A few pages ago, Stephen looked out at Dublin Bay and thought of the scene at his mother’s deathbed, associating the view with the bile his mother had coughed up into a white bowl. That image is still with him here, “a bowl of bitter waters.”
The cloud covering the sun will appear again in a few chapters, when Leopold Bloom sees the same cloud at the same time from a different part of the city. The observation of the same phenomenon from two different places invokes parallax, an important concept for Ulysses. Parallax is a technique for finding the distance of a remote object, like a planet or star. The wikipedia article will tell you how it works, but the basic principle is that when you see something from two points of view, you can figure out where it really is. Our two eyes automatically use parallax to determine depth in the world around us.
Bloom, who has an active, if uninformed interest in astronomy, thinks about Parallax several times during the day, but it also is a kind of metaphor for Joyce’s method. We see the phenomena of one day in the life of a City from several different perspectives, and we need to take more than one perspective into account to find the real depth of the story.
Rob’s drawing reinforces this idea–we look from a POV that’s different from Stephen’s, and both of us can see the mail boat coming in to the harbor.
The everyman hero of Ulysses, Joyce’s reworking of Odysseus. Bloom is 38 years old, Hungarian Jewish from his father (Rudolf Virag) and Irish Catholic from his mother (Ellen Higgins). He currently works as an ad canvasser for the newspaper The Freeman’s Journal, but he’s had other odd jobs throughout his life. He spends the day of June 16 wandering around Dublin: going to a funeral, checking in at the office, visiting the National Library, walking on the beach. He’s a deeply human and compassionate character, and carrying around with him two heavy emotional burdens: grief over the death of his infant son Rudy 11 years before the action of the novel, and anxiety over his impending cuckoldry by his wife Molly, with whom he has not had full sexual relations since their son died.
Stephen has just been accused by Mulligan of performing more than feeling his grief, of being the “loveliest mummer of them all” who prominently wears his mourning for his mother, but who refused to honor her final wish before she died. Stephen doesn’t rise to the bait, but continues acting the part.
This is one of the first pages where we see Stephen’s internal monologue placed in the context of external events. He remembers a dream he had shortly after his mother’s death, in which she appears as a ghost (remember Hamlet? we finally have our ghost!). We will see this dream in different variations throughout the novel. For now, a few things jumped out at me… first, note the emphasis placed on smells. Joyce is one of the great smell writers… “wetted ashes” has always struck me as an amazingly precise and familiar smell. Also the green of the bile and the green of the bay… just moments ago, Mulligan suggested that ’snotgreen’ be a new color for Irish art. We get a sense of what Stephen thinks of that idea here.
Finally, note how Rob has drawn Stephen’s pose here. Joyce writes that Stephen has his palm on his brow, but Rob has focused on how Stephen is looking at the bay “beyond the threadbare cuffedge,” a marvelous bit of framing.
hopes for further discussion from you, gentle reader:
–the color green
–parallax and visual framing