Calypso 0009


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Calypso 0009

Bloom translates Molly’s “Mn” as “No,” the bedroom door remaining closed to him and his gesture of thoughtfulness. I imagine a tiny look of annoyance on his face, a slight air of defeat in the slump of his shoulders: is repairing the furniture the only thought on his mind? Bloom will be haunted by the sound of the jingling quoits throughout the day.

There were two things I found difficult about dealing with Ulysses the first time I read it: places and faces. I had a hard time visualizing where people were and what they looked like, and I appreciate having some insight into how to imagine these through the comic adaptation. That being said, the ways Bloom’s face is concealed over the course of this page strikes me as telling. What is being kept from us, and what is being revealed — both in Joyce’s text and Rob’s drawing? We cannot see Bloom’s face as he descends the stairs, so we don’t know if his expression belies his statement of pity, and we’re not completely sure to what or whom he is directing that statement: is it a pity that the bed is broken after all these years? does he pity his wife for forgetting her Spanish? How are we supposed to understand what’s going on in his hat without a clue from his face?

This page actually does a lot of concealing and revealing: we learn that Molly is from Gibraltar, we learn Bloom is carrying around a white slip of paper in his hat and that he is concerned for its safety, and we learn that while Bloom might not have his housekey in his pocket as one might expect, he does have a…potato. Huh? We learn quite a bit, but we’re not really sure what any of it means.

Another suggestion for making your way through Ulysses is paying attention to objects: what objects pop up again and again? Where do they appear, what paths do they take, how do they move from one place to another? We’ve already seen how objects take on significance in Telemachus, particularly in Stephen’s memories of his mother. So here we have Bloom’s slip of paper, latchkey and potato. The potato serves as a totem on a number of levels. According to Gifford’s Ulysses Annotated, it is a reminder of the Irish famine as well as a symbol of Jewish ritual — potatoes are eaten after a funeral (ah, but here, whose?). The potato also has Homeric resonances: it parallels Odysseus’ moly, the edible plant that prevents him from being turned into a swine by Circe. So with this one item we hit the Bloomian trifecta: the Irish, the Jewish, and the Greek.

This is clearly a very rich page, giving us lots of information while also withholding and evading: typical Joyce.

Reader’s Guide for IV: Calypso