Calypso 0005

 

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Calypso 0005

“She didn’t like her plate full.”

Who is “she”? Who is the mysterious Calypso, and when do we get to see her? By now perhaps you’ve guessed who the “she” refers to: this pronoun is Molly’s first appearance. Bloom doesn’t even need to say her name. She might not be there in the kitchen, but she is always present in his mind.

As we move through the page, the “she” morphs into the demanding and slightly threatening black cat in the center. Her figure might make you think of Haines’ panther from Telemachus: here is the dream cat made real. The arrival of the cat and her very distinctive voice begins a conversation between Bloom and beast, again pointing to the first thing we learned about him: his affinity for animals in all their forms, delicious and otherwise. Cat lovers may want to talk about how realistic Joyce’s representation of the cat’s “meow” really is; he worked pretty hard on it.

I’d like to draw attention here and throughout to narrative perspective, and what that looks like in the pages of Ulysses “Seen.” This is one of the things that makes reading Ulysses kind of a challenge, since the point of view can shift in mid-paragraph, sometimes even in mid-sentence. I think Rob does a really nice job of capturing different voices and perspectives through his use of comic conventions. We’ll see this on the next page too, as Bloom listens and responds to the distinctive voice of the cat. Bloom’s kind inclination towards the cat along with his recognition of her cruelty, the gentleness of his eyes and the aggressive quality with which she fills the space of the page, also echoes how Bloom thinks about his wife, the most important “she.”

Reader’s Guide for IV: Calypso

Dramatis Personae for IV: Calpyso

 

2 thoughts on “Calypso 0005

  1. This could be completely apocryphal, and I’ve never heard it substantiated, but a very charming (and somewhat crazy) Irish friend of mine, a great fan of the book, once told me that Joyce’s attention to the detailed depiction of this sound effect is, in fact, the origin of the popular phrase “the cat’s meow.”

    I have no real evidence for the validity of that, but it’s a great example of how many of Joyce’s quirks, concerns and cunning wordplay worms it’s way into popular culture then and now.
    -Rob

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