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MonkeyNotes-Ulysses by James Joyce
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Chapter 18

Penelope Summary

Molly Bloom lies in bed thinking over her day and the visit of Blazes Boylan. Various scenes from her past life crowd into her mind. She thinks of Leopold Bloom in particular. Bloom has asked for breakfast in bed next morning. Molly is amazed, for he has never asked for such a thing since the old days when he used to act sick to try to waken Mrs. Riordanís sympathies. Molly was unsympathetic to Mrs. Riordanís Puritanism. But she admits approving of her husbandís kindliness to her, as to all old ladies, waiters and beggars. She suspects that he has had an affair during the day. She thinks that his account of his movements was a pack of lies. She had caught him two days ago concealing his letter to Martha and suspects that it was a letter to some poor girl he was deceiving. She does not much mind, as long as he keeps her out of the house. She remembers the embarrassment of his affair with Mary Driscoll, their maid. But she has entertained her lover, Boylan, in the house. Bloom suspects something, she feels.

Molly feels some revulsion against the sexual act. She remembers the difficulties of making confession of carnal acts. She wonders if Boylan is lying awake thinking of her. She had fallen asleep after he left, to be awakened by a clap of thunder. She thinks over her affair with Boylan. She broods over the physical disadvantages of women. Mrs. Purefoyís annual pregnancies are a clear manifestation. She recollects her last visit there, a "squad of them falling over one another and bawling you couldnít hear your ear supposed to be healthy." She thinks of Mrs. Breen who had once been jealous of her and furious at Bloom. But she remains impressed by her husbandís refusal to be provoked into rage. Bloom, after all, is a better catch than poor, mad Breen.


Molly thinks again of Boylan and her first meeting with him. From this her mind moves on to other lovers and admirers she has had, and ultimately to Bloom. Yet she remembers with pleasure his gentleness, his attractive love-letters and his thoughtful presents. She is anticipating the pleasure of her forthcoming trip to Belfast with Boylan. She is pleased that Bloom will not be able to come with them, as he has to visit his late fatherís home. She thinks of an embarrassing and comic episode on a previous tour when Bloom insisted on holding up a train until he had finished the bowl of soup he had bought in the buffet. She thinks of the possible scandal of her relationship with Boylan. She recalls also other singers well known in Dublin gossip. She apparently got her start in public performances by getting Bloom to act piously before the Jesuits who were putting on a version of Stabat Mater. Unhappily, they found out that he was a Freemason. She thinks of other lovers, of Boylanís wealth, and of his friends such as Lenehan. She contrasts Boylanís expenditure with Bloomís pathetic little gifts. She longs for the glamorous life of a famous star such as Lily Langtry. She thinks of her own physical beauty and the ugliness of menís bodies. Her disgust with men stimulates her to anger with Bloomís pomposity and incompetence.

The noise of a trainís whistle turns her thoughts to the power of the locomotives and the life of the train drivers in their "roasting engines." The oppressive heat of the night summons up images of hot days in Gibraltar, particularly the hot, dull days just before she left. She tosses on the bed, trying to get comfortable. She laments the drabness of her present life. She recalls at length the romantic attachment she had had as a girl on Gibraltar to Lieutenant Mulvey of H.M.S. Calypso. She remembers also other flirtations of distant days with idealized young men such as Lieutenant Gardner who was killed in the South African war. The noise of the train brings her thoughts back to reality. She is again furious with Bloom for his unromantic presence, sleeping beside her "with his cold feet on me."

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