ULYSSES pp. 55-59, “Calypso”

By LIZAANNE

Hi, folks!  Welcome aboard “The Odyssey” section of the novel–please have your tickets ready to be stamped.  Thank you.

This fourth section [Calypso] introduces us to the man who will be our second central character of this novel, namely Leopold Bloom.   Our narrator has backed the timeline up to the morning again, so that we meet Mr. Bloom at the beginning of his day.  After reading the first 5 pages of this section, we’ve learned quite a bit about him.  First, however, here are my tweets:

55-Leopold Bloom is introduced by his love of organ meats, how he makes b-fast, & talks to the cat–he anthropomorphizes as pretty but cruel

56-LB watches cat drink; decides on kidney for b.fast; checks on wife- she mumbles; considers loose bed springs; puts on hat w/ hidden paper

57-LB leaves key behind so won’t have to disturb wife, wanders down street in good mood; daydreams about exotic East– knows is just fantasy

58-LB greets shopkeeper after considering property values-wonders how he made his money; passes by school– hears lessons; arrives @ butcher

59-LB oogles meat & servant girl in shop; reads ads from cut sheets-thinks of cattlemarket; places order, wants to hurry so can follow girl

So, what have we learned on our first foray into Bloom-land? Well…

1. Leo is an advertising businessman who has a head for making money, property prices, potential clients, and a good land bargain.  Despite these talents, though, he seems to be living at the lower end of the spectrum. 

2. Leo endears himself to the reader through his fanciful daydreams (He is a good deal more cheerful in his thoughts than Stephen, which is a welcome change for us) and his kind treatment of his wife and his cat.  

3. Ah, on the subject of Molly (whose name we don’t learn until 3 pages into the chapter)–when we first meet Leo, he is putting together a breakfast tray for his wife, who is still in bed.  She’ll be there for the rest of the section.  Like Odysseus with Calypso, Leopold is tied to his love.  Unlike Odysseus, Leo doesn’t seem to mind much, at least we have seen no signs of it yet.  He is a devoted husband; in fact, we get the idea that he might be just a bit afraid of her.  According to the Bloomsday book, we should pay particular attention to her noisy bed-springs, which make their first appearance here.

4. Leo is not nearly as well-educated as our friend Stephen and is considerably older and more comfortable in his environment (not to mention in his own skin).  Leo knows Stephen’s father, Simon, well enough (probably in the pub) to have heard his impressions of the shop-keeper O’Rourke many times.  There are two things Leo and Stephen share at the moment: 1-that neither of them possess a key to their homes [however, Leo has only propped his door closed, and he fully intends to be back after his trip to the butcher]; 2- that both men are dressed in black because they are showing respect for the dead [Leo has a funeral to attend this morning after breakfast]. 

5. Leo has an eye for the ladies, particularly well-rounded ones.   He also loves organ meat.  These two ideas are probably connected.

6. Leo also appreciates the scatological elements of blood, guts, etc.  We shall shortly hear more about this than we ever wanted to know.

So, here are some questions for discussion as this train pulls into the station for refueling:

— How are the cat and Molly similar?

–Why does Leo carry a lucky potato?

–How does the idea of “Homerule sun rising up in the northwest” connect to our previous discussions of Irish-Anglo relations?

— Why is Leo buying pork sausage when he is supposed to be Jewish?

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5 Responses

  1. Excellent, Lizaanne! I’ll take questions #2 and #4. #1 should be handled by Ben’s cat, a real piece of work. #3 should maybe be handled by someone who’s actually been to Ireland.

    #2 This lucky potato actually has a homeric reference to the lucky (or “holy”) moly that Hermes gave to Odysseus in Book X to protect against pig-making Circe’s spells. It’s also representative of Bloom self-possession. And it’s a lucky charm. (Joyce can get a lot out of even a moldy potato.) But before taking the full measure of this spud, we should pay attention to how it gets developed.

    #4 Like Stephen, Bloom has been brought up in a strong religious culture, but no longer practices that religion. He doesn’t have the same hang-ups with his as Stephen does. He’s definitely found peace in not-practicing and not observing pork denial, making him a pretty good role model for Stevie.

    It’s also helpful to note that 1904 is very pre-Israel, makes the Jewish people a country-less race (thus all the Zionism references)…further linking Bloom to Odysseus’s ridiculous journey and the notion of usurpation and wandering.

  2. […] This post was Twitted by PollanNews […]

  3. Ahem. Though I originally thought I’d refrain from joining this reading collective (my tastes running toward a different literary giant of the 20th century, Proust), I have been observing from a distance. My interest was piqued during the Odyssey Funmaries, as I have often been called Scylla behind my back (and not simply b/c of the cat’s tail). Since then, I have lurked in the shadows. Now I step into the light.

    Before I shed (ha!) some insight on Lizaanne’s first question, let me applaud her concise, informative and illuminating reading, a pleasant departure from the testosterone-soaked ouevre of Grit/Vore.

    Now, the central question: How are cats and Molly similar? From this episode we can gather one similarity: We are both great nappers. Paradise, thy name is Bed.

    As I have not read the rest of Ulysses and do not know what feline tendencies we may expect from Molly Bloom, allow me to conjecture some similarities based on what I have just learned about MB from Wikipedia. I will quote the relevant excerpts:

    “Molly … roughly corresponds to Penelope in The Odyssey. The major difference between Molly and Penelope is that while Penelope is eternally faithful, Molly is not.” I find it more than a little offensive that one might surmise infidelity to be a feline characteristic. I, for one, had no shot at infidelity (or fidelity, for that matter), as I was castrated shortly after birth. ( “Neuter,” echoing “neutral,” does not fully convey the trauma of such an ordeal.)

    “Molly is an opera singer of some renown.” It is difficult to draw any similarities here, as we cats are capable of meowing but have difficulty hitting the higher registers one must sustain to be a successful operatic performer.

    This is essentially all that Wikipedia tells us of MB. Should I notice any other (dis)similarities in the further reading of the text, I may chime in.

    Though I wonder, given what I’ve read of his musical proclivities, why Mr. Grit has failed to note that Kate Bush’s “The Sensual World” is based on MB’s famous soliloquy?

  4. For some reason (perhaps due to the airs you do put on), I assumed you already read Ulysses. I’m a little surprised you haven’t, but I welcome your involvement in Wandering Rocks. I can barely keep my cat interested in string.

    I was saving my celebration of Kate Bush for a little later down the road. But since the cat has let the proverbial cat out of the bag, let me just say that everyone should have their hands on The Dreaming and The Hounds of Love.

  5. Huh? Kate Bush? Must I really?
    (I don’t do popular culture).

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