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MonkeyNotes-Ulysses by James Joyce
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In Book IX of the Odyssey Odysseus and his men land on the island of Polyphemus, the Cyclops. It is a race of one-eyed giants who do not obey the laws of the gods of men. Some are caught by the Giant, carried off to his cave and eaten one by one. Odysseus makes Polyphemus drunk, blinds him with a heated stake and escapes from the cave by clinging to a sheep’s belly. Odysseus has told Polyphemus that his name is Outis (Nobody). When Polyphemus cries out in pain and the other Cyclopes ask who has hurt him, he replies ‘nobody’. So they do not come to his aid. Once he has escaped to his ship Odysseus rashly taunts Polyphemus who throws a huge rock at him and nearly sinks his ship. ‘Nobody’ is the anonymous narrator of the episode, the voice of demonic Dublin. He could as well be Everyman. Bloom shows the same qualities as Ulysses. He exhibits resourcefulness, prudence as a rule but occasionally rashness, which goes beyond courage. The Cyclops-Citizen rejects established law and offers only the violence of terrorism and muscle. He is based on Michael Cusack, the founder of the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) and a member of the IRB (Irish Republican Brotherhood, or Fenians). The Gaelic Athletic Association was also a political organization and played quite an important part in the liberation. The ‘Cyclops’ chapter, by introducing the sports movement and its founder, neatly combines the art of politics with the bodily ‘organ’ which is ‘muscle’. Bloom speaks out defiantly against the giants of the tavern, as Ulysses had impudently called out to the Cyclops from his ship. "If a man should ask you, O Cyclops, how you came to be so extraordinarily blinded, tell him that Ulysses, the destroyer of cities, the son of Laertes, the ruler of Ithaca did it." Ulysses infuriates the Cyclops by identifying himself. Bloom too does the same. The Cyclops has been blinded, not by Noman, but by the King of Ithaca. So the final paragraph in this chapter describing the ascent to Heaven like Elijah is a fitting reflection of Bloom’s heroical transformation.


The Biblical correspondences are mainly Old Testament, since Stephen is totally absent. They hang on the prophet Elijah, who ascended to heaven in a chariot of fire. His second coming is said in Jewish tradition to precede the coming of the Messiah. There are just thirteen customers in the pub, making a kind of Last Supper. Counting one way, Bloom is Judas and the Citizen is a Fenian Christ. Counting another way, the Citizen is Judas, and Bloom the type of a humanist Christ.

The chapter is powerful because of the creation of two new and startling characters: the narrator and the citizen. The narrator is shown as very insightful, as well as very prejudiced and intolerant. The narrator and the Citizen share an uncertain temper, a vigorous and earthy vocabulary, a fondness for the society of the tavern and a wide acquaintanceship with the drinking men of Dublin. The Citizen, wrapped up in his nationalist fantasies, is not really very much interested in the conversation and the people around. They offer an opportunity for him to curse the English and condemn the alien. The narrator on the other hand is full of information about the gossip of Dublin. He seems to know everyone and everything. Every one in turn seems to know him and takes him for granted. While he does not say much, he always listens and correctly interprets people’s motives and emotions. He rapidly perceives the true relationship among Bloom, Molly and Boylan.

Throughout this chapter the discussions center on violence, oppression and cruelty. Bloom is menaced with physical violence and only just manages to escape. The concentration on violence through the chapter focuses the reader’s attention on the direction of Bloom’s experiences through the day. It is appropriate that this scene takes place in early evening, the normal business of the day being completed and the dangerous hours of the night coming near. But as the threat to Bloom is severer here, his response is more vigorous. By the heroic references and the violent nationalism, the Citizen and the rest have been attempting to give themselves the dignity of a position in the civilized world. They are in reality drunkards in a Dublin bar. But they delude themselves into thinking that they are inheritors of the epic greatness of Ireland. Bloom to them, is an outsider, one of the oppressors, a man of no merit, place or nation. When, to defend himself, he uses the method of self- identification, like Ulysses, "Mendelssohn was a Jew", he is inevitably and unwittingly destroying the dear illusions of the Citizen. Bloom has his heritage, and it is incomparably more heroic than that of the Citizen. In the tipsy world of a Dublin later afternoon, Bloom emerges as a heroic figure.

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