Prof. Avishek Parui
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
Indian Institute of Technology, Madras
Lecture – 46
Ulysses – Part 7
(Refer Slide Time: 00:12)
So, hello and welcome to this NPTEL course entitled Twentieth Century Fiction, where we are reading James Joyce’s novel Ulysses. So, beginning to wind up with this novel now because obviously, in terms of the entire novel, it is impossible to cover it for the purpose of this course. But, what we are looking at essentially is certain selected sections for the purpose of your examination, and also how that connects to some of the broader concerns, some of the broader thematic concerns we talked about while looking at modernism and twentieth century literature the way we are studying here in this particular course.
Now, we will just skip into page 1022 in this particular version which should be on your screen and this is a conversation that Leopold Bloom has with a sailor inside a shop a pub or a coffee shop you know you know, it’s not really clear where the shop is but you know it is a just space where people come and go, talk about different things they read newspapers, they drink, they have small petty sometimes meaningless conversations.
So, it is a very liminal kind of a space where Bloom encounters a sailor and obviously, the figure of the sailor is important because as we all know this novel is a very interesting retelling of the Homer’s, the Homeric Odysseus which is entirely about sailing, it is entirely about coming back home, it is entirely about sailors who lose directions. So, the presence of a sailor is a very symbolic presence in this particular section because what it does essentially is again it connects the mythical narrative with the modern narrative.
So, this is part of Joyce’s mythic method which we talked already in terms of how he uses certain characters and tropes in situations which connect to more mythical conditions. So, this should be on your screen and this conversation is something which we will look at in some details. There ensued a somewhat lengthy pause. One man was reading in fits and starts a stained by coffee evening journal, stained by coffee evening journal, another card with the natives choza de, another the seaman’s discharge. Mr. Bloom, so far as he was personally concerned, was just pondering in a pensive mood.
So, pensive becomes a very important mood in the Ulysses where Bloom and Dedalus both of them are reflecting on different things without really saying much. He vividly recollected when the occurrence alluded to took place as well as yesterday, roughly some score of years previously in the days of the land troubles, when it took the civilized world by storm, figuratively speaking early in the eighties, eighty-one to be correct, when he was just turned fifteen.
So, again the whole idea of the Irish reform struggles which are very political issues are connected to micro temporal conditions when Bloom had himself turned fifteen and recollection of memory in Ulysses is a very sensory, effective, neural experience, existential as well. But, also it is interesting how it keeps connecting to more political phenomena more political events, more political narratives in that sense.
(Refer Slide Time: 03:05)
Ay, boss, the sailor broke in. Give us back them paper. So, a sailor breaks in and he wants the papers back. The requests have been complied with he clawed them up with a scrape.
(Refer Slide Time: 03:15)
–Have you seen the rock of Gibraltar? Mr Bloom inquired. The sailor grimaced, chewing, in a way that might be read as yes, ay or no.
-Ah, you’ve touched there too, Mr Bloom said, Europa point, thinking he had in the hope that the rover might possibly buy some reminiscences, but he failed to do so, simply letting spirit letting spirt a jet of spew into the sawdust, and shook his head with a sort of lazy scorn.
-What year would that be about? Mr. B interrogated. Can you recall the boats? Our soidisant sailor munched heavily awhile hungrily before answering. I am tired of all them rocks in the sea, he said, and boats and ships. Salt junk all the time.
So, we have the presence of a very very tired or saturated sailor and this idea of saturation becomes important, you become too full with a substance, you become too full with you know certain kind of materials which drown you. In the case of Bloom and Dedalus they are full of memories; they are full of different kinds of time which began to drown them. So, you know the whole idea becoming full is very much part of the embodiment in Ulysses and they become full and it obviously, makes you immobile, it makes you you know enervated. So, the sailor over here is an example of one such full figure, one such enervated figure.
(Refer Slide Time: 04:24)
Tired seemingly, he ceased. His questioner perceiving that he was not likely to get a great deal of change out of such a wily old customer, fell to wool woolgathering on the enormous dimensions of the water about the globe, suffice it to say that, as a casual glance at the map revealed, it covered fully three fourths of it and he fully realized accordingly what it meant to rule the waves right.
So, again the whole idea of the romantic idea of the sea, the romantic geographical idea of the sea has been this massive water body which covered most of the earth and this comes to haunt Leopold Bloom’s imagination. Whereas, on the other hand we have the actual sailor who has been to different parts of the world to different parts of the sea is actually tired of the sea. He wants one person wants to get out the sea; other person wants to romantically engage with the sea.
So, again the whole lot of getting in and engaging and then on the other hand getting out and being enervated - it is part of the liminality notion in Ulysses it is very liminal storytelling, getting in and getting out are often simultaneous activity. So, these two dimensions are important the one dimension is the romantic dimension Bloom wanted to get to the sea and obviously, this connects interestingly with the original tale of Ulysses and the other is actually the figure of the sailor, one who is one person who has actually been in the sea and wants to get out of the sea because it saturated him with salt and essentially drowned him.
On more than one occasion, a dozen at the lowest, near the North Bull at Dollymount he had remarked a superannuated old salt, evidently derelict, seated habitually near the not particularly redolent sea on the wall, staring quite ah.
(Refer Slide Time: 05:57)
Obliviously at it and it at him, dreaming of fresh woods and pastures new as someone somewhere sings. And it left him wondering why.
So, again the whole idea of a series of tired sailors becomes important in Ulysses because [vocalized-noise] tiredness in sea seafaring becomes a very important bit in the Homeric tale as well - getting tired in the sea. So, this idea of a series, [vocalized-noise] looking at a series of very tired sailors [vocalized-noise] who are looking at the sea who are staring back at them which is staring back at them becomes a very interesting image [vocalized-noise] a very moving ah visual image in Ulysses [vocalized-noise] ah. So, he has always wondered why they are so tired. He has always wondered why ah [vocalizednoise] they look so oblivious and so memory less to sailors.
Possibly he had tried to find out the secret for himself, floundering up and down the antipodes and all that sort of thing and over and under, well, not exactly under, tempting the fates. And the odds were twenty to nil there was really no secret about it at all. Nevertheless, without going into the minutiae of the business, the eloquent fact remained that the sea was there in all its glory and in the natural course of things somebody or other had to sail on it and fly in the face of providence though it merely went to show how people usually contrived to load
(Refer Slide Time: 07:07)
Some sort of onus on to the other fellow like the hell idea and the lottery and insurance which were run on identically the same lines so that for that very reason if no other lifeboat Sunday was a highly laudable institution to which the public at large, no matter where living inland or seaside, as the case might be, having it brought home to them like that should extend its gratitude also to the harbour masters and coast guard service who had to man the rigging and push off and out amid the elements whatever the reason whatever the season when duty called Ireland expects that every man and so on and sometimes had a terrible time of it in the winter time not forgetting the Irish lights, Kish and others, liable to capsize at any moment, rounding which he once with his daughter had experienced some remarkably choppy, not to say stormy, weather.
(Refer Slide Time: 07:46)
So, we have this huge sentence as you can see it just goes on for almost ten lines. What has been said is interesting we have on the other hand the insurance agency, advertisements, petty people like Bloom himself and on the other hand we have this very brave and tired sailors, Irish sailors and these two sections of people are juxtaposed with each other in Bloom’s imagination over here.
So, whereas, the inland activities are like petty activities you know different things happening which keeps the machinery of economy going the machinery of sociality going etcetera.
The outland activities outside the land, you know outward activities of the sailors they are the ones which according to Bloom bring real glory in modern times. There was a fellow sailed with me in the Rover, the old seadog, himself a rover, proceeded, went ashore and took up a soft job as gentlemen’s valet at six quid a month. So, again the whole transition becomes interesting, this old sailor has begun to speak now and he says there was an old sailor, an old fellow with me who sailed to Rover and then he subsequently become a gentleman’s valet at six quid a month. So, in the transition from being this rough you know seafaring sailor to a gentleman’s valet becomes very much a social rise in some estimation.
Them are his trousers I’ve on me and he gave me an oilskin and that jack knife. So, he is essentially wearing the same trousers as that sailor had worn once upon a time. I’m game for that job, shaving and brushup. I hate roaming about. There’s my son now, Danny, run off to sea and his mother got him took in a draper’s in Cork where he could be easily he could be drawing easy money.
So, again the whole idea of making money and being a different kind of person than the sailor is remarked upon over here [vocalized-noise] and the sailor obviously, turns out to be very cynical, exhausted, emptied out person [vocalized-noise] who is emptied out as well as drowned with time, drowned with water, drowned with sea. And, he is envying his gaze is [vocalized-noise] interesting over here, it is a very envious gaze on people who have good money making jobs, people who make money by being valet of some gentleman, working in a bank which is supposedly easy money [vocalized-noise] ok.
(Refer Slide Time: 10:04)
What age is he? Queried one hearer who, by the way, seen from the side, in the side bore a direct resemblance to Henry Campbell, the town clerk, away from the carking cares of office, unwashed of course and in a seedy getup and a strong suspicion of nosepaint about the nasal appendage.
So, again this very random conversations in Ulysses are interesting because these in some sense are reminiscent of the conversations that happen in the Greek choruses or in the you know in the other choric characters in the Greek tragedies. So, we have this seemingly unimportant men coming together in the social space such as this pub and then having these random conversations inquiring about peoples’ relatives and family which in turn gives us readers information about these people’s backgrounds ok.
Why, the sailor answered with a slow puzzled utterance, my son, Danny? He’d be about eighteen now, way I figure it. The Skibbereen father here upon tore open his grey or unclean anyhow shirt with his two hands and scratched away at his chest on which was to be seen an image tattooed in blue Chinese ink intended to represent an anchor.
(Refer Slide Time: 10:59)
So, again the whole idea of tattoo becomes important because you know the tattoo becomes a bodily inscription over here which gives himself a seafaring identity and this tattoo in Chinese which is intended to represent an anchor right. So, this becomes a very interesting image. The tattoo of an anchor is obviously, meant to identify him as the sailor, but at the same time it is an anchor which is supposedly to anchor him down [vocalized-noise].
There was lice in that bunk in Bridgewater, he remarked, sure as nuts. I must get a wash tomorrow or next day. It’s them black lads I object to. I hate those buggers. Suck your blood dry, they does. Seeing they were all looking at his chest he accommodatingly dragged his shirt more open so that on top of the timehonoured symbol of the mariner’s hope and rest they had a full view of the figure of 16 and a young man’s sideface looking frowningly rather.
(Refer Slide Time: 11:52)
-Tattoo, the exhibitor explained. That was done when we were lying becalmed off Odessa in the Black Sea under Captain Dalton. Fellow, the name of Antonio, done that. There he is himself, a Greek. -Did it hurt much doing it? one once one asked one asked the sailor. That worthy, however, was busily engaged in collecting round the. Someway in his. Squeezing or.
-See here, he said, showing Antonio. There he is cursing the mate. And there he is now, he added, the same fellow, pulling the skin with his fingers, some special knack evidently, and he laughing at a yarn. And in this point of fact the young man named
Antonio’s livid face did actually look like forced smiling
(Refer Slide Time: 12:31)
And, the curious effect excited the unreserved admiration of everybody including Skinthe-goat who this time stretched over.
So, again the tattoo maker is present over here and the whole idea of tattoo becomes important because you know on one hand tattoo becomes an inscription of an identity, but also becomes a marker of pain. In other words, tattoo represents very interestingly over here how to arrive at certain identities especially the seafaring identity must be able to pass through pain you know the pain of separation the you know the fear of constant death, the pain of not making enough money etcetera ok.
-Neat bit of work, one longshoreman said. And what’s the number for? loafer number two queried. -Eaten alive? a third asked the sailor. –Ay, ay, sighed again the latter personage, more cheerily this time with some sort of a half smile for a brief duration only in the direction of the question about the number. Ate. A Greek he was.
(Refer Slide Time: 12:21)
And then he added with rather gallows bird humour considering his alleged end: -As bad as old Antonio, For he left me on my ownio.
The face of a streetwalker glazed and haggard under a black straw hat peered askew round the door of the shelter palpably reconnoitring on her own with the object of bringing more grist to her to her mill. Mr Bloom, scarcely knowing which way to look turn around turned away on the moment ah.
(Refer Slide Time: 13:49)
Flusterfied but outwardly calm, and, picking up from the table the pink sheet of the Abbey street organ which he which the jarvey, if such he was, had laid aside, he picked it up and looked at the pink of the paper though why pink.
So, again the whole idea of the sensory experience, the colour becomes important because what Bloom wants to do over here, he wants to distract himself. So, he wants to be disconnected from this situation which is emerging immediately. So, he tries to look at a pink piece of paper and wonders he looking at a pink the why is it pink in the first place, the very idea of the you know the occurrence of colours.
His reason for doing so doing was he recognized on the moment round the door the same face he had caught a fleeting glimpse of that afternoon at Ormond quay, the partially idiotic female, namely, of the lane who knew the lady in the brown costume does be with you Mrs. B and begged the chance of his washing. Also why washing which seemed rather vague than not, your washing. Still candour compelled him to admit that he had washed his wife’s undergarments when soiled in Holles street.
(Refer Slide Time: 14:50)
And, woman would and did too a man’s similar garments initialled with Bewley and Draper’s marking ink hers were, there is hers were, that is if they really loved him, that is to say, love me, love my dirty shirt. Still just then, being on the tenterhooks, he desired the female’s room more than her company so it came as a genuine relief when the keeper made her a rude sign to take herself off.
Round the side of the Evening Telegraph he just caught a fleeting glimpse of her face round the side of the door with a kind of demented glassy grin showing that she was not exactly all she was not exactly all there, viewing with evident amusement the group of gazers round skippers Murphys skipper Murphy’s nautical chest and then there was no more of her.
(Refer Slide Time: 15:28)
Again, this idea this presence of this very interesting woman becomes important because the whole idea, the whole representation is done very cinematically. Bloom looks at her through the corner of his eyes and as he moves away he gives a sigh of relief and then there is this glass reflection of her moving away which makes it more visual in quality. (Refer Slide Time: 15:50)
Now, we have this conversation between Bloom and Dedalus which becomes interesting again through a certain very sensory markers.
Yet still though his eyes were thick with sleep and sea air life was full of a host of things and coincidences of a terrible nature and it was quite within the bounds of possibility that it was not an entire fabrication though at first blush there was not much inherent probability in all this spoof he got off his chest being strictly accurate gospel.
He had been meantime taking stock of the individual in front of him and Sherlockholmesing him; again, look at the verb over here Sherlockholmesing him which is obviously, to say detecting him, trying to figure out things about him etcetera ever since he clapped his clapped eyes on him. Though a well preserved man of no little stamina, if a trifle prone to baldness, there was something spurious in the cut of his jib that suggested a jail delivery.
(Refer Slide Time: 16:36)
And, it required no violent stretch of imagination to associate such a weird looking specimen with the oakum and treadmill fraternity. He might even have done for his
(Refer Slide Time: 16:49)
Man supposing it was his own case he told, as people often did about others, namely, that he killed him for himself and served his four or five good looking years in durand vile to say anything of the Antonio presence no duration no relation to the dramatic personage of identical name who sprang from the pen of our national poet who expiated that the that the crimes in the melancholic manner above described.
On the other hand he might be only bluffing, a pardonable weakness because meeting unmistakable mugs, Dublin residents, let those jarvies waiting news from abroad would tempt any ancient mariner who sailed the ocean seas to draw the long bow about the schooner Hesperus and etcetera. And when all was said and done there lies fellow told about himself couldn’t probably hold a proverbial candle to the whole wholesale whoppers other fellows coined about him.
So, the whole idea of bluffing becomes important over here, the whole idea of not living up to certain identities become important over here. And, again I mean if we connect it to the idea of the sailor, the idea of someone who sails in the sea the very act of sailing it entails an engagement with fluidity and that fluidity becomes part of the information creating, an information consumption mechanism in Ulysses, the identities become very very fluid in quality ok.
(Refer Slide Time: 18:00)
Now, we come to the final bit of this episode which we will talk about in some detail before winding up what Mr. B proceeded to stipulate in this conversation, you must look at both sides of the question. It is hard to lay down any hard and fast rules as to right and wrong but room for improvement all round there certainly is though every country, they say, our own distressful included, has a government it deserves. So, again this is a very political section of Ulysses and among the many conversations Ulysses operates, generates, we have certain very key political questions which keep coming up.
But with a little goodwill all round. It’s all very fine to boast of mutual superiority, but what about mutual equality. I resent violence and intolerance in any shape or form. It never reaches anything or stops anything. A revolution must come from the due instalments plan. It’s a patent absurdity on the face of it to hate people because they live round the corner and speak another vernacular in the next house so to speak.
So, the whole idea of xenophobia and racism becomes important over here because we have seen already at the very beginning of Ulysses, we have this Englishman and the Irishman pitted against each other and the difference is mapped in the level of accents, in the level of language use etcetera.
(Refer Slide Time: 19:09)
-Memorable bloody bridge battle and seven minutes war, Stephen asserted, assented, between Skinner’s alley an Ormond market. Yes, Mr Bloom thoughtfully a thoroughly agreed, entirely endorsing the remark, that was overwhelmingly right. And the whole world was full of that sort of thing right.
So, the whole idea of ambivalence becomes important over here and Mr. Bloom believes begins to believe in ambivalence, begins to believe in this blurring of borderlines about right and wrong and he thinks the whole world is full of that sort of things. So, the world of ambivalence is articulated over here which also makes Ulysses a very grey novel in the sense of we do not quite know how to map out the good people from the bad people, the vulgar people and the sophisticated people, the erotic people and non-erotic people and the cheaters and the honest people - they all merge together in different combinations across, it is very moving and mappable metropolis.
So, I stop at this point today. We will continue with this and hopefully begin to wind up in the next couple of lectures.
Thank you for your attention.
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