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MonkeyNotes-Ulysses by James Joyce
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Notes

The episode in the Odyssey tells; boy Odysseus lost some of his men because they decided to stay with the friendly Lotus-eaters, "eating that native flower and forgetting their homeland’s." In Joyce almost every kind of drug is mentioned with some indication of its pleasurable effects. Furthermore, nearly all the pleasures of the senses (sight, touch, hearing, taste and above all smell) are evoked to add to the lotus-eating effect. The mood of "Lotus-eaters" is one of enlightened, if drowsy hedonism (the doctrine that happiness is the highest goal). Joyce calls the technique "narcissism." Bloom himself is Narcissus who contemplates his own image in the pool. The organ of the chapter is the male genitals. Bloom’s mood is gently masturbatory. He is not alone in his day dreaming. The whole of Dublin on this fine morning seems to be lost in an agreeable trance. It is a day of wine and roses. The various types of narcotics and narcotic-users have a delicate background of sweetly-scented flowers. Bloom’s only narcotic habit is to smoke an occasional cigar, which "has a cooling effect." Like most Jews he is a very moderate drinker, but the Irish consume "millions of barrels of porter." Bloom enters a church, where the Irish receive their religion, the opium of the people, at all hours of the day. He reflects skeptically on the eucharistic bread and wine and dreams of heaven, to the accompaniment of sacred music, another drug.

Lotus-eating fits neatly into the structure of Biblical correspondences. It is assumed that this chapter deals with the Egyptian captivity of the children of Israel. The lotus is also a flower of the Nile. Moses had to lead the Children of Israel into austerity before they could win the Promised Land. The Mosaic theme has an explicitly political meaning. The Irish were not all unhappy all of the time under the British rule. Ireland had been promised but did not yet enjoy Home Rule.


The chapter throws light on Bloom’s character. He shows sympathy for the street urchins and the cab horses, but has no patience with his acquaintances. His love for Molly is generous and gentle, but he carries on a fantasy affair, which tends towards aggression and perversity. These are the marks of the lonely man. Bloom seems to recognize his own loneliness in his comments of the Mass and confession.

In this chapter, the streets of Dublin come to play a dominant role. Passages describing the horses, the post office and the pharmacist’s shop show Joyce’s precise use of words at its best. His mind works at once to perceive the reality and to relate it to his past experiences. The discrepancies between the object and Bloom’s reaction to the object is a source of comedy. His memory summons before him the image of his wife’s face in the early days of their marriage. The thought of face cream leads to the thought of old-fashioned remedies and sets him to recalling stories he had heard about the skin disease of the Duke of Albany. We have the incongruous superimposition of Molly Bloom and the Duke of Albany. There is an effective irony in that, Bloom’s thoughts in the pharmacist’s should run on two things the shop cannot cure: age and disease. His thoughts link the worlds of reality and fantasy. Therefore, sentences are often unfinished. For example, in the scene at church, Bloom has still running in his mind the foolish little song about Mary who "lost the pin of her drawers." As he has thoughts of the rich brewers in his mind, so he considers the possibility of substituting beer for the communion wine.

The flower symbolism in this chapter is significant. Like Ulysses’ crew, he too is entranced by the lotus. Another powerful symbol in this chapter is "potted meat." This phrase is from an advertisement for plumtree’s. Potted meat, which Bloom reads in the newspaper. The advertisement claims that without, plumtree’s potted meat, home is incomplete. Molly is a kind of meat pot. Boylan is potted meat, completing home. At the beginning of the chapter, Bloom’s thoughts are of people and he shows some social awareness, as in his thoughts about the children. At the end of the chapter he is merely dreaming of the luxurious self-satisfaction of a bath.

In one way "Lotuseaters is oddly deceptive. It reveals the nature of Bloom’s particular brand of paralysis as if he were a character in Dubliners, but like Homer’s lotus, it seems calculated to stupify the unwary crewman before the voyage has well begun. Bloom is a "lotus eater", to be sure. His narcotic reverie, on the other hand, will be short lived. Joyce neglects to emphasize at this stage of Ulysses that Bloom, like Throwaway, is a typical "dark-horse." His adaptability will enable him to conquer debilitating self-doubts and send him across the finish line to win his lady’s favor.

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