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Similarly to early in the chapter, when the demanding cat is sort of in dialogue with Bloom’s thinking about the demands of his wife, as he comes back into the kitchen after getting his orders from Molly, he is greeted again by the noisy feline (“Mgnknao!”) demanding a share in his breakfast.  Another quick nod to Bloom’s Judaism:  he thinks he might have a cat who keeps kosher.

I like how Bloom is framed by the black doorway as he returns to the kitchen, almost as though he is returning to his rightful place from Calypso’s cave.



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While Bloom finishes the tea he skims the letter from Milly thanking him for her birthday presents.  Two things leap out:  “young student” and “Blazes Boylan” (“Seaside Girls” refers to a song, about which more in a moment; Lough Owel is a lough just north of Mullingar, where Milly has been sent to work as a photographer’s assistant).  We’ll take a closer look when we see Milly’s entire letter in a few pages, but for now it’s worth pointing out that Milly’s possible suitor and the name of her mother’s paramour push themselves to the forefront of Bloom’s attention.  This is one of the many moments over the next pages where Milly and Molly blend into a composite female image (thanks to the comic, they blend for real, as we shall see).

Milly’s letter also sparks memories of birthdays past.  Bloom remembers the moustachecup she gave him; this is a moustachecup, and it’s just what it sounds like–a cup that lets you drink without ruining your moustache:

Rob has cleverly decorated Bloom’s with one of James Joyce’s own sketches of Bloom himself (it kind of looks like this example).  Notice that Bloom’s memory puts the remembrances of things past in a drawer; this echoes Stephen’s memories of his mother and her belongings from Telemachus.  A point for discussion might be how the visual of the drawer works both literally and figuratively throughout the comic.

This section of Calypso, beginning with Milly’s letter, also has a number of musical allusions.  Thinking of his daughter prompts Bloom to recall popular song lyrics of the time–which as a singer himself Joyce would have been very familiar with–but these allusions also tie into Molly’s career as a singer and the role Boylan plays as her manager and soon-to-be lover.  So, once more, the songs emerge from Bloom’s mind because of fond memories of his daughter, but they will also be tinged with a darker emotion when they are associated with Molly.  This particular song alludes to a piece  by Samuel Lover called “Oh Thady Brady, you are my darlin’,”, but it also echoes a Valentine the young Joyce received from a Protestant girl named Eileen Vance when he was a boy, which began, “O Jimmie Joyce, you are my darling…”.


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Molly is silhouetted here; as in the other images so far, we see her in fragments, eyes, back, shoulders, arms, hands.  Bloom is silent as the narrator has completely taken over.  She is soft, fragrant, sensuous; the image of her hand pouring the tea dominates the page, and recalls the scent of cedar and thyme in Calypso’s cave, an allusion to The Odyssey.  Tucked into the corner is the letter half-concealed under the pillow.  Our eyes can’t help but be drawn to it by the line created by the pouring tea, and even though it is the narrator directing our attention to it, I wonder if Bloom’s eyes can’t help but be drawn to it either.


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Who is Calypso?

Calypso is a nymph who captivated Odysseus on his way home from the Trojan War.  She sought to keep him on her island as her husband, but — as awesome as that might have been — Odysseus decides he can no longer stay away from his wife, Penelope.  Calypso also means “to conceal” in Ancient Greek, something Molly is doing quite a bit of this morning.

But wait, you say:  if you know anything about Ulysses, you know that Molly gets the final chapter and it’s called Penelope (something even Marilyn Monroe knew).  How can Molly be both the temptress Calypso and the faithful wife Penelope to poor Bloom?  Good question.  Feel free to jump into the comments at any point.

Both Calypso and Odysseus are wily, and the image captures this:  there’s a little bit of a standoff here, as Bloom probably knows more than he’s saying, and Molly pretends the letter from Boylan is no big deal.  Bloom takes the opportunity to get closer to the bed, and I love the “In the act of going he stayed”:  in some ways, this captures in a nutshell the problem of Bloom’s cuckoldry and how it drives the plot.  He both goes and stays.  And the way she regards him somewhat coolly, with the drapery of the bedspread showing off the contours of her body, is quite provocative.


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Molly reveals the ostensible purpose of Boylan’s visit: to bring her materials for her upcoming singing tour.  Both of these pieces, “La ci darem la mano” from Mozart’s Don Giovanni and “Love’s Old Sweet Song,” are very important for the novel, and they recur throughout the book, especially in snippets of lyrics.  “La ci darem” is a seduction song, a duet between Don Giovanni and the innocent Zerlina, the fiancee of another man; “Love’s Old Sweet Song” is a song from 1884 by J. L. Molloy, nostalgic and sentimental but quite moving.  The two songs counterpoint each other, with one telling the story of a woman caught in a seduction, and the other recalling a poignant love.  Both are necessary pieces of the Blooms’ story.

This counterpoint is captured nicely in the two upper left-hand panels:  Molly is silhouetted darkly smiling as she tells Bloom she’ll be singing “Love’s Old Sweet Song,” while his eyes grow anxious and he thinks of “foul flowerwater,” something sweet that grows stale with time.

The page ends with Bloom poking through her soiled drawers and gray garters (again, kind of echoing the “foul flowerwater,” and a contrast to the violet garters of his vision earlier) to retrieve a book…she has a question.



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As Bloom crawls around on the floor looking for Molly’s book, he thinks of the line from “La ci darem”  “Voglio e non vorrei.”  More accurately, Zerlina’s line is “Vorrei e non vorrei,” or “I would like to and I wouldn’t like to.”  Bloom thinks:  “I want to and I wouldn’t like to.”  And he repeats the “voglio”:  I want.  Given the more than a decade Joyce spent in Italy and his deep familiarity with opera, we can be sure he knew his hero was misquoting:  why change the “I would like” to “I want”?

This page is the first in a sequence that depicts a conversation between Bloom and Molly about metempsychosis:  according to Gifford’s Ulysses Annotated, “The mystical doctrine that the soul after death is reborn in another body.”  A few things to note about this.  First of all, as we saw perhaps more prevalently in Telemachus and will see again, death is very much a part of Ulysses: our main characters are all in some state of suspended or thwarted mourning.  Bloom is heading out to a funeral, but even more important is the loss of his infant son Rudy at the age of 11 days, 11 years before the action of the novel.  Second, Joyce is interested generally in things and people taking more than one form; another way of putting it might be the line from Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse (1927):  “Nothing is just one thing.”  Finally, Molly isn’t exactly a simpleton, but she doesn’t always approach things from the deepest or most intellectual place.  She kind of depends on Bloom for that, and regards him as something of a thinker.  That’s why she asks him to help her figure out this word.



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The juxtaposition between the complicated and ancient theory of metempsychosis and the trashy novel Molly has been reading is classic Joyce; he loves to play around with the contrast between highfalutin ideas and the flotsam and jetsam of popular culture.  Bloom smiling at Molly’s “mocking eye” is Joyce’s way of having his main character get that joke; it’s also a moment of affection and a prompt for another memory that doesn’t quite get filled in:  Dolphin’s Barn is an area just outside Dublin where Molly was living with her father “Major” Tweedy when she first met Bloom (and, incidentally, where Dublin’s official Jewish cemetery is located).  (Memories of Molly’s first encounter with Boylan, at a dance, show up later, too.)

Bloom takes the trashy novel, and its illustration fills the center of the page.  Ruby: The Pride of the Ring is Joyce’s reworking of an actual book title, Ruby. A Novel. Founded on the Life of a Circus Girl (1889); the novel was about the harsh servitude of circus life and, as Gifford points out, was meant to spark reform.  The illustration depicts an actual scene in the novel, where a circus master works the victimized Ruby to death.  In Joyce’s hands, the reform impulse is turned into something more salacious, and the image looks a little like rape (perhaps echoing the duet between Don Giovanni and Zerlina, too).  Bloom thinks about the circus as he regards the illustration, while also trying to figure out a way to define metempsychosis for Molly.

Incidentally, and probably not surprisingly, the word “metempsychosis” does not appear anywhere in the real Ruby.


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This page continues Bloom’s attempts to figure out the best way to explain metempsychosis to Molly.  The image of the cream swirling in the tea resonates beautifully with his thinking through the concept.  This is a wonderful example of what the comic can do for Ulysses; a reader might not see the narrator’s description of the cream spirals as part of Bloom’s working through, but placing that image in the context of the concept shows how they all work together.  Incidentally, it might be good to point out here too that the narrator has retreated a bit:  in these conversations, Bloom has presence and gets to experience his moment with his wife unmediated.

I also think that upper left hand corner panel is a little meta-moment:  Molly saying there’s nothing smutty in Ruby: The Pride of the Ring, and then asking if she is “in love with the first fellow all the time” sounds an awful lot like playing a bit with Ulysses–a book famous for smut which is really just about the wife being in love with the first fellow the whole time (I think, anyway.  I guess you can keep reading and decide whether you agree).

Oh, and yes, Paul de Kock was the real name of a real writer.  Here he is (if you were expecting someone a little like Dirk Diggler, I’m sorry to disappoint).  He did not write Ruby. A Novel. Founded on the Life of a Circus Girl, but Joyce did own his books (which were actually a little more staid).


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It’s pretty safe to say “The Bath of the Nymph” is not a real painting, so Rob modeled what’s hanging over the Blooms’ bed on this:

Once more, it sets up a fine joke for Joyce, one that will come back with a vengeance in the outhouse scene at the end of Calypso.  We are making fun of snobs, of pretentious people who want to put a fence around high culture and high art and literature with a capital L.  Like he did with Bloom’s Oriental visions earlier, Rob draws on kitschy art and pop culture of the time the same way Joyce does.  Bloom recalls that this “splendid masterpiece in art colours” was gotten through a penny-weekly magazine, one of the many cheap illustrated publications that sprung up as printing became much less expensive, photography more widespread, and demand for light, disposable, and slightly trashy reading material surged at the turn of the century.  Photo Bits was barely reading material at all, consisting mostly of soft-soft-core, vaguely erotic pin-up type pictures and ads for dubious quack health products.  Furthermore, the “masterpiece” over the bed functions primarily as an advertisement for Photo Bits, and is a purely commercial product–and Bloom thinks of it that way, remembering exactly how much he paid for the frame and how Molly thought of it in terms of interior decoration rather than art.  (It makes me think of this scene from Hannah and Her Sisters; you really get it if you watch the beginning, and then 3:39-4:04.)

It tells us something about Molly, too, that she reads Photo Bits and thinks this is something worth hanging over the bed.  But the nymphs also echo the allusions to Calypso, and remind Bloom of Molly herself:  “Not unlike her with her hair down.”  Nymphs, like Molly, are changeable.  We return to the real world with a smell of burn…


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Milly Bloom

The blond 15-year-old daughter of Leopold and Molly, their only surviving child.  Milly has been sent to Mullingar to work as a photographer’s assistant and seems to be developing a relationship with Alec Bannon; her burgeoning sexuality makes Bloom a little uncomfortable.  She only appears in the novel through a letter and in memory and reflection.