DANIEL R. SCHWARZ: Let us turn briefly to the final episode, in which Joyce presents Molly's wonderful soliloquy. Molly is the goal of Bloom's Odyssean quest to return home, and an important example of Stephen's quest for mature sexuality to complete himself. On one hand, Molly is a bawdy, sexually alive, uneducated woman, intent on her own pleasure, and appreciative of her husband's qualities. On the other hand, she is important to the metaphorical and formal patterns of the novel, and helps expand the novel to include an unselfconscious perspective that is an alternative to Stephen's-- and at times, Bloom's-- Hamletizing.
Molly is amoral and libidinous. Her monologue is a lyrical explosion that comments on the prior intellectuality of the novel. The episode begins with Molly's exceeding to Bloom's request to get him breakfast the next day. That she accedes to his assertive request indicates that the characteristic pattern of uxurious submission will be reversed on June 17, 1904.
Joyce felt that only under the profound influence of Nora Barnacle could he have made the word flesh. Molly's nominalistic, idiosyncratic narrative confirms the values of the novel. Namely, that life with all its frustrations, incomprehensibility, quirks, and contradictions must take precedence over the categorizing sensibility of both Bloom and Stephen.
The constant motion and energy of Molly's prose enact the triumph of the quote, "stream of life", unquote. Her stream of consciousness becomes the ultimate metaphor for the energy that makes intellectual, spiritual, and artistic growth possible. To use the metaphor that Stephen uses for Shakespeare, Molly's imagination turns everything into grist for her mill. Within her mind, Molly, like her archetype Penelope, unweaves at night what she has woven by day. What Molly has woven by day is an affair with Blazes. But her reverie in bed as she sleeps next to Bloom reaffirms her commitment to Bloom.
She slays the suitors when Bloom becomes her primary focus at the end of her monologue. She recalls the great moment of lovemaking on the Howth, that has fed his reveries all day. The ascendancy of Bloom at the climax of Molly's reverie emphasizes his triumph. Quote, "Oh, in the sea. The sea crimson like fire. And the glorious sunsets, and the fig trees in the Oneida gardens. Yes. And all the queer little streets, and the pink and blue and yellow houses, and the rose gardens, and the jessamine, and the geraniums, and cactuses, and Gibraltars a girl, where I was a flower of the mountain, yes. When I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used, or shall I wear a red, yes. And how he kissed me under the Moorish wall. And I thought as well him as another. And then I asked him with my eyes to ask again. Yes. And then he asked me would I, yes, to say yes, my mountain flower. And first I put my arms around him, yes. And drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume, yes. And his heart was going like mad, and I said yes. I said yes. I will, yes," Unquote.
Within her mind, Molly slays the suitors. She recalls when Bloom was, as Blazes is now, a lusty young man who wore a straw hat. Even though Blazes is a vigorous lover, she prefers Bloom. Quote, "I don't know Poldy has more spunk in him," unquote.
By transforming the sea into a positive, sexual image, as opposed to Stephen's hydrophobia, and obsessive association of the Green Sea with his mother's death. And by appropriating flowers to her sexual reveries, as opposed to the sterile figure of the suit anonymous Henry Flower. Her crescendo is a means of exposing for the reader what has been nay saving and life denying in Stephen and Bloom.
Does not the breathless movement of her language, emphasized by the increasing frequency of the resounding, affirmative yes, which is associated with our first intercourse with Bloom on the Howth, itself mimed their mutual orgasm. Isn't Joyce's point that Molly's orgasm and epiphany are one? Recreating a memory of the wonderful intercourse with Bloom on the Howth, the very moment that haunts and pleasures Bloom's memory, the ending is a performance. A celebratory enactment. A passionate explosion of her sexuality. As she says yes to Bloom, she joins Stephen, the various voices created by Joyce, the real Joyce who creates those voices to represent this fictional self, and the reader, saying yes to Bloom's humanistic values. And the potential effectiveness of those values.
Within the lives of Molly and Bloom, yes suggests the power of the imagination. To evoke the presence of the potential fulfillment of the future. That Molly menstruates indicates that she has not been impregnated by Blazes, and that if Bloom and she resumed full sexual relations, the possibility exists of her having the son Bloom desperately desires. Molly's menstruating, her agreeing to make breakfast the next day, and perhaps most significantly, her returning at the end of her monologue, and at the end of the entire novel, to Bloom-- and their great sexual moment on the Howth on which Bloom focuses on Laestrygonians, strongly implies the possibility on June 17, a new cycle may begin.
In terms of the metaphorical structure, Molly has several purposes. She is the goal of Bloom's Odyssean quest to return home. And Stephen's quest for mature sexuality to complete himself. She is what Joyce's retrospective presence requires to complete both the Irish epic and his nominalist, fictionalized account of the crucial day in his life. In this sense, she plays the role of the traditional muse, who must inspire the artist's creative process.
The final episode is a tribute to the role that Joyce believed Nora Barnacle played in the creation of the artist. He wrote to her, quote "Oh take me into your soul, and then I will become indeed the poet of my race. I feel this, Nora, as I write it. My body will soon penetrate yours. Oh that my soul could, too. Oh that I could nestle in your womb like a child born of your flesh blood, be fed by your blood, sleep in the warm and secret gloom of your body." Unquote.
Reading this passage, in which Joyce imagines that Nora gave birth to him, do we not recall Bloom's fetal position at the end of Ithaca, and realize that Bloom requires Molly to recreate him? Molly is essential for Joyce's idea that the possibility of mature art-- art that depicts a complex knowledge of the world, depends upon the artist's experience of passionate, sexual relationship. Such a relationship, although frustrating and difficult, becomes as alive as Shakespeare and Bloom illustrate, a passport to experience.
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A Professor of English and the Stephen H. Weiss Professor of English, I am the Joyce specialist at Cornell where I have taught generations of students for 35 years. I have taken particular pleasure teaching Ulysses at Cornell not only because of the world class Joyce collection in the Rare Book room of Olin Library, but because Ithaca is the place to which Ulysses yearns to return and name of the episode in Joyce's novel in which Bloom returns home.
Because of its difficulty, Ulysses is best read in a community, whether it be a class or a reading group. It is also best read over the course of a semester as the one book in a course, so that students can wrestle with it, savor it, learn the how to read it, reread it, and have it become part of their lives. Read this way, Joyce's masterwork will accompany them as long as they are sentient. Using Molly Bloom's response "O Rocks . . . .Tell us in plain words" -- to Leopold Bloom's explanation of metempsychosis (the transmigration of souls), I shall stress that Ulysses is a readable novel rather than an elaborate puzzle or a Rosetta Stone or a hieroglyph.
This video is part 8 of 9 in the Reading James Joyce's Ulysses series.