ULYSSES Funmary #4: Calypso

By LIZAANNE

All right, Folks, it’s time for another funmary!  Let’s hear it for Calypso!

The Calypso section serves as an introduction to Leopold Bloom, his family, his personal issues, and his role in the novel. 

In this chaper, Leo is the active character.  He’s the Energizer Bunny as he makes breakfast for himself, his wife, and the cat; goes to the butcher; gets the mail; defines a word for his wife; promises to return a library book; eats a kidney; reads a letter from his daughter; uses the outhouse; and throughout, he daydreams– particularly of lush gardens.  

Continuing with the Homeric parallels, the *Calypso* here is Molly Bloom.  She is still and quiet (except for her bedsprings).  She sits in her room as the queen bee at the center of her universe as Leopold buzzes busily around her.  Molly is the nymph of the title, holding Leopold to her; poor Leo is as effectively caught in a honey trap as Odysseus was.  The contrast, though, is that Leo is not desperate to leave [though he suspects her of cheating]. 

As Hermes arrives to Calypso’s island, so also several messages arrive to the Blooms, but unlike Zeus’s missive, these letters do not set Leopold free.  Instead, they tie him further to his family by reminding him of his and Molly’s daughter & their son. They also sour the honey a bit by reminding Leopold of Molly’s unfaithfulness.

Calypso gives us our first glimpse at Leopold in contrast to Stephen. To finish our funmary, let’s take a quick look at this awesome two-some

Stephen: is so over-educated that everything reminds him of a line of poetry; estranged from his father & uncle; Catholic; desperately single; poet who is teaching; booted out of his tower by roomate

Leopold: has trouble remembering history lessons and multiplication tables; strongly connected to wife & daughter; Jewish; married; salesman who is an aspiring writer; didn’t want to disturb wife in her room

Both: thinkers & daydreamers; have a dead family member & are both in mourning black; don’t practice their religion but are strongly influenced by it ; live on the edge of poverty; have no key to their homes 

Quite the pair.

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5 Responses

  1. Great funmation of the chapter and great point about this being a chapter about receiving messages, like and not like Hermes delivered in Odyssey. Never occurred to me. These messages do a lot to initiate and shape Bloom’s journey, just like the Odyssey.

  2. Thanks for all of the praise. 🙂 This was a fun section to tackle, and it generated some strong discussion points. I’m looking forward to where we go from here in Lotus Eaters.

  3. Katie Else recently discovered the following…

    “In my catching up, reading/googling, I came across this lady who was talking about how the stylistic change between chapters 2 and 3 has to do with Stephen having broken his glasses, which only gets mentioned once (I’m not sure where, I haven’t noticed it yet). She said it is part of why that chapter is so introspective and internal. He can’t see anything. And why, when Stephen is the subject in the book, there are many sound cues and descriptions instead of visual ones. He relates to the world through sound and is allowed to draw more inward because he can’t see.”

    I’ll need to look again, but now I vaguely recall this. If Steve’s glasses are broken, this will probably be a recurring issue as he goes through the day. Something to pay attention to.

  4. Here’s another helpful note from a mysterious Irishman on the role of sight…

    “This chapter is still focused on sight, though. If you think of Stephen as a real person, you can understand what he does in this chapter. He’s having a terrible time – his mother has died, he’s estranged from his family, in the first chapter he’s been treated badly by his friend Mulligan and effectively made homeless (he gave the tower key to Mulligan and it seems Haines will take his place – the last word is ‘usurper’) and in the second chapter his boss has just told him he won’t last long in his job. So he’s retreating into intellectual and philosophical thought, trying to escape from the real world around him. But he constantly has to open his eyes, look around to see who’s near him, etc. Also, he wonders who (in a greater sense of him being an artist) can see him, is watching him, notices him. He can’t escape from engaging with the real world of real people.
    Basically, one useful idea running through the book is that we experience the world through our senses and then ‘shape’ or process this sensory information into thoughts, memories, associations, subconsciousness. It’ll become much clearer next chapter: Bloom walks down the street, he sees something, it makes him think of something. Then he sees the next thing, it makes him think of something, and so on. And his thoughts are more interesting and accessible than Stephen’s.”

  5. […] Church where, upon entering, he sees a notice about the African mission. Leopold, who as Lizaanne noted is disengaged from his faith on a spiritual level (but not an identity level), thinks of […]

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