“Death in Ulysses: How Bloom and Stephen Navigate the World of the Undead” — ENG 590 Final Paper

This is the second of three posts that cover the papers I wrote for my finals in the Spring 2017 semester of my first year of grad school. If you missed the first one, check it out here.

The focus of my ENG 590 class was James Joyce. Specifically, James Joyce’s Ulysses. If you’ve never read the book, don’t. Do not read this novel unless you are forced to (like I was; I could have skipped this class but that would have meant delaying my graduation by one more year and I just couldn’t do that). The freaking footnotes for this novel are in a book of their own that is just as thick as the novel itself!

If you can get through this paper and actually make sense of it, give yourself a pat on the back because even I, the author of this paper, have no idea what I wrote about. Everything is a big blur of nouns and pronouns and sexual innuendos and it’s just a mess. I currently do not know what grade I received on this paper as the professor has not given out grades, but I do know that I received an A in the class, so that’s some sort of sign that this had to be a good paper (in her opinion), right?

I wrote about the subject of Death in Ulysses and how Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom (the two main characters) deal with it differently. You can tell that I go on tangents about things at some points, because this paper was supposed to be 18-22 pages long. I’ve never written a paper that long before, so I got rambly in some parts.

Read the rest of the paper after the jump, and good luck!

Dr. Inglesby

1 May 2017

Death in Ulysses: How Bloom and Stephen Navigate the World of the Undead

The story of Ulysses revolves around Stephen Dedalus (taking up the mantle of Telemachus, Ulysses’s son) and Leopold Bloom (who stands in for the titular Ulysses), both of whom have a disconcerting relationship with death. Stephen has not only shunned his mother while she was on her deathbed, but he is an active participant in the slow starving-to-death of his younger sisters. Bloom has dealt with his father’s suicide — a great sin in the Jewish world — as well as the death of his youngest child and only son. Stephen and Bloom are characterized by the way they deal with death. After all, as Bertolini writes, “Joyce was obsessed with death. In Ulysses there are many prominent deaths, including Stephen’s mother, Bloom’s father and son, and Paddy Dignam” (40). Paddy Dignam is a prominent death, but he was never in the novel before his death, so it is the other three characters that will be the main focus of this paper. While Bertolini mentions these prominent character deaths, this are by no means the only mentions of death in the novel. Stephen and Bloom both have witnessed and experienced several deaths over the courses of their lives, and while Bloom is able to handle it better than Stephen — Blooms turns his sorrow into energy for helping others — in the end, they are both still missing “something” in their lives, which is remedied at the end of the novel by their finally meeting each other.

Stephen Dedalus, genius boy extraordinaire, who has such a huge ego that if he did not spend all his time outside it would crush him, begins Ulysses by becoming homeless. After being bullied by his roommates in the Martello Tower on the beach, Stephen leaves the keys to the tower with Malachi “Buck” Mulligan and begins his his daily routine of going to school and wandering around the town for hours afterwards. The very act of leaving his keys is a prelude to a sort of death. When Stephen walks out the door in “Telemachus,” it is assumed he can never come back, or if he does come back, he will be greatly changed. After all, he has left his keys with Buck — there is no way for him to get back into the tower.

In this first episode, “Telemachus,” the reader learns of Stephen’s tragic backstory: his mother has died, and Stephen refused her final wishes. In Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen is seen as a bit of a Momma’s Boy and so it is unsettling that he would do something as big as ignoring her on her death bed. Even Buck is shocked by this, saying, “You could have knelt down, damn it, Kinch, when your dying mother asked you, Buck Mulligan said. I’m hyperborean as much as you. But to think of your mother begging you with her last breath to kneel down and pray for her. And you refused. There is something sinister in you…” (U 1.136). It is Stephen’s refusal to submit to his mother’s final wishes that shows just how much he has changed in the years he spent on the main European continent, away from the Ireland of his childhood. By calling both himself and Stephen a hyperborean, Buck is insinuating Stephen has turned his back on all the religious teachings he had during his childhood while on his trip, and it ends up alienating him from his mother at the end of her life. Stephen recalls dreams of his mother in “Telemachus,” where she

“silently […] had come to him, her wasted body within its loose grave clothes giving off an odor of wax and rosewood, her breath, bent over him with mute secret words, a faint odor of wetted ashes. Her glazing eyes, staring out of death, to shake and bend my soul. On me alone. The ghost candle to light her agony. Ghostly light on the tortured face. Her hoarse breath rattling in horror, while all prayed on their knees. Her eyes on me to strike me down” (U 1.270-276).

Normally, one would be overjoyed to see their lost beloved family member again, but in Stephen’s case, his mother is more a ghoulish nightmare than a friendly face. The scents she carries are at odds with her appearance. Rosewood is now a protected tree (although it would not have been in Joyce’s time) from the Punjab provinces of Pakistan and India. According to Matt Caron, Yogi and “life voyager,” rosewood contains two types of healing properties: physical healing and healing of the spirit. Rosewood “is a compassionate and healing feminine energy” that “accent[s] the innate qualities of compassion and love within an individual” (Caron). The scent of rosewood coming off of a corpse, then, would remind someone that that corpse used to be a living, breathing woman. It is odd that rosewood would be coming off a corpse, since its physical healing properties include  being “used for nervousness, headaches, and frigidity. It also helps to boost the immune system because it calms the individual” (Caron). There is nothing left to heal on the corpse, but if Stephen’s mother died from a blood disease, it could have been used before her death to help with her immune system or calm her down, which would explain why she smells of rosewood. Instead of responding to his mother with a loving embrace, Stephen cries, “Ghoul! Chewer of corpses! No, mother! Let me be and let me live” (U 1.278-279). The guilt Stephen feels is palpable here, as he knows his mother his still berating him from beyond the grave. His plea to her to let him live shows this guilt, and shows he knows exactly how much he hurt her by refusing her final wishes. He calls his mother a “chewer of corpses” and a “ghoul” here. William Orem’s article, “Corpse-Chewers: The Vampire in Ulysses,” refers to these images as a reference to Dante’s Inferno, although “while Dante’s Lucifer is forever biting and clawing the sinners in his mouths, they are not ‘corpses’ by any standard definition of the term. […] Lucifer is instead a chewer of souls” (Orem 58). If Mrs. Dedadlus is a corpse-chewer, whose corpse is she chewing on? Is it her own, or is it the corpse of Stephen’s guilt, which is what leads him to say “Let me be and let me live” (U 1.279)? The ghoul of his dead mother is a physical manifestation of the guilt that is gnawing at Stephen’s conscience. This is evident by the fat that the final line states “Her eyes on me to strike me down,” showing that she blames him for her current condition.

Later on, in “Circe,” Stephen’s mother rises from the grave, for real this time: 

“Stephen’s mother, emaciated, rises stark through the floor, in leper grey with a wreath of faded orangeblossoms and a torn bridal veil, her face worn and noseless, green with gravemould. Her hair is scant and lank. She fixes her bluecircled hollow eye sockets on Stephen and opens her toothless mouth uttering a silent word. A choir of virgins and confessors sing voicelessly” (U 15.4157-4162).

Stephen’s mother is even more emaciated now than she was in her appearances in Stephen’s dreams. His mother is wearing leper grey, though it is unclear whether this grey refers to her clothing or to her skin. If her skin is mottled grey like leprosy, it is unusual because Mrs. Dedadlus did not die from leprosy but instead from an aggressive cancer. We know it is not her skin because a later sentence tells us her face is “green from gravemould” (U 15.4159). That must mean she is wearing grey, which is even more telling, as grey is usually associated with a lack of emotion, as well as a general state of decline and decay. According to Jennifer Bourn, founder of Bourn Creative and graphic designer, gray “is a timeless and practical color that is often associated with loss or depression. […] The gray color affects the mind and body by causing unsettling feelings” (Bourn). It is certainly very unsettling for a former family member to rise from the grave, and we know that Stephen has been depressed and is struggling with guilt over his refusal to pray for his mother on her death bed. Mrs. Dedalus is also wearing two items usually associated with weddings: the orange blossom wreath and the bridal veil. According to The Language of Flowers, orange blossoms symbolize “Innocence; Eternal Love; Marriage and Fruitfulness” (“Language”). The word “orangeblossoms” is used once before, in “Proteus,” where Stephen is wandering on the beach and thinking, “Got up as a young bride, man, veil, orangeblossoms” (U 3.242). Here the bride is referred to as young, which is the opposite of Stephen’s mother. Veils are also referenced here. A wedding veil is supposed to show the purity and the modesty of the bride, but a torn veil would not do that. This torn veil is a biblical reference to the veil in the Lord’s Temple being torn in half when Jesus dies. In both Matthew 27:51 (“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split, and the tombs broke open”) and Mark 15:38 (“The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom”) detail this tearing of the veil (NIV). The temple veil, or curtain, is in place to separate the Holy Place of the Temple from the Most Holy Place, the inner sanctum where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, making it essentially a barrier that separated the people from God (Hebrews 9:1-15; 10:19-22 NIV). When the veil is torn at the death of Jesus, it allows everyone to have the privilege of direct contact with God. It is appropriate to have this as a wedding veil, since the “bride of God” is the church. For May Dedalus’s wedding veil to be torn, then, is to assume something was separating her from the world and once the veil was torn, she was able to come back. It will take repairing the veil — or Stephen to let go of the guilt he feels — for her to finally rest in peace. The word “veil” appears eighteen times over the course of Ulysses, with meanings ranging from “veil” as if to hide to “veil” as in wedding veil. Stephen’s mother is still a ghoul in “Circe,” and it is clear that it will take much more than Stephen’s fear of her for her to disappear.

Stephen’s mother is not the only family member Stephen turns his back on in the course of the novel. In the first episode, Buck gives Stephen the nickname of “Kinch,” which, according to Sara K. Crangle, “can also refer to a looped or twisted rope, particularly a slip-knot or noose. A kinch thus can be an instrument of death, arrest, or control and has been connected to handcuffs as well as to the process of noosing the tongue of an animal in order to lead it about” (58). Not only is Stephen been dealing with the unfortunate loss of his mother, but he is also literally being called an instrument of death by his roommate, after being rebuked for not being a better son at her death-bed. It is interesting that this is the nickname he is given, given Stephen’s complicity not only in his mother’s suffering, but also in the ongoing death of his sisters. In “Wandering Rocks,” Stephen’s sister Dilly buys a book from a cart with the money his father had given her a few hours earlier: “He handed her a shilling […] —Here, Mr Dedalus said, hanging her two pennies. Get a glass of milk for yourself and a bun or something. I’ll be home shortly” (U 10.678, 706-707).  Dilly only gets this money because she knows her father has some, despite his protests. She has been watching him auction off their possessions in order to get more money to go out drinking. She saw the curtains be sold for five shillings, and so she knows he has at least that much. It is clear that Mr. Dedalus does not care what he is doing to his daughters; perhaps he did, at one time, but he refers to them as “an insolent pack of little bitches since your poor mother died. But wait awhile. You’ll all get a short shrift and a long day from me. Low blackguardism! I’m going to get rid of you” (U 10.681-684). The death of Mrs. Dedalus has not only haunted Stephen, but is also haunting Mr. Dedalus as well.  Dilly is starving, but she does not spend the money she is offered — after much begging — on food of any sort. Instead, she spends it on a French primer. While Stephen berates her for wanting to learn French from the foreign book, also knows inside his head that “Shows no surprise. Quite natural,” meaning he understands her thirst for knowledge, because he was once the same (U 10.871). As she leaves with her prize, Stephen reflects on what is happening to her: “She is drowning. Agenbite. Save her. Agenbite. All against us. She will drown me with her, eyes and hair. Lank coils of seaweed hair around me, my heart, my soul. Salt green death” (U 10.875-877). Stephen calls drowning a “salt green death,” but earlier he referred to the sea — which he lived beside in the Martello Tower — as being “snot green” (U 1.78). Salt green is much nicer than snot green. If Dilly looks as ragged and haggard as Stephen thinks her to be, then, her being the oldest, it is only natural that the others are in similar situations. Stephen’s sisters are slowly starving to death because his father, Simon Dedalus, is too much of a drunk to care what happens to his daughters. Even with Simon and the other children selling household items — Stephen warns Dilly “Mind Maggy doesn’t pawn [the book] on you” — they still do not have enough to live on (U 10.872). Stephen has a way out from starvation because he is the oldest and the first-born son, and he had a very expensive education which was recorded in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. He holds a job at a local school (though for how much longer is unknown), and he also has his own apartment in a drafty old tower (but after the events of the morning, he may very well be homeless). He has been able to escape from his family’s house and therefore from the death that is still lingering there, over a year after the death of his mother. Stephen has since turned his back on his family, because he knows just what has been happening in his family during his absence: his father has turned back to the drink. Stephen says his sister “will drown me with her,” which shows that he is more afraid of being dragged down by his family than he is motivated to help his sisters get out of poverty and save their lives (U 10.876).

Stephen, aside from being nicknamed for an instrument of death, also literally carries death around with him. In “Telemachus,” we are introduced to Stephen’s ashplant walking stick, which he carries around with him everywhere. Sara K. Crangle in her article “Stephen’s Handles” tells us Stephen’s stick, being ash, “is of course, heavy with deathly resonance, betokening ruin, remains, cremation, and decomposition. […] The ashplant, which Stephen can get a handle on, recalls May Dedalus and her death, the primary source of Stephen’s uncertainty, in an endless circle of knowing and unknowing” (Crangle 62). This is not the only reference to ashes in Ulysses. In Stephen’s hallucination in “Telemachus,” his mother appears smelling of “wetted ashes” (U 1.272). While ashes are typically associated with death and dying, in Celtic traditions, “The ash [tree] was commonly used for protective rituals because it was believed that helpful energies were contained within its great body. Specifically, the ash was thought to be the guardian of children, and was often used as a healing agent for childhood illnesses” (Venefica). If Stephen believes in the protective properties of his walking stick, that is an even better reason as to why he carries it around. Since the ash tree is specifically related to the guarding of children, Stephen’s carrying it is even more important, as he could be using it to ward off his mother’s ghoul. Either way, though, the stick is still a reminder of his mother’s death, whether it be because it is made of ashes or because he is using it as protection from his mother’s ghoul. He even believes it talks to him, calling his name as a friend would while he drags it across the ground: “My familiar, after me, calling, Steeeeeeeeeeeephen!” (U 1.628-629). The protective properties of this stick do not work in “Circe,” however, since the ghoul of his mother turns up anyways. Stephen then turns this protector of children into a weapon later on in the brothel during “Circe,” when he smashes a chandelier, fulfilling its use as a reminder of death (U 15.4241-4242). He had been threatening the chandelier earlier in the episode, and now it has come full circle (U 15.99-100). At the end of his little tantrum, Stephen abandons his walking stick and flees the room, leaving Bloom to rescue the ashplant before confronting Stephen (U 15.4279).

This all goes to show that Stephen does not deal with death very well. If the reader only focuses on Stephen’s callous disregard for his sisters’ well-being, and the fact that he carries a lethal-to-chandeliers ashplant stick around with him, Stephen does not appear to be very affected by death. Once you add in his mother’s death and the guilt Stephen still feels over it, though, you can see Stephen feels a lot more than he lets on. In terms of his sisters, he does recognize that they are starving, perhaps to death, but he cannot bring himself to help them, possibly out of fear. Pride motivated him not to help his mother when she was dying, but it is now fear and guilt that keeps him from helping his sisters. For Stephen to recognize what he feels and be able to figure out what to do with his life, he will have to have an outside force tell him what to do. Luckily for him, that outside force exists in the form of Leopold Bloom.

Leopold Bloom holds death in a different regard from Stephen. Most interesting, Bloom is a complete carnivore. He eats the inner organs of animals with relish, and enjoys his trips across town to find the perfect kidney to sup on. He is someone who is very used to death, at least in how it pertains to animals. The way he is introduced to the reader is,

“Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblets, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices slices with fried crust crustcrumbs, fried hencods’ roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine” (U 4.1-5).

Bloom has an interesting relationship with death in this way. It does not appear to bother him very much, as he eats the life-giving organs of animals, after all. If someone is eating the entrails, the hearts, the kidneys of some animal, it is a very intimate experience. You are eating what once gave another thing life. Anyone can eat a steak or a chicken breast, but only specific people eat the inner organs. In “Lestrygonians,” Bloom remembers something he has been told by a vegetarian: “Only weggebobbles and fruit. Don’t eat a beefsteak. If you do the eyes of that cow will pursue you through all eternity” (U 8.534-536). Bloom finds this ridiculous. After all, he has been eating meat — particularly the vital organs of said meat — for years and has yet to have a cow’s eyes follow him because of it. While it should not, this sounds very similar to what Stephen does to his mother. Although Stephen does not eat his mother — there is cannibalism in Ulysses but it does not come at the expense of Stephen — he does contribute to her death (which could be correlated with eating the beefsteak) and now her eyes, or more accurately her ghoul, seems to be following him for all eternity. It should also be noted that Bloom’s eating habits are decidedly not kosher, although he has not been strictly Jewish since he married Molly.

Aside from Bloom’s unusual eating habits, the reader also gets to witness one of Bloom’s encounters with death firsthand in the “Hades” episode of Ulysses. In this episode, Bloom accompanies a group of acquaintances to the funeral of Paddy Dignam, who died of a heart attack while at home, and gets distracted by all the ways he can market the dead to the living. He ponders putting gramophones on gravestones:

“More interesting if they told you what they were. […] Besides, how could you remember everybody? […] Have a gramophone in every grave or keep it in the house. After dinner on a Sunday. Put on poor old greatgrandfather. […] Remind you of the voice like the photograph reminds you of the face” (U 6.937-938; 962-967).

Gramophones are huge and unwieldy, and most likely to be stolen from the graves. But, think of how entertaining would it be to be able to wander around a graveyard and be able to listen to the voices of those below the ground, telling you who and what they were. That is what Bloom wants. The modern-day equivalent of this is putting QR codes on gravestones that one can scan with a smartphone in order to watch a video of the deceased. There are already entire companies dedicated to “revolutionizing death” in this way. This has become a hot debate in media about how far is too far when dealing with death. Would your loved one really want you to pay $75 for an “after-death Facebook page” where people can comment, like, and share details about their personal lives (Quiring Monuments)?  In a way, death is becoming about how long you can live on afterwards, and not just in memory. What sort of physical legacy can you leave behind? Some want to leave lots of money, others want to leave books, and Bloom just wants people to put gramophones on gravestones so he can listen to people tell their own stories instead of reading about those stories in an anthology. Bloom also fantasizes about burying people — particularly obese people — in flower beds in order to use them as fertilizer:

“It’s the blood sinking in the earth gives new life. Same idea those jews they said killed the christian boy. Every man his price. Well preserved fat corpse, gentleman, epicure, invaluable for fruit garden. A bargain. By carcass of William Wilkinson, auditor and accountant, lately deceased, three pounds thirteen and six. With thanks” (Joyce 89).

In the cemetery, Bloom appears to have a callous approach to death. How sensitive can you be if you are talking about chopping up recently dead people in order to feed peoples’ pansies? While he appears sorrowful that Dignam has died, he spends the entirety of his time in the cemetery thinking about ways to market the dead. Not market to the dead, but market the dead to the living. There has to be some secondary use for everything Bloom does or sees, and sometimes his marketing is a bit off-the-mark. For example, he considers using a beautiful woman locked in a box in order to sell stationary. He is a businessman through everything, regardless of how appropriate it is in the moment. His plan of marketing the dead has one tiny flaw: Paddy Dignam does not stay dead, as he, too, reappears in “Circe,” in as ghoulish a fashion as Stephen’s mother does. After appearing to the assembled courtroom as a beagle, “The beagle lifts his snout, showing the grey scorbutic face of Paddy Dignam. He has gnawed all. He exhales a putrid carecasefed breath. […] Half of one ear, all the nose and both thumbs are ghouleaten” (U 15.1202-1209). Dignam’s appearance is most shocking, particularly because we have we have heard Stephen previously refer to his mother as a chewer of corpses. While Dignam could have been the one to eat his own thumbs, there is no way he could have eaten his ear or his nose, meaning that there is another ghoul on the loose. Fortunately, we know exactly who that ghoul is: Mrs. Dedalus. She appears near the end of the episode, as discussed above. However, with Dignam being depicted as a beagle, that draws another question entirely: who is using Dignam to hunt? Beagles are dogs that are traditionally used for hunting, and like most dogs they enjoy chewing on things. It is only natural that a dream-ghoul-beagle would chew on corpses along with the woman who is training him. Mrs. Dedalus dies a year before Dignam does, giving her plenty of time to train him in the art of ghoul-eating.

Going back to the title of this episode, “Hades” can refer to either the god of the underworld (in the Greek myths) or the underworld itself. Although Bloom is the titular Ulysses of this novel, Bloom possibly takes a different role as Hades in this chapter — in this instance, Hades is not a place but instead a person. Bloom at first appears to be the god of the underworld, the one who is deciding what to do with the corpses of the people who have died. He is not, however, as strict as the mythical Hades himself: “Though Hades supervised the trial and punishment of the wicked after death, he was not normally one of the judges in the underworld, nor did he personally torture the guilty, a task assigned to the Furies (Erinyes). Hades was depicted as stern and pitiless, unmoved by prayer or sacrifice (like death itself)” (“Hades”). Since Hades does not dole out the judgement (that is reserved to the people unimaginatively named The Judges), Bloom cannot technically be Hades. He still uses his power to decide what to do with the corpses. It is only an idea, and nothing ever comes of it, but for a little while, Bloom imagines himself as being lord of the dead. However, in The Odyssey when Ulysses goes to the Underworld, he ends up speaking with those there until he becomes so overwhelmed and mobbed by the souls of the dead that he takes fright and flees. Again, this does not appear describe Bloom, who does not shirk from death in the cemetery (unlike Simon Dedalus, who cannot help but weep when passing by his wife’s grave), but rather embraces it. So who, then, does Bloom impersonate in “Hades?”

Bloom, like Stephen, has experienced the death of a parent. However, unlike Stephen, Bloom was unable to say a final goodbye to his father. Bloom’s father committed suicide, which is forbidden in Jewish law except when a person is forced to betray his religion. Bloom’s father identified as Jewish, and although Bloom himself has supposedly converted to Catholicism in order to marry Molly, there are still laws concerning suicide in both religions Not only that, but mourning over suicide is not encouraged in the Jewish faith:

“The general tendency among the later authorities is to extend the idea of mitigating circumstances so that the law, re­corded in the [classical law code] Shulhan Arukh (Yoreh Deah, 345), that there are to be no rites of mourning over a suicide, is usually set aside wherever it can reasonably be assessed that the act was committed while the suicide was ‘of unsound mind’” (Jacobs).

If Rudolph Bloom, Sr.’s suicide fell into that category, then Bloom has reason to mourn for him; otherwise, Bloom should not mourn because his father did it to himself. While walking towards Dignam’s gravesite in “Hades,” Bloom recalls the joking gravediggers of Hamlet — far removed from the somber procession Bloom found himself a part of — and how he believes one should not joke about the dead until after the two-year mourning period is over (U 6.792-795). The reader does not get many more details about the senior Bloom’s death, but in “Ithaca,” the reader does get a bit more information about where Bloom’s family genealogy lies.

The death of Bloom’s son, Rudolph, was especially crushing to Bloom. Not only was this a male heir, but he also bore the name of Bloom’s dead father. For Rudolph Bloom, Jr., to die was in a way deadly to the martial life of Mr. and Mrs. Leopold Bloom. After Rudy’s death, Bloom and Molly no longer engaged in sexual intercourse because both of them were afraid of the next child dying as well. Rudy haunts Bloom all throughout Ulysses, particularly in “Hades,” “Circe,” and “Oxen of the Sun.” Throughout the novel, it is clear that Bloom is missing out on not having a son, and feels as if his life is lacking and he is impotent because of that. At the end of “Circe,” Bloom believes he sees his dead son as a schoolboy of eleven: “Against the dark wall a figure appears slowly, a fairy boy of eleven, a changeling, kidnapped, dressed in an Eton suit with glass shoes and a little bronze helmet, holding a book in his hand. […] BLOOM: (wonderstruck, calls inaudibly) Rudy!” (U 15.4955-4961). For Bloom to refer to his hallucination as a “fairy boy” or “changeling” is very telling. A changeling is a creature substituted for a real baby once the real baby has been kidnapped by fairies. For Bloom to imagine Rudy as a changeling is no far stretch, as it is very possible he could believe his child was stolen by a fairy, replaced with a changeling, and then the replacement died, leaving the real Rudy Bloom safe and sound within someone else’s house.

As Bloom continues his wanderings through Dublin, he stops by a church to observer people partaking in the Eucharist, and offers his own commentary on it:  Corpus: body. Corpse. Good idea the Latin. Stupefies them first. Hospice for the dying. They don’t seem to chew it; only swallow it down. Rum idea: eating bits of a corpse. Why the cannibals cotton to it” (U 5.350-352). The phrase “rum idea” could have two separate meanings: “(obsolete) Fine, excellent, valuable. [16th c.]” or “(Britain, colloquial, dated) Strange, peculiar. [18th c.]” (“Rum”). The meaning Bloom uses cannot easily be deciphered from his use of the phrase “cotton to it,” which, according to The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, means “Take a liking to, get along with, as in This dog doesn’t cotton to strangers. Although this verbal phrase comes from the noun for the fabric, the semantic connection between these parts of speech is unclear. [Early 1800s]” (Ammer 96). If the cannibals are “cotton to it” because it is a fine idea, then Bloom is siding with the cannibals. If the cannibals are “cotton to it” because it is a peculiar idea, then Bloom is equating the church-goers to be as odd as the cannibals. If Bloom is siding with the cannibals, that makes sense. After all, Bloom already enjoys eating the inner organs of animals, relishing the kidneys and the entrails as delicacies. Bloom refers to the churchgoers as being “stupefied” by the Latin, telling that the Latin is there only to make people into obedient sheep. Jesus did refer to his people as his flock, and himself as a shepherd.

After the events of “Circe,” Stephen and Bloom finally get together. Throughout the rest of the novel, they had been viewing each other from afar, with Bloom sadly noting Simon’s decline and hoping it would not happen to Stephen, and Stephen stumbling through his own world without paying attention to anything else. Once Stephen brutally murders a chandelier with his ashplant, Bloom decides it is time to take him to sober up, “Preparatory to anything else Mr Bloom brushed off the greater bulk of the shavings and handed Stephen the hat and ashplant and bucked him up generally in orthodox Samaritan fashion which he very badly needed” (U 16.1-3). This is a touching moment for the both of them. Bloom has lost a son and it is quite possible that Stephen could be a surrogate for that lost son. Stephen, while his father is not dead, is missing a responsible father figure in his life. Simon Dedalus is decidedly not an appropriate father figure, as he drinks away all of the money coming into the house and continues selling his possessions for more drinks, choosing to let his children remaining at home starve.

Stephen and Bloom complete each other in the fact that Bloom is very body-oriented (he is constantly shown doing normal bodily functions and he thinks very graphically about sexual organs) while Stephen daydreams so much he sometimes forgets he has a physical body. They have both also been radically changed by the death of someone close to them, which connects them in a way that nothing else does. It is because of Stephen’s missing father and because of Bloom’s dead son that they are able to get together. While the ending of “Ithaca” does not show much promise for Stephen continuing to go to Bloom, Bloom has at least attempted the beginnings of friendship with a lost young man. It is what he does best: help others, even when they cannot afford or want to help him.

Works Cited

Ammer, Christine. The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. 2nd ed. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013. Print.

Bertolini, C D. “Bloom’s Death in “Ithaca,” or the END of Ulysses.Journal of Modern Literature. 31.2 (2008): 39-52. Print.

Bourn, Jennifer. “Meaning of The Color Grey.Bourn Creative. Bourn Creative, LLC, 03 June 2016. Web. 01 May 2017.

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Crangle, Sara K. “Stephen’s Handles.James Joyce Quarterly. 47.1 (2009): 51-69. Print.

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2 thoughts on ““Death in Ulysses: How Bloom and Stephen Navigate the World of the Undead” — ENG 590 Final Paper

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