ULYSSES pp.66-70, “Calypso”


Welcome back.  Now that your tummies are full, settle into your seats for the final leg of our tour through “Calypso.”  If you look out the windows to your right, you will see tweets:

66-Milly’s letter:dad’s girl having 1st adventure; LB thinks of her birth & little boy who died @ birth; LB=fond but not overprotective dad

67-LB recalls Milly’s adolescence; regrets that he can’t keep her innocent & connects to “seaside girls”; LB picks what 2 read in outhouse

68-LB considers planting a garden; wonders about where he left his hat & if he’ll have time for a bath; uses “jakes” w/ door open; reads

69-“titbit” parallels to LB’s toilet use; wishes were writer; recalls scribing conversations w/ Molly; remembers morning after met Boylan

70-LB converts story to toilet paper; inspects suit & wonders what time is funeral; hears churchbells & ends w/ “Poor Dignam!”

In the continuing theme of how different Leo’s life is from Stevie’s, we are treated here to a glimpse into Leo’s relationship with his daughter Milly.  Now, we have previously heard a considerable amount about dysfunctional fathers and sons in Ulysses.  Here, though, Leo’s Milly is quite the “daddy’s girl,” and Leo himself seems to be a caring and gentle father.  He misses his daughter and thinks about her on her first birthday away from home.  He plans to visit her soon.  Leo remembers her birth with joy (as well as recalling with sadness his still-born son four years later).  Leo worries about her budding sexuality and the inevitability of  her losing her innocence, but he knows that he cannot stop her from growing up.  He can only hope that working and living in a new city will keep her busy and away from boys for a while longer.

If the hints of “seaside girls” and scandalous picture postcards are to be believed, though, Leo’s hopes are in vain.  Milly, at fifteen,  is having grand adventures as a model at the seaside.  She has escaped the mundane routine of her family home  and has embraced a rather bohemian lifestyle [dear readers, please recall Stephen’s efforts to do the same in Portrait].  Her letter, despite her poor grammar, shows us how much she is enjoying her new life and how much she loves her parents.

Interesting note– while Leo is daydreaming about the garden he will probably never plant, he also wonders where his hat is and why the hat and umbrella stands were too full: “Hallstand too full.  Four umbrellas, her raincoat” (68).  This bit indicates that perhaps Molly has had a visitor of whom her devoted husband is unaware?

Alright– we can’t avoid it any longer–the outhouse.  Joyce does give us a short quote to explain why this vignette is included: “Dirty cleans” (68).  Leo has a determinedly scatalogical streak, which he ever-so-kindly shares with us by leaving the outhouse door open in the final pages of this section.  Two things (no, will NOT make the cheap joke) to note here: 1-Leo enjoys the slight danger of being seen.  He seems to regret that the neighbors are away from their porches and windows.  This personality quirk will develop more as we learn the purpose of that hidden paper in his hatband.  2-Leo’s methods of literary criticism lack delicacy.  The story he is reading seems to be a moralistic and very shortened “epic,” of which he distinctly disapproves.  The Bloomsday book draws parallel here between the ending of Proteus, where Stephen tears a page from the excremental treatise to create poetry and the ending of Calypso, where Leo tears a piece of creative writing in order to remove his excement.

As this section ends, we leave Leo standing in his weedy garden, listening to churchbells and thinking about his dead friend.  Quite a sobering conclusion to what has, overall, been a section full of the joie de vivre lacking in Stephen’s internal monologues.

And we have successfully arrived at the station!  All ashore who’s going ashore!

As you disembark, some questions for discussion:

-Do we find Leo’s descriptions of his daughter’s sexuality simply honest or mildly creepy?

-Throughout this section, Leo has had a preoccupation with plants, gardens, and fruit.  Why are they so symbolic for him?

-Would you be interested in reading a bedroom sketch by Mr and Mrs L. M. Bloom?

Essay question:

In Leo’s flashbacks to his mornings with Molly  (particularly the morning after she met Boylan) have several elements in common with the novel’s opening set-piece between Stephen and Buck.   List and explain the significance of these parallels.


13 Responses

  1. Who doesn’t enjoy leaving one’s stall door open in a public restroom?

    I think that Bloom’s worried thoughts about Milly’s sexuality are merely honest. But I would be curious to hear from anyone who actually has a daughter. I can think of at least one WR participant who fits this description.

    To go back to one of Lizaanne’s previous questions, the color of this episode seems to be orange. Or at least that’s what Ulysses Annotated tells me, because I would’ve never guessed that on my own. But why orange?

    Lizaanne also noted the different ways Stephen and Bloom respond to their sudden funks (SD drifts into existential angst while LB rebounds into cheerful thoughts of family). But I did not realize until reading some commentary that it is the same cloud they see which triggers their dark spells.

  2. Why orange… because the chamber pot’s orange!

    Also, orange has specific connotations to the Irish. Katie Else can fill us in. In the meantime, here’s what Sheila O’Malley thinks… “Orange is the color of the Calypso episode – which, of course, in Ireland, what with the flag, and the Orangemen in the North, and all kinds of things … has negative connotations. Violent. Political. It’s exclusionary. Leopold Bloom is a Jew in Ireland. Even the Irish feel, at times, outside of their own country … but Bloom is even more of an outsider.”

    Bloom’s preoccupation with plants and even his bodily functions convey his earthy and sensual disposition, contrasted with Dedalus’ braininess, trapped-inside-his-headness. His easy satisfaction with the natural world as he experiences it is far more rewarding than Stephen’s repeated attempts to get beyond his natural experiences to their “essence” as we read in “Proteus.” Furthermore, contrast Bloom’s pooping to Stephen’s peeing and nosepicking. Who’s getting more joy out of life, however excretory-based it might be?

  3. what up y’all? I thought I’d let you know that I’m here and kind of following along. Confession: I am on page 24. I commit to being better. Soon. Not today.

  4. Thank you for checking in, sister ellen. It’s wonderful to have you onboard, however you straggle and however you defer commitment.

  5. I see my name was called on. Jerry (can I not call you ‘Jerry’ anymore?) that’s pretty much all I’d say about the color orange in reference to Ireland.

    I’m sorry. I’m MIA because I am on page 44.


    I promise I’ll catch up this week.

  6. I think that’s our first official f-bomb. Thanks, Kate!

  7. Apologies.

    Next time I’ll write “earmuffs” before I do that.

  8. In an addendum to the “orange” color’s significance– Leo dreams repeatedly of orange groves throughout this chapter.

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