DANIEL R. SCHWARZ: Eumaeus, the 16th episode, establishes the father-son relationship between Stephen and Bloom by developing Bloom's paternal attitude towards Stephen, and by developing similarities between them. Quote, "though they didn't see eye to eye in everything, a certain analogy there somehow was, as if both their minds were traveling so to speak in the one train of thought." Bloom sees a parallel between his political views at age 22 and Stephen's current ones.
Bloom has poetic aspirations, and like Stephen, loves music. Bloom and Stephen achieve a significant, if far from complete, human relationship. They develop an intimacy that neither achieves in his other personal relationships during the day. What is most attractive about Bloom to Joyce, himself extremely shy, is that without being overly concerned with embarrassment or rebuff, he takes chances in personal relationships.
Seeing that Stephen, who has had a hard night, is having trouble walking, Bloom invites him to quote, "lean on me." unquote. And Bloom invites Stephen home. Stephen's response emphasizes his need to believe that this is a significant experience, quote, "he thought he felt a strange kind of flesh of a different man approach him, senilis, and wobbly, and all that." unquote.
Perceiving Bloom as something other than an ordinary man, as Fergus, as a vampire, as a man of strange flesh, is an indication that Stephen is conferring metaphorical significance on the odyssey of an ordinary man, and that he is in the process of becoming the Joyce who will write Ulysses. The conclusion of the chapter stresses their companionship. As a driver watches them, they continue, quote, "their tete-a-tete about sirens, enemies of man's reason, mingled with a number of other topics of the same category, usurpers, historical cases of the kind." unquote.
We realize that the subjects of their conversation are the subjects of Ulysses. The book that results from their metaphorical union. While the story urges the reader to see the union of Stephen and Bloom as important at the human level, the metaphorical implications point towards their respective roles as hero and artist.
Bloom and Stephen find in each other the intimacy that eluded them all day in their relationships with others. For this scene, it is the carriage driver who is the outsider rather than Stephen, who has been thinking of following the example of Fergus, and turning his back on the real world or Bloom who had been the outsider in the carriage at Dignam's funeral.
In the next episode, Ithaca, Joyce chooses to present his characters by means of a purportedly scientific, objective catechism. The catechistic style often oversimplifies, as when it reductively categorizes Bloom as representing the scientific temperament, and Stephen as representing the artistic one. And the cataloging tendency of the scientific style recalls that of the romance speaker in Cyclops. Thus while Bloom is at first identified with the universality as well as the democratic equality and constancy of water, the sheer plethora of information about water undermines the comparison and reduces it to bathos.
The questions and answers are often, but not always outside the minds of the characters. Yet, as in the prior chapter, the humanity of the characters triumphs over the style, as we watch Stephen and Bloom find metaphorical significance in each other, and discover the friend each needs.
Indeed, as the episode progresses, the narrator becomes increasingly interested in the character's feelings when Bloom focuses on Stephen in the oral chronicle of his day that he gives to Molly. His human needs to overcome loneliness and to communicate the need that created the mutual relationship with Stephen and which are informing the intimate bedroom scene are confirmed for the reader as the essence of the novel's values.
Shortly after sharing the vision of the heaventry of stars, Bloom and Stephen observe simultaneously a celestial sign, quote, "a star precipitated with great apparent velocity across the firmament from Vega in the Lyre, above the zenith, beyond the stargroup of the Tress of Berenice towards the zodiacal sign of Leo." unquote. The celestial sign, a shooting star moving from Vega in the Lyre to the zodiacal sign of Leo implies the movement to Stephen, the right as signified by the musical lyre towards Leo Bloom.
This cosmological sign also predicts the union of Bloom and Stephen into the persona of the maturing artist who will be able to write Ulysses. After Stephen departs, Bloom remains to view the rising sun. Quote, the disparition of the three final stars, the diffusion of daybreak, the apparition of a new solar disk," unquote.
On the metaphorical level, are not the three fixed stars that Bloom sees disappearing the characters of Bloom, Stephen, and Molly? And is not the new solar disk the mature Joyce who will write Ulysses? On one hand, Bloom is the necessary principle that Stephen requires, and must assimilate, before he can become a mature artist, before Joyce can become the new messiah of Ireland, by combining in his transpersonal presence the values of Bloom, Stephen, and Molly.
On the other hand, Bloom is a middle-aged man who is fundamentally different in attitudes and values from Stephen. And the brief personal intimacy achieved for a few hours is based on very thin reads. Given that their communion is based on drinking cocoa and urinating together, should we wonder whether their relationship and its significance may prove ephemeral?
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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 7 of 9 in the Reading James Joyce's Ulysses series.