She stood outside the shop in sunlight and sauntered lazily to the right. He sighed down his nose: they never understand. Sodachapped hands. Crusted toenails too. Brown scapulars in tatters, defending her both ways. The sting of disregard glowed to weak pleasure within his breast. For another: a constable off duty cuddling her in Eccles lane. They like them sizeable. Prime sausage. O please, Mr Policeman, I'm lost in the wood. (49)
I chose the fourth chapter,
Calypso, because it is here that Joyce introduces the novel's protagonist, Leopold Bloom.
The narrative remains in free indirect discourse but presents an entirely different consciousness in comparison to Dedalus, whose approach is philosophical and analytical.
Although this is just a brief extract it gives us a forceful and assiduous glimpse of bloom at work. He's clearly a fantasist. But I think its important to note that his desire here is clichèd. Women and meat followed by the evocative image of the woman lost in the wood. It feels inauthentic and corrupted.
Critically, Bloom is always presented on the edge of his own life, languishing in it. Moreover he takes pleasure in his own abasement. This is illustrated by the
sting of disregard glowed to weak pleasure.
Why do you think in setting out to write the great Irish novel Joyce chose to make his main character Jewish?
I think its important also that he's not a very devout Jew at all. This extract shows him buying pig's kidneys. His Jewishness becomes a sort of cultural position rather than a religious one, and something that's imposed on him from outside.
This passage makes an interesting comparison with the themes explored in episode eight, Lestrygonians, which is pervaded by food. It refers to Odysseus' visit to the island of cannibals.
The connection between food and sex is reiterated on page 144, where Bloom recalls making love to Molly and says
softly she gave me in my mouth the seed cake warm and chewed.
How does this compare to the raw sexuality he expresses in the butcher's?
It's clear that bloom wants both sex and food to be meaningful . He links consumption to symbolism and religious sacrifice. Reference to Yom Kippur.
Consider the contrast between Bloom's animalistic desire for meat in
The line that introduces him says
Mr Leopold Bloomm ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls.
And then his disgust in the Burton restaurant on page 138 at the violent physicality of men.
Stink gripped his trembling breath: pungent meatjuice, slush of greens. See the animals feed. Men, men, men.
Do you think Joyce is feminising Bloom here? If so why?