Ulysses – Episode Four: “Calypso”

Summary
Leopold Bloom fixes breakfast for his wife, Molly, and
feeds his cat. Bending down with his hands on his knees, he wonders
what he looks like to the cat and how her whiskers work as she laps
milk. Bloom considers what he will get from the butcher for his
own breakfast. He creeps upstairs to ask Molly if she would like
anything from outside. Molly mumbles no and the bed jingles under
her. Bloom thinks about the bed, which Molly brought with her from Gibraltar,
where she was raised by her father, Major Tweedy.
Bloom checks on a slip of paper in his hat and his lucky
potato, and he makes a note to retrieve his house keys from upstairs
before he leaves for the day. Bloom walks outside and anticipates
being warm in the black clothes he will wear for Paddy Dignam’s
funeral today. He imagines walking a path around the middle part
of the globe in front of the sun’s path to remain the same age and
he pictures the Eastern landscapes. But no, he reasons, his mental
images are fictional material, not accurate. Bloom passes Larry
O’Rourke’s pub and wonders if he should stop and mention Dignam’s
funeral, but he simply wishes O’Rourke a good day instead. Blooms
tries to figure how all the small-time pub owners like O’Rourke
make money, given how many pubs there are in Dublin. Bloom passes
a school and listens to the students recite their alphabet and Irish place
names. Bloom imagines his own Irish place name, “Slieve Bloom.”
Bloom arrives at Dlugacz’s, the butcher shop. He sees
one kidney left and hopes the woman in front of him does not buy
it. Bloom picks up a sheet of the wrapping newspaper and reads the
ads. The woman pays for her order, and Bloom points to the kidney,
hoping to fill his order quickly so that he can follow her home
and watch her hips move. Too late to catch her, he continues reading
his sheet of newspaper on the way home. It advertises fruit plantations
for speculation in Palestine and Bloom thinks of fruits from the
Mediterranean and Middle East. Bloom passes a man he knows who does
not see him.
As a cloud passes over the sun, Bloom’s thoughts turn
sour with a more barren vision of the Middle East and the tragedy
of the Jewish race. Bloom vows to improve his mood by beginning
his morning exercises again, then turns his attention to an unrented
piece of real estate on his street and finally to Molly. The sun
comes back out and a blond girl runs past Bloom.
Bloom finds two letters and a card in the hall. Bloom
senses that the one for Molly is from Blazes Boylan, Molly’s associate
and possible lover. Entering the bedroom, he gives Molly the letter
and a card from their daughter Milly in Mullingar. Molly puts Boylan’s letter
under her pillow and reads Milly’s card. Bloom goes downstairs to
prepare the tea and kidney. He skims his own letter from Milly.
Bloom brings Molly her breakfast in bed. Bloom asks her
about her letter, and she explains that Boylan is bringing over
the concert program this afternoon. Molly will sing “Là
ci darem” and “Love’s Old Sweet Song.” Molly directs Bloom
to bring her a book. While he retrieves the book, Bloom rehearses
lines from “Là ci darem” in his head, wondering
if Molly will pronounce them correctly. Molly takes the book, a
racy novel entitled Ruby: the Pride of the Ring, and
finds the word she wanted to ask Bloom about—“metempsychosis.” Bloom
rehearses the etymology, but Molly asks for the meaning in plain
terms. Bloom explains reincarnation. Spotting a painting of a nymph
over their bed, he gives her the example of nymphs returning in
another form, such as a tree. Molly asks for another book by Paul
de Kock.
Molly smells Bloom’s kidney burning and he runs downstairs
to save it. Bloom sits down to eat and rereads Milly’s letter. She
thanks him for her birthday present and mentions a boyfriend, Bannon. Bloom
thinks of Milly’s childhood and of his son Rudy, who died several
days after birth. He thinks about Milly becoming a woman and being
aware of her own attractiveness. Since Milly has mentioned Boylan
in her letter, he thinks of Blazes Boylan’s confidence and feels
helpless and regretful. He thinks of visiting Milly.
Bloom fetches a copy of the magazine Titbits and
heads toward the outhouse to relieve himself. Bloom thinks of plans
for his garden. On the toilet, Bloom reads the story Matcham’s
Masterstroke by Philip Beaufoy. Satisfied with the regularity
of his bowel movement, he finishes the story and thinks he could
write a story and be paid for it. He could write about a proverb
or about Molly’s chatter. Bloom wipes himself with part of the story.
He reminds himself to check the funeral time in the paper. Hearing
the church bells, he thinks with pity about Dignam.
Analysis
Episodes One, Two, and Three constituted a prologue centering
on Stephen as a Telemachus figure. With Episode Four, the morning begins
again—it is 8:00 A.M., and this chapter takes
place simultaneously to Episode One as we begin the adventures of
“Odysseus,” Leopold Bloom. Joyce subtly emphasizes this simultaneity
by having both Stephen and Bloom notice the same cloud move briefly
over the sun. Thematic correspondences also emphasize the simultaneity:
both Stephen and Bloom prepare breakfast for others; both are dressed
in mourning; both are dispossessed of their homes (Buck takes charge
of the tower, Molly and Boylan will take over the Bloom house);
both leave without their house keys.
Aside from these thematic correspondences, Episode Four
also serves to set up differences between Bloom and Stephen. Whereas Stephen
resentfully helped serve breakfast to Haines in Episode One, Bloom
solicitously prepares his wife’s and his cat’s breakfasts before
his own. The movements of Bloom’s body are foregrounded while Stephen’s
body was virtually absent from Episode One’s narrative. Finally,
Stephen’s last word in Episode One—“Usurper”—was theatrically bitter,
while Bloom’s last line in Episode Four—“Poor Dignam!”—is sympathetic
and mundane.
The character differences between Bloom and Stephen are
most clearly evident in their respective thought processes. As we
see in Episode Three, a concrete thing turns into an abstract thought
in Stephen’s consciousness, and these abstractions often lead back
to Stephen himself. Bloom, however, perceives details by putting
them in a larger context outside himself. Thus when Bloom walks
past Larry O’Rourke’s pub, the establishment spurs thoughts of comparative
establishments and of the larger trend of small-time pubowners in
Dublin. Whereas Stephen’s trains of thought take him further and
further from reality, Bloom checks himself when his imaginings become
unrealistic, as with his colorful mental image of walking around
the globe. When the cloud passes over the sun in Episode One, Stephen
quickly descends into depressive thoughts and is only (partly) revived
by the intervention of Buck. Bloom’s thoughts also turn depressingly
to death when the same cloud passes over the sun on his way back
from the butcher’s, yet Bloom pragmatically and deliberately revives
his optimism. Finally, whereas Stephen’s thought processes focus
on philosophical or aesthetic problems and terms, Bloom’s mind is
practically curious and he answers his questions with practical
experience and science.
Bloom begins his daily wanderings with his trip to the
butcher’s. Bloom’s wandering sets him in relation to both Odysseus
and the tropic figure of the Wandering Jew. Bloom’s attitude toward
Judaism, however, is presented as ambivalent at best. He shows practical and
romantic interest in the movement for a Jewish homeland and in the
newspaper ads for start-up plantations in Palestine. Yet he purposely
does not return a glance of implied solidarity from the Jewish butcher
and he does not follow Jewish dietary restrictions. The nature of
Bloom’s Judaism is not fully revealed in Ulysses—instead,
Joyce shows that judgments about Bloom’s Judaism reveal more about
the other characters than they reveal about Bloom himself. Bloom
is also clearly aligned with Irish identity through various details
in Episode Four, such as his Irish-language personal place name,
“Slieve Bloom,” and his potato talisman.
Bloom is somewhat feminized in Episode Four through the
reversal of household roles—Molly remains in bed and orders Bloom
to get her breakfast, tea, and a novel. He suspects at some level
that his wife—a concert soprano—is, or will be, conducting an affair
with her concert manager, Hugh “Blazes” Boylan. But Bloom’s thoughts reflect
his feeling of powerlessness to stop his afternoon visit, and in a
larger sense to stop the infidelity of his wife or the impending
sexual activity of his fifteen-year-old daughter, Milly. As Odysseus
was helplessly enthralled to Calypso in The Odyssey, so
is Bloom presented in “Calypso” as paralyzed and enamored by Molly.
Thus we see Joyce using the Homeric parallels to produce irony—Molly
here is the enchanting Calypso and later the dutiful Penelope. Similarly, Bloom
is Odysseus, yet we discover in Episode Four that his only son,
Rudy, died soon after birth.