Episode 11 of James Joyce’s Ulysses fascinates me because of its profound humanity and its many musical references. The focus of the episode is Leopold Bloom whose wife, Molly, a singer, is carrying on an affair with her vocal partner tenor Blazes Boylan. Molly and Blazes are preparing to go on a concert tour together. The episode, which takes place in a pub, begins with two barmaids laughing and shrieking with delight in their contempt for Bloom. The barmaids flirt with men who enter the bar, one of them being Boylan who will meet with Molly that afternoon. Bloom, having lunch in the next room, overhears their conversation. He is filled with self-loathing, knowing of their affair and being impotent to confront Boylan. Hearing singing in the next room, Bloom is shaken and emotionally distraught. Like Homer’s Ulysses, on which James Joyce’s novel is based, the hero is able to hear the seductive music but, imprisoned by his fear, condemned to remain an observer.

This episode, along with the overall theme of Joyce’s Ulysses, is about being an outsider who is scorned and reviled. He is also everyman or everywoman who feels apart and alone in the midst of a world that has no use for him or her.

Posted: Jun-3-2014
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