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As Bloom crawls around on the floor looking for Molly’s book, he thinks of the line from “La ci darem” “Voglio e non vorrei.” More accurately, Zerlina’s line is “Vorrei e non vorrei,” or “I would like to and I wouldn’t like to.” Bloom thinks: “I want to and I wouldn’t like to.” And he repeats the “voglio”: I want. Given the more than a decade Joyce spent in Italy and his deep familiarity with opera, we can be sure he knew his hero was misquoting: why change the “I would like” to “I want”?
This page is the first in a sequence that depicts a conversation between Bloom and Molly about metempsychosis: according to Gifford’s Ulysses Annotated, “The mystical doctrine that the soul after death is reborn in another body.” A few things to note about this. First of all, as we saw perhaps more prevalently in Telemachus and will see again, death is very much a part of Ulysses: our main characters are all in some state of suspended or thwarted mourning. Bloom is heading out to a funeral, but even more important is the loss of his infant son Rudy at the age of 11 days, 11 years before the action of the novel. Second, Joyce is interested generally in things and people taking more than one form; another way of putting it might be the line from Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse (1927): “Nothing is just one thing.” Finally, Molly isn’t exactly a simpleton, but she doesn’t always approach things from the deepest or most intellectual place. She kind of depends on Bloom for that, and regards him as something of a thinker. That’s why she asks him to help her figure out this word.